Alumni Profile: Ranisa Davidson

KODAK Digital Still CameraRanisa Rubin Davidson (Nivo 93), originally from Pittsburgh, began her Ramah experience when she was entering 7th grade. Even though she lived on the east coast, she wanted to join her Cincinnati based cousins at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. For the past nine years, Ranisa has been at The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center. She spent seven years working as a Birthparent Counselor and recently began her new position as Adoptive Family Studies Worker.

Long before Ranisa formed such a clear vision for her life, she was just another camper goofing around on the tennis court. Some of her favorite camp memories include the little things about camp. She fondly remembers taking laps around the garbage trails and laughing with friends or lounging on the kikar before lunch with aidah-mates. She reminisces about her first night of camp; “I remember it vividly,” she says. She knew no one and wasn’t talkative during  dinner. One girl in her cabin noticed her sitting by herself and asked if she wanted to go back to the bunk together. This girl became Ranisa’s first friend and one of her closest friends at camp. After that first night, Ranisa went on to make many friends at Ramah and came to love camp’s pizza bagels. While she always considered herself a quieter kid, camp was the place where she could uncover new aspects of herself and trust she would be accepted. She affirms, “my true personality and confidence came out at camp.” In addition to gaining confidence, she also explored and stretched her sense of independence.

Ranisa went on to serve as a cabin counselor for three summers. She continued to grow on staff and enjoyed the chance to see camp from a new perspective as a counselor. She reflects, “this was when I started learning how to walk a fine line between being friends with your campers while still being someone they can respect and trust.” Her experience as a Nivo counselor was incredibly rewarding since she had been a counselor for those same campers when they were in Bogrim. “It brought things full circle,” she comments on the opportunity to watch her campers mature over a span of time. She was able to be a mentor and Jewish role model for that group of kids. Ranisa feels camp was an “extension of her Judaic learning.” She grew up going to Jewish day school where she built a foundation of Jewish knowledge. While school provided her with a solid base, she asserts, “it was at camp that I learned how to implement Judaism into my daily life in a way that felt fun and meaningful.”

While her years as a camp counselor may be behind her, supporting children and families is still at the center of her life. She believes her summers at Ramah strengthened her passion to work in the nonprofit world. At camp, “so much focus was placed on tikkun olam (repairing the world),” she explains, “I knew that I wanted a job that would allow me to support and empower someone who is going through a rough patch in their lives.” Camp reinforced the Jewish values of tzedakah (justice and righteousness) and g’milut hasadim (acts of loving kindness) that motivate her work.

In Ranisa’s role at The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh she offers resources and counseling to both the families facing unplanned pregnancies and the potential adoptive families during and beyond the matching process. She is continuously amazed by the “extreme amount of courage it takes for a woman to know that she is not able to parent a child.” Participating in a process where one person’s “selfless decision allows someone else to become a mother or father,” is a privilege. She acknowledges that not everyone is cut out for this kind of work, and it can often be draining. However, she continues, “providing women with education and options turns an overwhelming situation into a better one, and that is what gets me through the difficult times.” She loves the opportunity she has to be a part of people’s families while they make tough decisions. Prior to joining The Children’s Home, Ranisa worked in the area of mental health support. She served as Mental Health Liaison for Services of Teens at Risk at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. She earned her master’s degree in health education from Boston University and studied communication and journalism as an undergraduate at George Washington University.

To this day, Ranisa still keeps in touch with several people from camp. “Facebook is a wonderful thing,” she says, because it is has enabled her to stay in contact with people from Ramah. Ranisa formed many relationships during her time as a camper and counselor, and Ramah has continued to connect her to others throughout the years. Anytime she meets someone and learns they too are a Ramahnik, she feels an immediate kinship.

Ranisa currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Mark, who she met as an undergrad and her two boys, Aviv and Cobi. Her family loves traveling and spending time outdoors. Her boys are nearing camp age, and she hopes to send them soon to the Northwoods of Wisconsin during the summer months.