Recently, on Arrow, a highly-acclaimed, fantasy superhero television show, the following exchange took place:
(Earth is being attacked by aliens, and several of the superhero friends have been imprisoned in a spaceship orbiting Earth. Meanwhile, the friends left behind are trying to figure out what to do.)
Curtis (the skeptic): I respect the religion but I find it hard to believe there is a divine plan which includes space monsters.
Rory (The Jewish Superhero, Ragman): It’s not random, it’s Gematria.
Felicity (the Jewish IT nerd): The numerology of the Torah. How did I not see that?
Rory: In Hebrew each number possess a numerical value. Gematria is the numerical equivalent of words or phrases.
Curtis: The Dominators’ (the evil aliens) language is based off of the Old Testament?
Rory: Or shares commonalities at least. You wanted proof of the divine plan of the universe.
It is not my intent to explain why Mitch included this in his sermon about God. However, after reading this passage, he mentioned that Beth Schwartz, who grew up in Detroit, is the co-Executive Producer and one of the writers of this episode.
I immediately wanted to jump up and yell, “I know who Beth Schwartz is. Her mother, Sharon Schwartz, was a beloved English teacher and theater director at Hillel Day School for many years. And Beth Schwartz is a Hillel Day School Graduate!” (Class of 1994) But I didn’t. (I’m shy.)
Beth attended Hillel before I arrived; nevertheless, I felt a sense of Jewish pride that Beth’s origins are in the Hillel and Detroit Jewish communities.
It is no accident that the writers creatively — and smartly — inserted Gematria into the story line. While she did not personally write the Gematria segment, Beth has become “the token Jewish consultant for all things Jewish on the show.” She has even given several Jewish lessons to Emily Bett Rickards who plays Felicity. As a graduate of Hillel, Beth received a solid Jewish education, and that knowledge clearly informs her writing and creativity (knowingly or unknowingly). While I am sure she began to hone her writing skills at Hillel, her mother’s love for English, writing and theatre must have had a great impact as well!
Beth clearly grew up in a home committed to and steeped in Judaism. Sharon was an active mom at Hillel before becoming an English teacher at school. Hillel, Jewish education, Israel and the Jewish people were all incredibly important and valued in their family. And those values, as well as the values of education and creativity, played an essential role in Beth becoming who she is today.
The Schwartz family connection to Hillel remains to this day. A few years ago, when Sharon’s father, William Schumer, passed away, he bequeathed a significant gift to the school. As part of the gift, and in celebration of his memory and devotion to the Jewish people, and Israel, Hillel established the William Schumer Award for excellence in Hebrew Language and Judaic Studies. Each year, a deserving graduating eighth grader receives this award.
Beth, her sister Nancie (1990), her brother Adam (1992), and her parents are examples of what is possible when you combine an excellent Jewish day school education with a strong Jewish presence in the home! Who knows, the next Beth Schwartz may be at Hillel now, someone who will one day also take us on great fantastical adventures!