(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two events during Zeev Schwartz’s childhood shaped his outlook on life, leading him to eventually run in the Bayit Yehudi primary on January 14.
First, was the 1976 IDF raid on Entebbe, and second, was when he observed Shabbat for the first time at a Bnei Akiva religious-Zionist youth group summer camp in South Africa at age 11.
“These had a great impact on me and taught me the concept of devotion to the Jewish people, that no Jew would be left behind,” he explained Tuesday, “and I grew up to spread the word of Torah and religious-Zionism and doing good for the Jewish people.”
Schwartz, 47, was born and raised in Johannesburg and made aliya at age 17. Since then, he developed what is considered an ideal religious- Zionist pedigree: hesder yeshiva at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, combat service in the IDF as a lone soldier, years of reserve duty in the Alexandroni brigade, including the Second Lebanon War, and degrees in Jewish history and public policy from Bar-Ilan University, where he met his wife, with whom he has five children.
Today, Schwartz lives in Shoham and is the CEO and founding chairman of Torah Mitzion, an organization that sends emissaries from Israel to Jewish communities abroad to facilitate Jewish education.
He is also the founder of Lev Yehudi, which helps Jewish backpackers in India study Torah.
Schwartz was also the secretary- general of World Bnei Akiva from 2006-2011, and has a predilection for repeating the youth group’s various mottos like “Torah and work” and “the People of Israel in the Land of Israel according to the Torah of Israel.”
After more than 25 years of work with Jewish communities in Israel and abroad, Schwartz saw the Bayit Yehudi’s open membership drive and primary for its Knesset list as an opportunity to get involved on a national scale.
“I feel I have a mission in life to do good for the people of Israel,” he said. “That is what I tried to do my entire life, and thank God, I was fortunate enough to succeed.”
Schwartz compared the Bayit Yehudi to a soccer team in explaining why he thinks he would be an asset to their list: “Even if [party leader Naftali] Bennett is like [FC Barcelona forward Lionel] Messi, he can’t play by himself, he has to have a team with him, and I think I can bring added value to that team, which he and other candidates running don’t have.
“I am a voice for global Zionism,” he added. “I am an emissary, representing a whole world of people who believe in Torah and work...
I have a strong right kick in soccer, so I can add that so the team will win.”
Schwartz also said it is important for Bayit Yehudi to take a stand on immigrants’ issues, saying “we can’t just let [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Liberman take control,” and that an immigrant on the Bayit Yehudi list would fight against assimilation, for Jewish identity and for aliya and absorption needs.
The Bayit Yehudi candidate said he was pained by the campaign earlier this year to convince young people to move to Berlin, because of an uproar over the Milky chocolate pudding – and other expenses – costing less there.
“We have to solve economic problems so that immigrants will find work and stay here,” he said. “Bennett did an excellent job as economy minister and we have to keep supporting him so there will be jobs and security for immigrants, and so Jews around the world will see their future here.”
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