Alan Meltzer’s name has become synonymous with philanthropy, both here in the Washington area and beyond.
Meltzer, who founded The Meltzer Group in 1982 as a lone insurance agent, is ubiquitous on the leadership rolls and annual reports of the Washington Jewish community — board member of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, trustee emeritus of the Jewish Community Foundation, member of the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington Council of Advisors — they point to his high-end donor role over decades, along with his wife, Amy, and their Meltzer Family Foundation.
“I’m a salesman,” he says. Determined, outspoken, full of colorful stories, Meltzer’s success in business has enabled him to give back to the Jewish community and improve the lives of young people.
Asked by podcaster Fred Diamond what got him so far, Meltzer said, “One, I’m crazy, shrinks would have a great time with me. I’m driven, I’m scared about being poor. If I had a billion dollars I would think I’m poor.”
When teenage Alan Meltzer entered American University, he did it on a wrestling scholarship and plenty of odd jobs.
“If I didn’t have a wrestling scholarship to college, I never would have gone to school, I never would have met my wife,” Meltzer said. “I see how important education is.”
At the time, though, he quit school before he graduated to go into business. Insurance came later. First was a D.C. bar and restaurant called Mr. Henry’s. He started there as a dishwasher and eventually, with some money he saved, bought the place with some friends.
For Meltzer, at least, Mr. Henry’s was where his future came together.
“In ’73, six young ladies came into the restaurant and one of them I thought was absolutely stunning, so I waited on the table,” he told Diamond. “They all worked for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.”
The one he had his eye on was Amy. They dated for five years and were married in 1978. They now have four children and six grandchildren. But back in ’78, Meltzer started studying about the insurance business and sold his restaurant business.
Over the years, the Meltzer Group grew to include more than 200 team members. He sold the company in 2016 to NFP where he remains an insurance salesman and leadership figure.
He takes a keen interest in his alma mater. He made a large commitment to support American University’s Center for Athletic Performance and its Center for Israel Studies.
Another cause close to Meltzer’s heart is the research and care for people with diabetes. His youngest son has type 1 diabetes. “We’ve literally given a ton of money personally to type 1 to help cure it, to find a better way of living,” he told Diamond.
He and Amy belong to two B’nai Israel Congregations — one in Rockville, the other in Boca Raton, Fla., where they live. They travel frequently back to Washington and remain heavily involved locally.
Meltzer’s eldest daughter, Jennifer Meltzer, has followed in her father’s footsteps into the restaurant business. She owns and operates the restaurant, All Set, in Silver Spring.
Meltzer says he stays involved with his family and enjoys spending the holidays with them.
“On Chanukah, we all got together, lit the candles,” he said. “My granddaughter is big into horses, and my other granddaughter, it’s gymnastics. My grandson started wrestling,” Meltzer said.
When Meltzer quit college to buy the bar in 1972, he wasn’t sure if or when he would resume his college education. But 50 years later, in 2022, he went back to American University, which he is on the board of, and finished his degree.
“I’m glad I did it, I’m proud of it,” he says. “I think my children were proud of it, my wife was proud of it. It wasn’t easy, but I got it done.” ■