His official title may
be Jewish chaplain to the college and adviser to the Jewish
community, but to students and community members, he’s
simply Rabbi Bruce, a moniker he encourages.
Bruce Bromberg Seltzer began
as the college’s Jewish chaplain in July and spends
a third of his time as Amherst College’s Jewish religious
adviser. One of his early priorities -- besides becoming
familiarized with the campus organizational structure and
“trying to find my role,” he says -- is to
make Smith a welcoming, inclusive place for all Jewish students.
“A large goal for me is
to unify the Jewish community while retaining pluralism,”
he says, comparing his vision to an orchestra in which a hundred
diverse instruments combine to create exquisite art.
Seltzer, a drummer and percussionist
with eclectic musical taste, analogizes his pursuit to music.
“No one form of music is superior to another,”
he wrote in the September issue of the Smith Hillel Newsletter.
“No one form of Judaism is better than another. Campus
life allows the full range of Jewish expression in a pluralistic
Seltzer estimates that Smith
has between 160 and 200 Jewish students, most of whom are
American. But within that group, he notes, is a wide range
of backgrounds, perspectives and approaches to Judaism.
“Judaism is much broader
than people think,” he explains. “Jews come from
almost every country on earth. But many students have a narrow
understanding of Judaism.”
Through events such as last month’s cross-disciplinary
hosting of Eskesta, an Ethiopian Jewish dance troupe, as well
as future sponsorships of lecturers and other activities,
Seltzer hopes to “provide entry points to the community
so people from different backgrounds can feel welcome,”
Seltzer, who came to Smith from
Duke University, where he served as campus rabbi, says he
prefers the religiously and culturally diverse environment
offered by liberal arts institutions like Smith. “One
of the things that attracted me to this job was an opportunity
to work in an interfaith community,” he says. “At
the same time that we’re working within a community
here, we’re also working among communities.”
Seltzer completed his undergraduate
studies at Franklin and Marshall College, and received a master’s
degree in Jewish studies and his rabbinic ordination from
the Jewish Theological Seminary. He studied Advanced Jewish
Studies at Jerusalem’s Pardes Institute and Machon Schechter
and has served as Jewish chaplain and Hillel director at Drew
and Hofstra universities.
As a chaplain and adviser at
Smith and Amherst colleges, Seltzer tries to reach out to
Jews on religious, cultural, spiritual and other levels. But
whatever his role may be -- chaplain, adviser, spiritual
leader, counselor -- you can just call him Rabbi Bruce.