Who The Folk?! Melissa Steinken

Melissa Steinken was a publishing magnate at 7 years old, and her interest in journalism and writing remained ever since. Learn about that, and her unconventional road to studying Hebrew and Jewish studies at the University of Minnesota in this week’s Who The Folk?!

Are you originally from the Twin Cities?

No, actually I am from about 30 minutes southwest of Chicago, and I only came to the University of Minnesota after my sister also went here. So I got to see the campus early on, and I really liked how it was in a city, but a smaller city and everything was easy to get to.

What are your plans for the summer?

Well, I’m interning at TC Jewfolk, but I’m also writing for an automotive magazine in St. Paul. I also am working part time at a daycare. And that’s through the University so it’s close to my apartment, which is nice. I work with toddlers, so they’re about two years old.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the summer in the Cities?

I like to go to Lake Calhoun and just walk around the lake when it’s nice and sunny out. And then also I like to eat at Tin Fish. They have tacos and they’re pretty cheap and then you can sit outside and watch people on the lake, it’s just a relaxing environment and I like it to take a break. I also just like to read outside, anywhere, really.

What do you want to see more of on TC Jewfolk?

Well, since I am a student who is not Jewish at the University of Minnesota, I would like to see some connection to how we can get younger people in the Jewish community and also not in the Jewish community interested in just learning about the culture. I think that’s really important, especially with everything going on in the world right now, to just expand everyone’s horizons.

What’s your spirit animal?

I would say my spirit animal is not an animal. It’s actually Rory Gilmore. I watched Gilmore Girls from an early age, and I think that’s what helped get me into being a journalist because I saw that she was a journalist on the show. I really liked how she was an independent person and had a passion for reading and writing, which is something I’ve had from an early age too.

What got you interested in journalism?

So my first news publication was when I was 7, and I published my own newspaper called Melly News. I really liked to share what was going on in my home with my family. I would sell the paper for like five cents to my parents and my uncles. I would put a few fiction stories in there about my bear called Purple. Ever since then I just always liked to write, and then also in high school I started working on the yearbook for about three years. It was more like newspaper writing, what we did, and so I interviewed a lot of people. I just learned I like to talk to a lot of people and learn what makes them tick. I like to hear their stories and share them.

What connects you to Judaism?

Well, I’m not Jewish… I came to the University of Minnesota and I hated Spanish, so I took Hebrew because it had a different alphabet. I took that for five semesters and I really enjoyed it, and I started to minor in Hebrew. As a result of that I took a few Jewish Studies courses and then I learned that I really liked the subject. I think my first one I took was Bible Prophecy. It was just really interesting to learn because I grew up Catholic so I knew all about the New Testament, but learning about the prophets in the Old Testament was something that I’ve never learned before and that was enlightening. And then from there I just took more classes and I decided to minor in Jewish Studies as well as Hebrew.

I have family friends that we’re really close to who are Jewish. We used to go to their house for a few brunches where they had potato latkes and also they would share what they did on Hanukkah with us, so that kind of opened my eyes early on, and is probably why I went into Hebrew instead of another language.

Favorite Jewish holiday?

It would definitely be Shabbat because it’s the only holiday I’ve participated in. I’ve been to a Shabbat service and that was great. I like the atmosphere of everybody relaxing and taking a break from technology and being social.

Favorite Jewish food?

Challah.

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