Yocheved and Yehuda Shwartz with their family: Both me and my husband have always been teachers, and passed on our love of learning and motivation to succeed.When it comes to family-style academic achievement, it’s difficult to beat the accomplishments of the Shwartz clan.
At this year’s graduation ceremony at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, not one, but three members of this Israeli family received doctoral degrees.
And a fourth – who is studying towards his PhD, came away from the ceremony with one of the university’s prestigious prizes for scientific and technological innovations.
The first Ph.D. in this remarkable family was mother Yocheved. She has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Budapest and has lectured for the past 25 years at various teachers’ colleges.
From their mother, the children have inherited a talent in music and all play different musical instruments. But a passion for scholarship as well as music is also part of the family tradition.
“Our house has always been one which respected learning. My children know that nothing comes easy, and achievement comes with hard work,” she told ISRAEL21c. “Both me and my husband have always been teachers, and passed on our love of learning and motivation to succeed.
Her husband, Yehuda Shwartz, 53, who received his doctoral degree in education from Hebrew U. this spring, is a lecturer in education and supervisor of teachers colleges for the Israel Ministry of Education. Yocheved says it was a “happy coincidence” that he returned to graduate studies in time to receive his degree along with his two daughters.
“His doctorate was a more of a capstone to his career, while their degrees are the beginning of theirs,” she notes.
Yehuda and Yocheved’s oldest daughter, Tehila Shwartz-Altschuler, 30, received her HU doctorate in law and is about to begin a post-doctorate at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the U.S.
And a second daughter, Ranana Shwartz-Eitan, 26, has just earned her M.D. degree from HU and is beginning her residency in psychiatry at Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.
Finally, there is a son, Shai Shalev-Shwartz, who is a Ph.D. student in computer science at Hebrew University, who won one of the Kaye Innovation Awards presented during the recent Hebrew University Board of Governors meetings. He won the prize for his invention of ‘Query by Melody’ – a way of identifying songs by playing or singing a few notes. A computer program then identifies the song, lists recordings of it, and can play it back in full.
The Shwartz family might still add two more Ph.D.s to the family roster in coming years. There are two younger boys in the family, Avihud, 17, who finished high school (at age 16!) and is a student at a yeshivat hesder (which combines yeshiva study with army service), and Azarya, 22, who is currently serving in the army.
The Shwartzes are longtime residents of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. “We were one of the first families here, and we can’t take sole credit for our children’s achievements – it is part of the atmosphere here. This is a religious settlement, but politically moderate – we are not extreme right-wing or extreme left-wing.”
She says that she has always demonstrated by lesson and by personal example that career achievement need not come at the expense of family life. “All of us help each other out when it comes to balancing family and career. We are all there in a pinch – male or female – to help find babysitters, or pitch in ourselves when childcare is needed.”