Special to the Jewish News
NJP (Nice Jewish Person) Celena Ritchey
Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual. The Well has agreed to share its Q & As with these amazing singles with the JN. This month, The Well has a conversation with NJP Celena Ritchey.
Q: You spend your days as a Repair the World Fellow in Detroit. How did you discover RTW and what about the organization interested you?
CR: I found out about Repair the World when I staffed a trip with my summer camp, Camp Wise in Ohio, a few years ago. We brought our 15-year-old campers to Detroit and volunteered with Repair the World because we had a camp alum who was serving as a fellow at the time. I was interested in the organization because it combined my desire to do a service year after college and had a foundation in Jewish values.
Q: You can be a Repair fellow in lots of places. What called you to Detroit?
CR: Before I accepted my fellowship position, I drove up to Detroit with my best friend Grace in June to check out the city. We explored, ate and spent the night at a local hostel. I’m originally from Cleveland, and I have a deep love for the Midwest, the friendliness of people and the grit it takes to live somewhere that is cold half the year. After that trip, I just had a feeling that Detroit was going to be home for me.
Q: You’re a graduate of the Ohio State University. What did you study and what led you down that path?
CR: I studied environment and natural resources. I love learning about the environment and hope I can continue to be able to share my passion with others.
Q: How was Jewish life at OSU?
CR: I transferred to OSU, and without my Jewish friends from summer camp and Cleveland, I would have really struggled! They helped turn OSU into my home. I have so many fun memories with them all from game days, date parties and kayaking adventures. Last fall, we had a big tailgate at my house and there were 20+ people I grew up going to or working with at camp; and I just felt like, yup, these are my people.
Q: What’s your favorite book and what about it moves you?
CR: So hard to choose, but I love novels. I just finished reading Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman about five minutes ago. I bought it for my flight back from The Well’s Houston service trip and have not been able to put it down since.
Q: Where would you most like to travel to that you haven’t visited?
CR: I got to do some amazing international traveling the past couple of years, so this year I want to focus on exploring things in my backyard, so to speak. I have been reading that you can see the Northern Lights in the Upper Peninsula, so I hope I have the chance to check out that part of Michigan soon!
Q: How do you like to give back to the community/others?
CR: I feel very fortunate that my current job is doing service work and engaging others to volunteer throughout the Detroit community. A hobby I developed over the summer is gardening, and I love that through my fellowship I can get my hands dirty and produce food for others!
Q: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
CR: Passover. I love reading the story and, of course, all the wine! We have this tradition at my granny’s house that we all bite a piece of matzah into the shape of a circle and put it on the arch above her kitchen doorway as a sign of good luck until the next year. Does anyone else do that? Let me know …
Q: Fav Jewish food?
CR: Bissli and Bamba!
Q: Who is the coolest Jew?
CR: Andy Cohen, hands down.
Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
CR: Graduating from Ohio State this spring definitely made me really proud of myself but also very humble because I would not have made it to graduation day without support from other people. Walking into the Shoe and actually seeing my family up in the stands all wearing flower leis and waving is a sense of shared joy I could never hope to replicate.
Q: Would you rather win an Olympic medal (for what sport?), an Academy Award (in what category?) or Nobel Prize (in what)?
CR: Academy Award, Best Supporting Actress. “I don’t wanna say Best Supporting Actress, but you’re really supportive of everyone.” — my best friend, Bess.
Q: How about a fun fact?
CR: I was on an American Greetings Christmas card holding a cup of hot cocoa when I was 5. My mom and dad still have a bunch of copies.
Q: Best movie ever made, hands down?
CR: Finding Nemo. It’s a great reminder that love knows no bounds.