• Name: Emily Rittenberg
  • Family: Josh, sons Ethan and Jonah
  • Occupation: Parent and family counselor/educator
  • Volunteer focus: Board Member, Louis S. Wolk JCC of Greater Rochester; Camp Sisol; Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation

 

What do you appreciate about being Jewish?

“I went to JCC daycare as a kid and JCC camps growing up; we were active members of Temple B'rith Kodesh. As a teenager I went to Camp Seneca Lake; as soon as I could get back there as a CIT and counselor, I did. After high school I spent a year in Israel living on a kibbutz, volunteering for the army and for Greenpeace Israel, and taking classes. I thought of it as a year ‘on,’ not a year off: engaging with life for a year before I settled into academic pursuits. Israel has intrigued me since I went there for the first time as a Bat Mitzvah. Getting to spend time knowing the culture, the people, and the food helped develop my life in the direction I wanted. I went to college at University of Pittsburgh, then went on to lead a Birthright Israel trip. I met Josh on the plane. Because our last names were Rosen and Rittenberg, we sat next to each other and spent the next two weeks together. We want our children to grow up loving Judaism as much as we do. We believe in living by Jewish values. We have found the practices that resonate for us in our lives, like celebrating Shabbat. We say the blessings, have a special meal, use the Shabbat covers and candlesticks the kids have made. We let them experience the feeling of tasting challah, drinking grape juice and noticing what we’re thankful for. Shabbat is a day for us to connect as a family without the noise of the outside world. When the weather’s nice, you’ll often find us hiking in the woods on Saturdays.”

 

How do you practice Jewish values in your career?

“I have a dual masters’ degree in education policy and school guidance and counseling. After working as a school counselor for many years I started my business, Nurture Family Education and Guidance, a little over a year ago, to work directly with parents with a focus on mindfulness and conscious parenting. The goal is to support parents and give them community in raising their children. Having kids is the hardest job, and the most important job, that anyone will ever do in their lives. Having kids in this day and age can also be really isolating. It’s hard to know how to deal with all the normal stuff that comes up. My business aims to bring parents together to learn, talk, and find community; and to advocate for parents to practice a mindful awareness of how they’re showing up every day for their child.”

 

How did you choose to focus your volunteer efforts?

“My involvement and leadership in the community, at the JCC and at Sisol is highly correlated to my experiences at CSL. I could learn and practice new leadership skills, and I learned to love being Jewish there: sitting around the fire circle, singing Jewish songs that made me light up. I want to share my Judaism with my kids through these experiences, in the community and at home. What I like about Federation is they provide an avenue for the Jewish community to come together and share experiences that are based in Jewish values.”

 

Can you share something interesting about yourself?

“I have always been creative; but I started practicing my art as an adult a couple of years ago, when I was preparing to make a mural for the JCC gala in 2016. I would never have volunteered myself, but Leah Goldman said, ‘Why don’t you make the wall?’ It was with her prompting that I did that. I also do paper-cutting, pen and marker drawings. I’m teaching my older son, Ethan, embroidery. Tapping into my creativity has allowed me to feel a sense of joy, and self-confidence, and just playfulness, that may have been hard to find in the busyness of raising kids and the responsibility of adult life. The art is about enjoying the process of life, and being brave enough to confront the process of life. Art runs in our family: my mom does pottery and my dad does sculpture.”

 

-Melissa Pheterson