NEXT Faculty



Rabbi P.J. Schwartz is the Rabbi Educator at Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos, CA. He was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-HIR) in Cincinnati, OH in June 2013 and was the recipient of the Ferdinand M. Isserman Prize awarded to the senior rabbinical student who best contributes to the development of community relations. While at HUC-JIR, P.J. served student congregations in Marion, Indiana, Ishpeming, Michigan, and Marion, Ohio. He also served in numerous capacities as a teacher, Schusterman Rabbinic Fellow, and Rabbinic Intern for Isaac M. Wise Temple where he taught Religious School and Hebrew School, led regular Saturday morning services and Torah study, and adult education. He also pursued Clinical Pastoral Education and trained as a chaplain for Christ Hospital in the summer of 2010 and a Rabbinic chaplain for Jewish Family Service in Cincinnati, OH. Rabbi Schwartz wrote his rabbinic thesis on the traditional and contemporary understandings of kavannah (intentionality, thoughtfulness, and devotion) in Jewish worship.

In addition to his studies at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Schwartz received a Master's in Educational Administration with a Specialization in Jewish Education at Xavier University. He is a frequent contributor to the Union of Reform Judaism's weekly e-newsletter, Ten Minutes of Torah and is an active member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE), and NewCAJE.

Rabbi Schwartz grew up in Greenville, SC and is a 2007 graduate of the College of Charleston, where he majored in Religious Studies. In college, he served as a board member of the Jewish Student Union/Hillel as well as was on the executive committee of the local chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity. He also was a teacher, assistant youth group advisor, and Religious Studies intern at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. Following his college graduation, P.J. began his rabbinical studies at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem, Israel, before returning to the Cincinnati campus to finish his studies.

Rabbi Schwartz is married to his college sweetheart, Michelle, a special education teacher.

Mollie Sharfman has been living and working in Jerusalem working with the Shalom Hartman Institute's Rabbinic and Christian Leadership Programs and the iEngage - Pluralistic Israel Education Curriculum. Alongside this work she also serves as the Director of Jewish and Religious Affairs for the Global Muslim-Jewish Conference. In addition, Mollie works as a consultant empowering and training Jewish educators who serve overlooked Global Jewish Communities. Mollie has led and created relevant Jewish experiences for all types of Jews and loves teaching and studying experiential education, design thinking, and adaptive leadership. She holds a masters in Jewish Experiential Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a B.A. in English Literature and Jewish Studies from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University. 

Tema Smith is a diversity advocate, writer and Jewish community builder. She is currently the Director of Professional Development at InterfaithFamily an organization that empowers people in interfaith relationships to engage in Jewish life and make Jewish choices, and encourages Jewish communities to welcome them. This comes after seven years as a synagogue professional, most recently as the Director of Community Engagement at Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto’s oldest synagogue. Tema holds a certificate in Interfaith Families Jewish Engagement from Hebrew College, and was a Professional Affiliate of the Jewish Outreach Institute.

Tema is also a contributing columnist at The Forward whose writing has been published in , MyJewishLearning, the Globe and Mail, and the Canadian Jewish News. Tema is dedicated to building a meaningful and inclusive Jewish community through research, training, writing and relational engagement work.

Over the past ten years, Tema has worked to advance the conversation on racially diverse Judaism, working with organizations like Be’chol Lashon and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and conducting trainings for local Jewish organizations like the Downtown Jewish Community Council, housed at Toronto’s Miles Nadal JCC.

Before beginning her career in Jewish communal service, Tema was a graduate student in Religion and Politics and Early Judaism under the supervision of the former Canada Research Chair in Modern Jewish Thought at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.