A Sneak Peek at our Community’s Culinary Entrepreneurs

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By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

“My passions? Hands-down, my husband and my boys. They are behind every decision I make.  Our boys are the most amazing blessing.  My husband and I work hard to educate them, and raise them with the values and morals that we were raised with.  After my family, what excites me?  Being a health coach - seeing my clients attain healthy habits and going off medications for diabetes, cholesterol, and acid reflux.”

These were Etty Cytryn’s heartfelt words when I asked her what she is passionate about.  When we first spoke, I felt there was something familiar about Etty.  Although we had never met I warmed up to her immediately and found her easy to talk to.  I couldn’t wait to hear more about her life story and to share it with you.

Growing Up

Etty (short for “Esther”) Benzaken was born in Brooklyn and grew up near Ocean Parkway. She refers to her childhood as “pretty normal.”  Her parents, Freda and Isaac Benzaken, emigrated from Egypt to New York in the 1960s (Freda’s grandfather was of Syrian descent).  Isaac, a”h, sadly passed away 17 years ago.  Etty has three older brothers and one older sister who she is very close with.  Etty speaks lovingly and with much gratitude about how her parents raised her and her siblings.

“They came to America with really nothing and built an amazing family and home. They were always so happy, and were positive people who held their heads up high.”

Etty attended Yeshivah of Flatbush from 1st through 12th grade. With an aptitude for numbers, Etty found a position she enjoyed in the Accounts Payable unit of a retail business.

Marriage and Family

Etty spent summers in Deal, NJ with her parents, and was blessed to meet her nasib there, Charlie Cytryn.  Charlie, a year older than Etty, grew up on the Jersey Shore and is an honor graduate of Hillel Yeshiva.  His mother is Egyptian and his father is American Ashkenaz.  When Etty and Charlie got married, Etty opted to live near her in-laws in Long Branch since she didn’t know many people in NJ.  Now you know why I had good vibes when I first met Etty – how many young women are mature and insightful enough to say they want to live close to their in-laws? 

Etty describes herself as a very positive person with a half-glass full approach to life.  “I try not to sweat the small stuff - life is full of struggles - I try to grow from them.” Etty considers herself to be independent, focused, and easy to relate to, and she has a strong group of friends.  She says Charlie is the more social one. He’s the one who makes the arrangements for them to go out with friends and have fun.

Etty chose to be a stay at home mom after giving birth to her first son, Isaac (“Zacky”).  Zacky’s parents soon gave him three younger brothers to mentor.  Zacky is now 16, Eric 14, Michael 12, and Etty and Charlie’s youngest, Steven, is 8.  All four sons proudly followed in their father’s footsteps and study at Hillel Yeshiva.

When Steven, Etty’s baby, turned one, she was ready to take a part-time job at Congregation Shaare Tefilah (Eatontown synagogue), doing the accounts payable. She still had her knack for numbers and liked the work.  Etty was busy and fulfilled, raising her sons with a loving and supportive husband, helping the synagogue out with their finances, and getting involved with local hesed projects.

Getting Healthy

Around a year ago, Etty developed a new passion and skill set that complemented her character and nature perfectly.  It all started with her husband.  Charlie had turned forty, and decided it was time to take control of his health.  He had always struggled with his weight and was concerned about his family’s history of heart disease.  One of Charlie’s friends shared a weight loss program on Instagram that attracted his attention.  Charlie signed up for the program and used his friend’s coach to guide him through the process.  Charlie lost 50 pounds in four months and his whole mindset and lifestyle changed.  Etty was thrilled!  “Charlie had more energy and confidence, and our family life changed too.  He started playing ball with the boys instead of watching a ball game. He went on long bike rides. We eat healthier foods and there is much less junk food in the house.”

You may be thinking, what does Charlie’s awesome weight loss and transformation have to do with Etty?  As Charlie lost weight, people noticed and asked Etty, “What did Charlie do? He looks fabulous.”  The couple started referring friends to Charlie’s coach who encouraged them to pursue health coaching together.   Charlie, who was already fully engaged in an online retail business, wanted to share his lessons learned about weight loss and embracing a healthy lifestyle.  Etty had supported Charlie during his journey and had a strong desire to help others achieve what Charlie had.

Etty noted that she does not have a weight issue. However, she is gratified to have been educated about the benefits of clean eating. The program still has such a positive impact on the Cytryns, including her children and extended family.  “I hope my clients find me relatable and authentic - I work hard and consistently support them,” Etty said.

The Cytryns were trained by their mentors who have years of health coaching experience.  Their goal is to ensure the client has all the tools as well as a coach to support them on their journey to a healthier life.  Etty was excited to take her training to the next level, and is now a certified health coach. 

A key aspect of Etty’s program is her acting as an accountability partner for the client, so that he/she is never alone on their path to a better lifestyle.  Etty cited a recent study reporting that people lose twice as much weight when they have an accountability partner to guide and support them in their goals.  Etty does a lot of coaching by phone, Zoom, and WhatsApp.  She leads her clients through the program after they set a goal, identifying struggles and designing strategies to overcome them.  Etty also keeps them focused on their goals, celebrating each victory with them.

Living a Balanced Life

When Etty launched her new career as a health coach, she kept her part-time job at Congregation Shaare Tefilah.  Her synagogue is very important to her.  She also thrives on working with and cheering on her clients, including members of her own community.  

Her husband has been a constant source of strength and support throughout their marriage.  Most people don’t realize that Etty prefers staying out of the spotlight.  Charlie encouraged his wife to stretch herself and train as a health coach, and even coaxed her into being interviewed for Community Magazine.  Etty confided that when she enters the supermarket, she is overjoyed when her clients stop her to thank her for helping them lose weight.  “I love what I do!  I am helping people - some clients are no longer diabetic! They send me text messages and updates - it’s so gratifying, rewarding, and fulfilling to know that I had a little bit of a hand in that, and how they're feeling today.”

How has her new career impacted her family?

Etty admits that working from home can be “a little tricky.”  She has learned to manage and dedicate her time appropriately and establish boundaries.  She is there for her children when they come home from school, and always has supper ready.  Etty generally doesn’t take calls from her clients during dinner or homework time.  Her husband and children are so proud of her accomplishments as a health coach.  Michael, her 12-year-old, wrote her a beautiful Mother’s Day card about her inspiring posts, and how she helps people to get healthy.

As a mother, Etty appreciates what a wonderful role model her mom was.  “She was and still is so caring and loving, and taught us to be kind and caring. Her actions speak louder than her words.”

Etty’s Advice

Etty believes you will be rewarded when you pursue a helping profession.  She advocates setting a goal, creating a plan, and working hard.  “You may have some challenges along the way - get out of your comfort zone and keep going, and enjoy what you do!”

You can reach out to Etty at ettycytryn@aol.com.

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.  Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).