The energetic and involved Alyssa Geller, communications manager at Beth El Congregation, hails from Columbus, Ohio by way of Long Island, where she was born. The 29-year-old is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin- Madison, where she majored in communications because she wanted to apply her creative side to her work.
“I’ve always been a creative person,” she said. “Originally I wanted to go into radio.”
But after landing a job at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington, Ohio, she fell in love with working with the Jewish community. In 2014 she brought that love to Beth El Congregation in Pikesville.
She started as communications coordinator but moved up to communications manager in May, running websites and social media for the synagogue and the Soul Center, coordinating marketing for the congregation and schools and designing marketing materials, among many other duties.
Beyond that busy-ness, Alyssa is deeply involved with Baltimore’s Jewish community, her new adopted home.
How did Baltimore Jewish Council’s leadership development program help you as a B’More newbie?
It was a really fun program. I don’t have experience with advocacy and government, so it was an eye-opening experience. Especially because I’m not from Baltimore, it was nice to see how the Jewish community is involved in all of these different sectors. It was a great experience. Everybody was there to learn and to grow, and it was nice to be around people who all shared the same interests.
How did you get involved with Yom HaShoah and Holocaust-education events?
We had a session in the leadership development program about the Holocaust. My grandparents are Holocaust survivors. After our session we had a survey and I mentioned that I was interested in being on the Holocaust Remembrance Committee, and that’s where I was recruited to be a part of the Yom HaShoah Committee and the Young Adult Night at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. I also just got recruited to lead a discussion group at the Summer Teacher’s Institute.
As a descendant of Holocaust survivors, how do you bring that into discussions?
It’s mostly discussing their story of survival. It’s important because so many survivors are dying, and who’s going to be left to tell their story? The descendants. So, we need to leave a lasting legacy. I think they would be honored that I’m sharing their story with the Baltimore Jewish community. It is really interesting to speak to people about my grandparents because they don’t realize the atrocities that a lot of Jews went through. It’s important to preserve that history and not let people forget what happened.
Which of their stories especially resonates with you?
My grandmother was with her mother and sister-in-law and her 5-month-old nephew on a train on their way to Auschwitz. But one of the Nazi soldiers was in love with one of the Jewish girls sitting next to my grandmother. So, he devised a plan to get this girl off the train, but he didn’t want to make it too obvious that he was singling this girl out. So, he picked — one, two, three, four, five — and my grandmother was one of the five. And they were taken off the train. Unfortunately, her mother and her sister-in-law and the baby were taken to their deaths.
What do you do to relax?
I like shopping, movies, seeing friends and family, my nieces. I do a lot of activities with Chai Life at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Everything from kickball to trivia. We went to Toby’s Dinner Theatre; that was a fun night out meeting new people. That’s why I’ve become so involved in the Baltimore Jewish community, because there’s always someone I haven’t met and a connection I’m meant to make. Everyone who gets involved all love giving back to the community. That’s a great message, and I love being a part of that.