A native of Staten Island, New York, Melissa Seltzer moved to Manalapan, New Jersey, shortly after her bat mitzvah. The 32-year-old attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, majoring in religion with a minor in Jewish studies. After college, Melissa attended Baltimore Hebrew University for her masters in Jewish communal services.
Her passion and interests became a career, as she now serves as senior director of the JCC-run program J Kids Baltimore. She and her husband, Evan, a native of Owings Mills, also enjoy attending local food festivals. They are expecting baby #1 in four weeks and are waiting to find out the gender. Melissa loves HGTV and is currently reading anything and everything on how to prepare for the baby.
What made you interested in getting into J Kids?
I actually interned in the children’s department at the JCC while I was in graduate school in 2010. For me, it’s always been about building connections between people. It never mattered to me which department ultimately I was in whether it was sports or fitness or arts. I worked in the arts department here at the Gordon Center for about five years.
To me, it really was about building connections and meaningful relationships for people of all ages. So when they were talking about finding a strategy to make programming more accessible to families, that was so exciting to me. It was a chance to bring all of the departments together in a way that made the most sense. Before this, there wasn’t a way for people to access these programs. They had to contact so many different people to get their foot in the door. So we really become this gateway – this concierge service – to get families what they want.
What’s a day in the job like?
Everyday is different, which is fantastic. In addition to overseeing all the after-school programs, I’m the director of the community block party, which is a fun part of my job, especially in the spring and summer here. I also oversee our shinshinim at the JCC and arts education for children.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
Passover. It’s really a holiday that is so full of tradition. All of us around the world are sitting down at our seder tables together. Probably reading from the same Maxwell House Haggadah. And there’s a structure. I’m very big into order and structure, and seder literally means “order.” So I like that – there’s like a process to how everything is done and sustained for everyone. I find that really meaningful.
How has being Jewish impacted your job?
There’s a part of me that has this Jewish knowledge and background when I studied in college and graduate school, and I’m able to practically share Jewish content knowledge. But more importantly, it’s the values of Judaism that I share. I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with the children’s theatre program here and with the arts camp to integrate values that are really universal values, but primarily Jewish values – in a way that impacts the manner in which people live and interact. So whether it’s teamwork, and we relate that to stories in the Torah, [or some other Jewish value], it is important in life to create those threads for people. It’s really something that’s been an important part of my work.
Is there anything else that we should know about you?
I have multiple sclerosis (MS). It’s just been something that I post a lot of the stuff about [such as] being compassionate … not knowing what other people are struggling with on a daily basis. MS isn’t something you can see all of the time.