Generous, caring, and compassionate.
That’s how those in the community who know them describe Rabbi Henry Bamberger and his wife, Sheila, whose professional and philanthropic impact has been profound over the last four decades, ever since Rabbi Bamberger began leading Temple Emanu-El. One important way
that they have focused their impact in recent years has been through partnership with the Community Foundation.
Looking for a way to give back to the local community that they’ve called home since 1982, they knew that creating the Bamberger Family Fund at the Community Foundation was the perfect way to do it.
“We’ve been generous for years individually, so we thought that establishing this family fund would be a perfect option to extend our giving to those organizations we support and have relationships with,” said Sheila. “Working with the Community Foundation has made our lives very simple.”
“We were very familiar with the organization and have used their services in the past, so it was a natural transition,” Rabbi Bamberger said. Established in 2020, the fund isn’t the only way that the Bambergers continue to inspire. Both stay very busy and do a great deal of volunteer work throughout the area.
Sheila serves on the Charles T. Sitrin Health Care Center board and for years was a member of the Players of Utica board; she continues to serve as a resource for the organization. She’s also been active in the University of Albany alumni association since 1957.
Rabbi Bamberger is on the ethics committees for area hospitals as well as the Hamilton College Institutional Review Board. Over the years, he’s also served on volunteer boards for the CNY Food Bank, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Planned Parenthood Mohawk-Hudson, the Samaritan Center, and Mohawk Valley Institute for Learning in Retirement (MVILR). But his favorite volunteer activity is his role as a docent at the Utica Zoo.
Rabbi Bamberger retired from Temple Emanu-El in 1999 and was elected Rabbi Emeritus. Retirement allowed both Bambergers to fully involve themselves in MVILR’s lifelong learning mission; members for more than 20 years, they have both taught a variety of MVILR courses.
Together, the couple led classes in Shakespeare, the Bible, and football. Sheila drew on her career as a math teacher to offer MVILR members courses in mathematics, and Rabbi Bamberger solo taught religion ethics— and beginning birding.
“The very first course we taught together was in the old lecture hall at what is now SUNY Poly.
It was a course about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to our surprise there were over 100 people,” Rabbi Bamberger said. “We’ve stayed in contact and become friends with many of the students that took our classes, and I am still teaching there currently.”
Now, the couple is using their donor-advised fund to extend support to the organizations they know and love. Together, they make decisions on what their fund will support and so far have awarded grants to University of Albany Foundation, MVILR, Jewish Community Federation of the Mohawk Valley, WCNY, and others.
“It’s important for us to invest locally because we’re able to and because this community has been very good to us,” said Sheila. “When we retired over 20 years ago, people would ask if we were going to move or where we were going to go, and they were pleasantly surprised when I would say that we were very happy to stay right here. We have friends, we have activities. Everything tells us to stay here and have a fun life.”
Rabbi Bamberger says Utica has felt like home almost from the beginning.
“We had only been here a few weeks, and I remember I was trying to find my way to someplace using the directions I had been told—which didn’t work. I found that I had no idea where I was, so I knew I was lost. But I didn’t feel lost. “That’s when I knew that this was home.”