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A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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From ticket taker to knish baker, volunteer has done it all

Bill Motchan
Beth Saltzman

When Beth Saltzman was 12 years old, she got her first volunteer experience, helping out at Congregation B’nai Amoona. She remembers going to the synagogue on Trinity Avenue in University City.

“We’d put out the kiddush cups and pour the grape juice,” Saltzman said. “It was cupcakes and grape juice for the kids, and wine and kichel for the adults.”

Fast-forward 50 years and Saltzman fills an important role at B’nai Amoona. She has served as vice president for development and is now volunteer coordinator. Along with a group of other volunteers, she staffs the kitchen every Friday, preparing Shabbat kiddush. 

One Friday in October, Beth was making knishes alongside 2022 Unsung Hero Julie Frankel and several other volunteers. The group was performing a mitzvah and clearly having a good time.

Cooking is just one of Saltzman’s regular volunteer roles at the congregation. Her energy and dedication were especially important during COVID, said Liessa Alperin, director of congregational life and engagement.

“Beth Saltzman singlehandedly helped us get through COVID,” Alperin said. “She organized kiddush lunch on her own every Shabbat, and she organized volunteers to handle the phones and to take over positions that we were no longer able to staff.”

That volunteer group is known as the Mitzvah Corp,” which Saltzman created. She developed training materials and recruited other congregation members to pitch in. It was a labor of love for Saltzman, who said she hopes her volunteer efforts enable others to enjoy the product of her work.

“The volunteer program really went into full force when we were coming out of the pandemic and opening things back up at B’nai Amoona, and we needed to fill some positions through volunteers,” Saltzman said. “They talked about eliminating some of the things the volunteers were doing and we said, ‘Don’t do that — we like coming here!’ ”

Saltzman’s volunteer work and recruiting others provides a dual benefit to B’nai Amoona, said Sheryl Kalman, a 2020 Unsung Hero and fellow BA volunteer.

Beth Saltzman (center) volunteers in the kitchen at Congregation B’nai Amoona in October. At left is Julie Frankel, who was honored as an Unsung Hero in 2022.

“It means we have less staff to hire, so that’s a financial benefit,” Kalman said. “More importantly, it gives people a sense of belonging and a sense of being needed so they feel more connected to the shul.”

Being a volunteer is a role Saltzman looks forward to and encourages others to do the same.

“Everybody can find something to do, some volunteer work,” she said. “If there’s an appeal from an organization to help out somewhere, everyone has an interest that can match up with the need. Helping out does as much for me as it does for the organization.”

Saltzman has also worked with the St. Louis chapter of B’nai B’rith and has been involved with the David and Betty Blumenthal Community Service Project through the Cares for Kids initiative. Her first significant volunteer assignment at B’nai Amoona was as chairperson of the greeters.

“We instituted a greeter program, and I would recruit them,” she said. “During my work in private industry, I had been a human resources specialist, so I knew personnel, I knew scheduling and I knew recruiting. It all fell together, and people really wanted to volunteer.”

Saltzman grew up in University City. In 1969, she earned a degree in history and social studies from Southeast Missouri State University. After college, she considered teaching, but jobs were scarce so she took on a position that fit perfectly with her personality and desire to uplift others.

“I went to work for the Department of Welfare and started helping out people as a caseworker,” she said. “I had to make sure they were eligible to receive their funds, but I also helped out clients in other ways. I’d drive to the airport where the Toys for Tots drive had its operations. I picked the toys up and divided them up, then took them to the kids in my territory. Some of my clients had much more significant needs. I can remember having to get a dump truck of coal delivered to one of my people so she could shovel coal into her furnace.”

The job was essentially field work. Saltzman would spend her mornings doing paperwork and the rest of the day visiting clients via door-to-door counseling and helping them get any items they needed. That was also around the time she was active in Women’s American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation Through Training), where she became a chapter president.

In 1979, Saltzman got a promotion and moved to Houston. During that time, she continued her ORT work in Texas. Fourteen years later, she moved back to St. Louis to provide assistance as a caregiver for her parents, and she took a new government job as a disclosure specialist.

“I did a lot of research and report making, including answering Freedom of Information Act requests and getting information for federal special agents when they were working on criminal trials,” she said.

That’s when Saltzman donned yet another volunteer hat — as a ticket taker at the Fox Theatre. It was an ideal situation for Saltzman, who loves the theater and musicals. (Her favorite production is “The Lion King.”) She’s been working as a Sunday matinee ticket taker for 22 years.

“I got introduced to the theater at the Muny,” she said. “I was a preteen and my Aunt Sarah had season tickets, and every year she gave my mom the tickets to the kid’s play. So I got to go as a youngster to see at least one show a year. That’s what got me started.”

A few years ago, the Fox converted the ticket takers to paid positions, so Saltzman is now technically a part-time employee, but she’d happily do it as a volunteer if not for the administrative change. 

If her Aunt Sarah was the stimulus for Saltzman’s love of musical theater, it was another relative who was her volunteer role model.

“My grandmother Rose Etlinger Seltzer was a big volunteer for many years,” she said. “She was involved with the original founding of the Jewish Children’s Home. I remember going to a gala with her and sitting on the stage — behind us was a big TWA logo. I don’t even remember what the function was, but she was definitely my inspiration to volunteer.”

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About the Contributor
Bill Motchan, writer/photographer
Bill worked in corporate communications for AT&T for 28 years. He is a former columnist for St. Louis Magazine. Bill has been a contributing writer for the Jewish Light since 2015 and is a three-time winner of the Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish Journalism. He also is a staff writer for the travel magazine Show-Me Missouri. Bill grew up in University City. He now lives in Olivette with his wife and cat, Hobbes. He is an avid golfer and a fan of live music. He has attended the New Orleans Jazzfest 10 times and he has seen Jimmy Buffett in concert more t han 30 times between 1985 and 2023.