MBA. Veteran. Rabbi … And Cookie Tycoon?

California native and Israeli Defense Forces veteran Alexander Schwartz stands on a tank on the Israel-Egypt border. Schwartz is a second-year MBA student and budding entrepreneur at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business. Courtesy photos

Like many MBA students, right now Alexander Schwartz is studying for his fall semester business school finals. But unlike most of his peers and classmates, he’s also reviewing the minutiae of Jewish law about keeping kosher and observing Shabbat.

While attending the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida, where he is a second-year MBA student, Schwartz is also enrolled in the Miami Semicha Program working toward a degree in rabbinical law. He will finish both programs in 2024, becoming an MBA and an ordained rabbi.

Studying for two rigorous programs at the same time has been a balancing act and a challenge, Schwartz says — but one he’s been happy to take on.

“When you love it and you stay disciplined and you focus, you can accomplish a lot,” he tells Poets&Quants. He’s confident the work he’s doing now will pay off in the long run: “I’m investing in myself as a person now and enjoying the fruits to come.”


Alexander Schwartz during a military exercise on Israel’s Golan Heights

Schwartz has led a busy life since graduating high school eight years ago. The California native moved halfway across the world at 19 to study Jewish law at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. He then served in the Israeli armed forces, the IDF, as part of a four-man combat team, where he became fluent in Hebrew in part by refusing to speak to anyone in English.

“The unit I was in is a unit that there’s a pretty high fail rate for Americans,” he says. “You’re in a very technical part of the military, you’re operating tanks. And you’re also participating in special operations, all of which require all kinds of communication equipment and intelligence equipment — so if you can’t speak Hebrew, you get cut. But thankfully, I didn’t know about that beforehand.”

In his two years of service, Schwartz and his team carried out special operations on Israel’s borders. In 2018, during the Syrian Civil War, his unit was stationed at Israel’s border with Syria, where Syrian refugees arrived in mass numbers, trying to escape violent clashes in the country’s southern region. The Israeli government did not allow the refugees to enter Israeli territory but did provide humanitarian aid and medical services to many Syrians at the border — efforts in which Schwartz’s unit was involved.

“We were dealing with, really, a crisis on the border and we were doing our best to manage it,” he says. “And so I spent the better half of my service, day in and day out, night or day, bringing in food and supplies for the Syrians and bringing out injured civilians into Israel for medical treatment and then bringing them back across the border.” This period impacted him deeply. “It just gave me a sense of purpose, what we were doing. It really felt, like, really meaningful. I mean, we’re literally taking children who have shrapnel wounds or all kinds of horrible injuries and bringing them to Israel and treating them and we’d maintain a relationship with the family and bring them back to the border.”

He says his military service helped cement for him the importance of always having a purpose in what he does.

“It’s always important that with whatever I’m doing, I feel like I’m doing something with purpose. And that I’m helping other people,” he says.


Following his military service, Schwartz studied computer science in Israel, then moved back to America and got a bachelor’s degree in business and computer science at Touro University in his home state of California. In 2022, a month after finishing undergrad, he launched a cookie mix company with a partner who is a longtime pastry chef. He is now a year into his MBA and rabbinical law studies and continues to work on getting his company, Cookie Chips, off the ground.

Alexander Schwartz: “It’s always important that with whatever I’m doing, I feel like I’m doing something with purpose. And that I’m helping other people”

Schwartz says Cookie Chips is moving to an “incubation phase” and he is working on securing investors. He says having a diverse educational and experiential background came in handy when he launched the company.

“I built the websites, I built the brands, the product market and promotion strategies, our go-to-market strategy, as well as the technical side of things,” he says. “We’ve been able to build a company with practically no money — for free, essentially — just because of our varied backgrounds.” Though he wasn’t much of a baker when he decided to start a baking company, he’s since added baking to his long list of interests — “I know everything about cookies now!” he says.

Cookies, though, are a side gig. He plans to go into consulting after completing his MBA, because business strategy has always been his biggest passion.

“The MBA, that’s where my passion is: Building businesses, thinking about business helping other businesses succeed, building my own businesses as I’ve done,” he says. However, spirituality and religious education are still of utmost importance to him. “I do fundamentally believe that spirituality is a good thing for us, you know, humans are naturally spiritual,” he says. He wants to learn as much as he can about his religion, calling Judaism a “lifelong education.”


Schwartz serves as the Gabbai, or “assistant Rabbi,” for a 300-member synagogue in Miami, where he works with couples who are preparing to get married and answers their questions about Jewish law. He also writes a community newsletter about Jewish concepts that community members might not know about.

He says he is undertaking rabbinical studies both for his own personal growth and for others within and outside the Jewish faith. “The Jewish religion has so much to offer to not only Jews, but everyone because our responsibility to each other as religious people is not just to our communities, but to the global community,” Schwartz says. He says people on the street will often comment on his yarmulke or tzitzit, the knotted tassels worn by observant Jews, and he always tries to strike up a conversation with them and answer any questions they might have about Judaism and its customs.

“I think that’s my way, right now, of sort of trying to make the world a better place,” he says.

“I have an eclectic personality. And I just think that my educational background reflects that,” Schwartz says. He explained that he’s interested in pretty much everything, and if he wants to do something, he goes for it, even if that means juggling many different things at once. He says his approach to life can be summed up with a famous saying created by the famous Jewish scholar, Hillel, over 2,000 years ago: “If not now, when?”


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