'Every day is a miracle, it's just more apparent in Israel'

“The moment we landed, I started crying.”

The Schwartzes: Dr. Reuven, 71, and Amy, 66 from Pittsburgh to Jerusalem, 2015 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Schwartzes: Dr. Reuven, 71, and Amy, 66 from Pittsburgh to Jerusalem, 2015
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“Every day is a miracle – it’s just more apparent here in Israel,” declares Reuven Schwartz, gesturing from the spacious terrace of his Jerusalem apartment toward its scenic overlook. He credits his wife, Amy, with opening his eyes to the wonders of this land. Even though in the past he categorized himself as “least likely to make aliyah,” his attitude changed. “After several visits with Amy, I was transformed and just felt I want to be Israeli,” he explains.
The Brooklyn-born Reuven, a clinical psychologist and former professor, relocated from Pittsburgh to Arnona five years ago. He continues to work online with his patients in the USA. Besides that, he has initiated several projects here as a zealous volunteer. Amy, a therapeutic music specialist since 1995, is similarly well integrated into the life of the city and has assumed many rewarding tasks.
The Schwartzes embarked on their second marriage 17 years ago, with seven sons between them. So far, all their progeny, including eight grandchildren, live in the USA, which causes them to be frequent travelers and, when possible, to take “four annual grandkid tours.”
Raised in Far Rockaway, New York, Reuven moved to Pittsburgh after his first son was born. He specializes in mood disorders and is also an American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) certified sex therapist. He has published research articles on positive psychology, and also wrote a book on weight control. Needing to lose 50 pounds, he discovered “a spiritual component that catalyzed my battle to lose weight.” The result was his 2012 book, Holy Eating: The Spiritual Secret to Eternal Weight Loss.
Amy grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where she majored in sociology and became a social worker. She moved to Atlanta, Georgia, at age 25, seeking a livelier environment.
“Atlanta was an up-and-coming city for young Jewish singles,” she explains. Besides her daytime work, she was a lead singer in an Israeli band and recently flew back for a final reunion concert.
Reuven was a successful 40 year-old before he showed much interest in spirituality or religion. His Jewish identity and practice evolved gradually, inspired by “a search for deeper meaning.” Amy, by contrast, became religious in her late 30s, following several personal crises.
“I went through some dark times in my life. I found answers and spiritual light to bring me out of that,” she confides. She moved to Pittsburgh with her youngest son after she remarried.
Amy’s first visit to Israel was 40 years ago when her first husband, an Israeli living in the USA, took her to meet his parents. Because she was ignorant of Israel, she was stunned by her emotional reactions to the land and its holiness.
“The moment we landed, I started crying.” Similarly, at her first visit to the Western Wall, “I started shaking, dropped the camera and smashed it.”
REUVEN’S ZIONISM began to catch fire seven years ago. He formerly espoused the standard outlook, “I’ll visit, but I couldn’t live here.” As a student, he had volunteered on Kibbutz Dovrat near Mount Tabor in the summer of 1968.
“The post-’67 war euphoria was palpable. Despite this, the challenges of the still-young nation shaped my decision to remain a visitor.”
At the age of 67, shortly after 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, he volunteered on an army base through Sar-El and was stationed seven kilometers from the Gaza border. There were stabbing attacks in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood during this period. These experiences “charged his passions,” he explains, and made him “an avid religious Zionist.”
A year later, he encouraged Amy to find an apartment in Jerusalem and immigrated in November 2015. Because Amy was tending to her dying mother in Scranton, she followed him a few months later.
“We came during the ‘Knife Intifada,’ but this didn’t deter my seamless transition to Israel,” she says.
After their arrival, Reuven chaired the Jerusalem Green Fund committee, whose purpose is to clean up Jerusalem. In October 2018, he challenged the mayoral candidates via a Jerusalem Post op-ed to transform the city into a cleaner “Jerusalem of Gold.” He also served as rosh hava’ad (committee head) of his synagogue, Mizmor leDavid, and takes part in annual bike rides to raise funds for the ALYN Orthopedic Hospital and Rehabilitation Center. Combining his passions for biking and music, he organizes benefit concerts for the hospital in private homes.
Amy’s main focus is volunteering for non-profits, such as Melabev’s Talpiot day-care center. She sings, plays guitar and uses theatrical skills to cheer individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Using Zoom, she currently performs for 50-70 participants who functioning on a variety of levels. She has “the ability to project, as if they are right there in my space.” She also acts with the Women’s Performance Community, an English-speaking theater group.
Another outlet for Amy’s talents is the Kesher organization, which operates a range of services for special-needs children from birth until age 21. She has recently provided them with music programming in English and Hebrew. She also performs for special-needs children and their families with Chabad’s South Jerusalem Friendship Circle.
In addition, Amy receives great satisfaction from volunteering as a bus leader with the Momentum organization. Momentum brings groups of Jewish mothers of young children from North America and elsewhere on eight-day educational trips to Israel. She accompanies them as “a camp counselor, joy machine, trouble-shooter and cheerleader.”
Amy sums up their immigration experience by saying, “We were compelled to ‘return home’ to Israel. Our aliyah is also a model for our children and grandchildren.”
Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, who affirmed recently, “There are signs of redemption, and it is our obligation to see these signs,” would understand the magnetic force that pulled the Schwartzes toward Jerusalem.