Charlie Kalech grew up in Southern New Jersey and first appeared in The Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey at the age of three when he was photographed at Camp Hilltop learning to tie his shoe.
Living in Chews Landing (Gloucester Township), Charlie’s formative Jewish experiences outside the home involved commuting half an hour to the Jewish Community Center and Temple Beth Shalom (then in Haddon Heights). By the time Charlie celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in 1980, he had spent a summer at Camp Ramah in the Poconos where his previous Hebrew School principal, Rabbi Archie Ruberg, was director and the TBS Hebrew School principal at the time, Rabbi Dov Vogel, was a teacher. Other dominant Jewish role models for Charlie also influenced his life both at Temple Beth Shalom and Camp Ramah including his first Junior Congregation leader Joel (now Yossi) Katz, educator Shimon Lipsky as well as librarian and teacher Orah Lewis Lipsky. The importance and influence of regular attendance of Shabbat Services and the daily service during Charlie’s year of saying kaddish for his father in 1980-81 and the people who influenced him there can not be overstated. Such people as Rabbi Albert Lewis, Mr. Joseph, Max Becker, Alvin Stern, Ludwig Stern, Dr. Ed Schifreen, Cantor Moti Fuchs, Dr. Saul and Miriam Grossman, Shelly Greenspun and her son Larry, Woody Pollack, Eli Gabay, Chanah Magun, Karen Levine, and the incredible Claire Spechler.
Charlie continued attending Camp Ramah into his college years (as a camper and later as staff). Charlie switched from public school to Jewish Day School for high school when he began attending Akiba Hebrew Academy (an even longer commute!) – Now the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy. There Barbara Wachs worked with Charlie to get his Hebrew up to Day School level while he also received tutoring from Galya Davidovich. Barabara Wachs also coordinated the social action committee with which Charlie was very involved and was a large influence on him as she was a very caring and involved teacher who invested and believed in her students. The entirety of the staff of Akiba was very supportive and played an important role in shaping the person Charlie has become. There he learned critical thought, primary document research, creativity, community spirit and pluralism.
In high school, Charlie was active in United Synagogue Youth (USY) under the advisorship of Myrna Bookbinder and regional directorship of Marc Neiwirth. After being convinced by Joanne Sandler, Charlie ran and was elected Regional Religion Education Vice President for Hagesher USY (Southern NJ, Delaware and Sout Eastern PA). Much of what Charlie learned about being an effective leader and running an organization can be attributed to USY.
It was in high school that Charlie first travelled to Israel as part of an experiment in which half his high school class spent a semester in Jerusalem. Charlie had wanted to immigrate to Israel (make aliyah) since he was 6 years old. He did not understand why, if everyone was concerned for Israel during the Yom Kippur War because it was the Jewish State and we were Jews, why didn’t we live in Israel. The question “Isn’t Israel where Jews belong?” continued to motivate him and during his eleventh grade trip to Jerusalem, Charlie planted his roots which would grow to support him into adulthood. Akiba partnered with Ramah programs in Israel to plant fertile ground for Charlie’s first encounter with the Jewish State. Rabbi Benjy Segal was the director of Ramah Programs in Israel at the time, along with his wife Judy who ran the office. Dr. David Breakstone was the director of their program, Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (TRY) and Charlie was fortunate to be paired with Rabbi Reuven and Rahel Hammer and their family as his adopted family in Jerusalem. Attending Kehilat Moreshet Avraham with these role models, as well as Shimon and Orah Lipsky, Charlie found what would become his home in Jerusalem.
Upon graduation from high school, Charlie attended the Joint Program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, earning two BAs – in Jewish Literature and Political Science. He spend his junior year abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and volunteered the summer before his junior year at Kibbutz Hanaton where he made life-long friends. Upon his return to New York, Charlie was one of the founders of Tnuat AM (Aliyah Masortit) which began a national movement for aliyah from within the Conservative Movement largely influenced by Shaliach Moti Arad. Together with other students and young adults, Charlie organized activities and conferences internationally, ultimately being hired as the coordinator for Tnuat AM first in New York by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and then in Israel by the Masorti Movement. The month after Charlie graduated college, in January 1990, he moved to Israel.
After working for the Masorti Movement and starting graduate school at the Institute for Contemporary Judaism at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem under the mentorship of Dr. Sidra Ezrachi, Charlie served in the IDF Spokesperson’s (at that time Spokesman’s) Unit.
After his enlisted service, Charlie studied at the Bezalel National Art School and began work in graphic design. In 1994 he founded J-Town Productions Ltd. (Now J-Town Internet Services Ltd.) Ltd.), Jerusalem’s senior Internet marketing agency.
In addition to the scores of non-profit and business websites he has developed, Charlie has created curriculum and taught Web design courses for professional training institutions, the IDF and individual clients. Charlie is a regular presenter at conferences and seminars on topics including web design, business and Internet marketing. He has trained community professionals in the use of media, under the auspices of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and others in Israel, the Former Soviet Union and the United States. He has also served as an informal Jewish educator, including two terms as a shaliach in the United States on behalf of the Jewish Agency and the Conservative Movement.
Charlie lives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot with his three sons, Shemer, Maytav and Osher.
He is eternally indebted to his family, both those whom he has known and to the previous generations upon whose shoulders he stands. This is especially true of his mother, Edith Holzbauer Kalech, who more than anyone has shaped the person he has become.