Remembering Jonathan Schwartz

Jonathan Schwartz’s career as an investor and business-builder started when he was an 18-year-old in the Bronx. It wasn’t until his 40s that Jonathan became a yogi. One passion fed the other. His widow, Marcella Fischer, says that at least half the books on the floor-to-ceiling shelves in his office are about yoga.

“I remember coming home when I was about 11 and he’d be standing on his head in his office,” says the couple’s son, Alex. Marcy and Alex meditate daily, but it was Jonathan who really took to yoga. After years of practice, he earned his teaching certification in India in 2012, and began teaching yoga classes at UP Academy, a public middle school in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Jonathan and Marcy visited Kripalu many times, beginning in the mid-1980s and continuing until 2015, when he was stricken by a sudden, fatal heart attack. Now, in Jonathan’s memory, Marcy and Alex have made a multi-year $200,000 commitment to what is now called the Jonathan P. Schwartz Teaching for Diversity Fund.

Jonathan came home “radiant” from every Kripalu retreat, Marcy remembers. He was a generous donor, and shared helpful insights from his business career with Kripalu friends like Richard Faulds (Shobhan) and Stephen Cope, Kripalu Ambassador and Scholar Emeritus. Shobhan, a former Kripalu CEO, valued Jonathan’s counsel as he helped lead Kripalu’s difficult transition from residential spiritual community to educational retreat center. “I was always impressed by the spiritual focus he brought to bear upon his financial work,” Shobhan recalls.

When Kripalu’s Teaching for Diversity Fund was established in 2001, Jonathan and Marcy were among the earliest donors. Jonathan believed in making investments in people who would multiply the benefits many times over, Marcy says. He had an eye for talent.

At a Yoga Journal conference in Boston, Jonathan practiced with a teacher who’d been paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident.  Though reliant on a wheelchair, Matthew Sanford was determined to teach yoga to other disabled people. He’d founded a nonprofit in Minnesota, Mind Body Solutions, to advance his vision.  A year after the conference, Matthew picked up the phone at the office and was surprised to hear Jonathan’s voice on the other end. He was checking in to see how things were going, and to offer support.

“His influence was integral to Mind Body’s growth,” Matthew says. “He wanted to find people who could make a difference, and then help them. He provided a pivotal level of support—not just the money, but the relationship, the faith in what we were doing.”

Marcy and Alex hope that their gift in Jonathan’s memory will inspire additional generosity. By providing seed grants to visionary Kripalu Yoga teachers bringing yoga to communities in need, our donors help build a world that’s a little closer to the one Jonathan envisioned.