Running with Ritzah



March 29, 2023

“I’m Jewish and I love to run” is the unifying passion shared by each student organizer of Ritzah: The Jewish Running Project. From across the United States and Israel, these enthusiastic runners came together in early 2022 to find ways to lift up other students who were searching for ways to integrate their Jewish identities with their love of running. 

Aaron Siff-Scherr and his co-founder, Jesse Edelstein, are both lifelong campers and lifelong runners. Both varsity runners and active Hillel students at Brown University, they approached Rabbi Josh Bolton at Brown RISD Hillel for guidance on how they could connect with similar students at other campuses to bring their vision to life. Rabbi Josh helped Aaron and Jesse pull together a network of passionate Jewish runners across the country who, together, became Ritzah. 

Ritzah focuses on three areas of support and engagement for Jewish runners. They are developing a digital storytelling project to help Jewish runners all over the world create their own brands and tell their stories. They also help Israeli students navigate the process of applying to American schools and working with the National Collegiate Athletic Organization (NCAA) to be able to run track in the United States. The final, and most significant, project is a camp for Jewish high school student runners.

Camp Ritzah, the original inspiration for the Ritzah organizers, is designed to encourage students to weave together their Jewish and running identities. Aaron believes that, “When we bring our Jewishness into our competitions and our love for running into our Jewish spaces, we enrich every aspect of our lives.” 

The Ritzah team hopes that Camp Ritzah will give high school students an opportunity that they felt was missing in their high school experiences. Jesse reflected that, “As an athlete growing up, my Jewish identity and my identity as an athlete were rarely given the opportunity to cross paths and I often felt like being a successful Jewish athlete was seen as a novelty.” Jesse hopes that teaching young athletes to be proud of their Jewish athleticism and to understand how athletics celebrates Jewish values will help more Jewish students find a love for running.  

When thinking about the last year of work that has gone into developing Ritzah and the dreams that these students have for their organization, Sydney Ginsburg, Director of Camp Logistics, said, “When I think of things in life that make me feel connected, strong, and fulfilled, running, Judaism, and camp are the main ones come to mind. I’m so grateful that Ritzah combines all three.”

Interested in learning more about Ritzah? Visit their website!