Meet Jonathan Schwartz

Jonathan Schwartz

For Jonathan Schwartz, executive director of the Lyric Foundation which operates the Lyric Theatre, and active volunteer with The Associated and its agencies, growing up going to school in London, England developed his interest in the arts and influenced his current career path.

“I definitely think that just the exposure to so many different people and cultures in London impacted who I am and my view of the world,” said Jonathan. “I went to countless plays and concerts. Just walking by buildings in the city, you’re exposed to architecture and history. I was very fortunate to have had that experience.”

Jonathan moved to Baltimore, along with his wife Dr. Jennie Faber, an OB-GYN, in 1993 when she began her residency at Sinai Hospital. They raised their two children here and have remained active in Jewish Baltimore ever since.

Here are 10 things to learn about Jonathan Schwartz.

What are you most passionate about?

I would say obviously family is very important. I’d also say that I’m passionate about building community and being an active, engaged citizen. I think is very important to not just be a bystander but to get involved in the community in which you live.

You currently sit on the board of the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC). How did you first get involved?

The BJC is a wonderful combination of my interests in both the Jewish community and in government. I first got involved when I was working for Delegate Jon Cardin – he was invited to attend the BJC meetings and I would go sometimes in his place. And then similarly when I worked for Councilwoman Vicki Almond. I am now the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s representative on the BJC Board. There have always been great people leading the BJC which makes you more inclined to want to participate.

So how did you transition from state and local government to the arts?

Ha. A board member at The Lyric, John Denick, literally suggested I apply for the job while standing talking with Delegate Dana Stein during a community event at the Quarry. It was a great opportunity to take on a leadership role at a major institution and make a difference and chart a new course. It was an unexpected opportunity but has been part of my accidental career journey.

All-time favorite performance at The Lyric?

Personally, Jason Isbell, an American singer-songwriter and guitarist was fantastic. Also, recently, Chris Rock was really great.

Hardest ticket to score at The Lyric?

I always tell people that the hardest ticket to get in the four and a half years I’ve been at The Lyric was a young lady named Jojo Siwa. If you have a daughter the right age, you know exactly who that is. And if you don’t, you have no idea. I had no idea who she was, but she sold out in her fan club presale and gave an unbelievable performance.

Best concert you ever went to growing up?

When I was a kid in London, I got to see Simon and Garfunkel at Wembley Stadium. That was pretty amazing. I’ve seen Billy Joel several times – he’s one of my favorites.

If you could change jobs with someone for the day who would that be?

Gregg Berhalter. He is currently the head coach of the United States men’s national soccer team. And he’s leading the U.S. to the World Cup. Growing up in London, that was the most popular sport and I’d love to be him for a day.

What are you reading?

Two books that I read recently this summer were A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult.

What do you hope to see for Baltimore City and the neighborhood?

Giving more agency and voice to young people in the city. At The Lyric, we’ve created more in-depth educational programming – reaching students as early as middle school – helping them to build their self-confidence and work on their writing and public speaking. We want to encourage them to create their own art and create their own work that represents their lives and their own experiences.

And then on the theater side to make a difference in the city, we are trying to bring more people back to downtown Baltimore. The more shows that we can put on and that people want to come to see, the more we can bring people back into the city. And that helps support not just The Lyric but also helps support local restaurants and businesses.

How do you pay it forward?

When you pay things forward, you have three things to offer – time, talent and treasure. And I try and make those available to causes that are important to me. I think it’s important to make financial contributions to organizations like The Associated. I think it’s important to volunteer. So, for example, during the pandemic, I was very active with the Student Support Network, an organization founded in Baltimore County that runs food pantries in schools. It’s amazing how many kids are hungry in our public schools. During the pandemic though, when the schools were closed, we couldn’t feed students, or provide backpacks, school supplies or clothing, so we pivoted to a drive-through food resource.

I worked with the Owings Mills High School and we partnered with the county. We actually would get food from Pearlstone and a number of other vendors. Every week we would have roughly 200 cars drive through the circle at Owings Mills High School where we loaded in boxes of fresh produce, boxes of canned goods, diapers, etc.

That was great for my own mental health.

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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