Enjoy the latest in our series of profiles of some of the wonderful and widely talented individuals who make up our diverse Jewish community. We look forward to sharing a new profile with you every couple of weeks.

 

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  • Name: Suzanne Seldes
  • Family: Husband; three children, all 23
  • Occupation: Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at The Strong National Museum of Play
  • Volunteer Efforts:  In Jewish community – Board member, Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester; Co-chair, Partnership 2Gether Steering Committee; member, Temple Beth El; member, Hadassah. Also serves on boards of Causewave Community Partners, Rochester Downtown Development Corporation, Corn Hill Navigation, and Museum Association of New York.

 

Can you describe your volunteer efforts at the Federation? “The Ramim experience, which partners professionals in Rochester with those in Modi’in, Israel, has had a profound experience on me. In 2015, I joined the program’s Partnership2Gether steering committee and now serve as its co-chair with Ron Newman, and in 2016 joined the Federation’s Board of Directors. During Ramim, I was partnered with a lovely woman who had a similar sensibility to mine; instantly we felt as though we’d known each other our entire lives. The outcome of Ramim was that I connected with my own Judaism, and with Israel, with the realization that I could engage in both my local community and at a higher level.”

 

What do you appreciate about being Jewish? The values of Judaism were always strong for me, and were heightened by the Ramim experience. In my upbringing, being Jewish was so closely tied to being religiously observant. While I am part of a conservative synagogue, I am more secular in my day-to-day life. Ramim reminded me that living life with Jewish values means more than just going to synagogue; our mitzvot are in our day-to-day living, not just when we pray; and in connecting as a Jewish citizen of the world. That passion for involvement with the Jewish community was kindled with Ramim, and it comes from the heart.”

 

Some people balance work and play; but your work is play! Has that connection shaped your outlook, Jewish on otherwise? “When the Israelis in my Ramim cohort came to Rochester, we hosted them at the museum. I asked our curators to take our group behind the scenes and to pull out inventor notebooks and prototypes that show the connection between the toy and comic book industries, and the Jews: they built these industries, in America and worldwide. Play is common to all people – it’s a unifier across cultures, generations; there are no boundaries; and that day, Jews from America and Israel bonded through objects of play. Play is essential to human development and learning, which ties in with the values I hold. In 2016, we revamped museum’s Community Outreach Team, which I’ve been leading as chairperson ever since. The programs that we support highlight the ways that play is critical to human development. We have programs for pediatric residents; programs for foster families; early childhood intervention, where play therapists and their clients work on skill building; and nurse-family partnerships, where practitioners work with at-risk young parents and families.”

 

Can you share something interesting about yourself? “Some people move from Rochester to New York City, looking for a change. I did the reverse: grew up in Brooklyn, worked for CBS in New York City, and moved to Rochester to seek change. My kids are triplets: two boys and one girl, all age 23. Theirs may have been TBE’s first b’nai mitzvah with three. Now they’re college graduates working on developing their careers.” 

 

-Interviewed by Melissa Pheterson