Meet Jewish Person of the Week: Wendy Schwartz. Wendy is an educator who works with children with special needs, and also runs her own business called Bridge the Gap Tutoring & Educational Consulting, to support and teach students Pre-K through 8th grade. Recently, Wendy created the Midwest Singles Network (MWSN) to provide Jews around the Midwest (and Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Memphis) with opportunities to connect. Learn more about Wendy and all the amazing work she is doing.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Arlington Heights, a short walk away from my first cousins’ houses. My father is a triplet and when I was a kid, my dad spent a lot of time with his brothers, so I often saw my cousins when the dads would take us out for ice cream or to go to Six Flags Great America. It was a privilege growing up with so much family close by.
What did you do Jewish growing up?
I have a large extended family, based in Chicago after immigrating from Varnai, Lithuania in 1933. I attended Beth Judea Hebrew School and had a bat mitzvah. We had wonderful holiday meals with my cousins on Rosh Hashanah and Passover. Because my Bubbe was close with her siblings even though they spread out around the country, there were many amazing celebrations o attend. Much of my Jewish education comes from spending Shabbat with my extended family.
What do you do Jewish now?
Celebrate Shabbat, keep kosher and teach Hebrew at Am Shalom. Most of my friends are Jewish as well. I suppose trying to meet a nice Jewish guy to go on a date could also be considered something I do that is Jewish now!
What do you do for work?
I am an educator and I currently work with children with special needs. After working for Keshet for a few years, I’m now at True North 804/ NSSED. I recently started a business called Bridge the Gap Tutoring & Educational Consulting, to support and teach students Pre-K through 8th grade and privately assist their families with the I.E.P. process and beyond.
Where did you go to school?
I went to Buffalo Grove High School and then the University of Kansas during my freshman year of college. I attended Hebrew University of Jerusalem during my junior year abroad and graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with my degree in Education and a minor in Spanish, going on to teach bilingual education after graduating.
What do you do for fun/to relax?
I like to write poetry, do yoga, walk by the lake, explore new places, sing and attend concerts. I especially love Ravinia!
What is your favorite Jewish Chicago event?
The Greater Chicago Jewish Festival is my favorite event because it is the only time the entire Chicago community comes together where everyone can be themselves in the same space. Maybe it’s the first time a kid who is unaffiliated will see a Jewish person with payot, or maybe an ultra-orthodox kid will find out that Jewish people come in all shapes and colors and wear many different types of clothing. Educators call that the “teachable moment.”
How do you make a difference in your community?
I want to provide single Jewish people with more ways to connect and feel more at home in the Jewish community. After living on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, moving back to Chicago, and getting divorced, I spent a while trying to find a way to navigate the Jewish community. Belonging is very important in life and that can be challenging to find these days! After a few attempts, I came up with the idea for Midwest Singles Network (MWSN). It is based on the concept of the tri-state area on the East Coast. I want to provide Jews around the Midwest (and Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Memphis) with opportunities to connect and have the ability to meet new people, find events in other cities within driving distance and build community.
MWSN is a network for single Jews in the MW to have more opportunities to find resources that interest us as well as events, both that are inherently Jewish, like a Shabbat dinner or L’ag B’omer BBQ, as well as not inherently Jewish, like a cooking class, seasonal sports activity or virtual book club.FAQs on MWSN
How do we learn more and get involved in the Midwest Singles Network?
We have both virtual and IRL events. Right now, most will be virtual, like our forums on the Share page, as we are still building our network. We plan to have at least one volunteer at every event who will introduce you to new people, based on common lifestyles and interests. If want to be introduced to new people by an inconspicuous volunteer, please let us know in advance of or when you arrive at the event. We’ll just keep it between us.
When the Tribe Gathers… There will always be food!