Philly Faces: Birthright Trip Inspired Career


At Adath Israel, a typical day doesn’t really exist, Julia Campbell said.

Julia Campbell | Photo provided

Campbell has worked as the program and marketing coordinator at Adath Israel for just over a year. At the Merion Station synagogue, you can find the 25-year-old organizing events, meeting with staff, communicating with congregants and, right now, planning for the High Holidays, in addition to many other tasks. Outside of that, you can find her at events at Moishe House Philadelphia and the Chevra, where she met her fiance.

Campbell grew up in Plymouth Meeting. Her family belonged to Congregation Or Ami when she was young, and she attended Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. She grew up feeling connected to the Jewish community, though she said her connection has certainly grown since.

Campbell continued on to Lafayette College, where she studied English and Spanish. After graduation, she didn’t quite know what path she wanted to take. But in January 2015, she went on a Birthright Israel trip with the University of Pennsylvania, which inspired her to start working as program assistant at the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA).

Her experience at JRA was just the start of her journey into Jewish nonprofit work.  

Q: Why did you decide to work in the Jewish community?

A: I was really inspired by my Birthright trip, which I went on right after college. And then, my first job was at the Jewish Relief Agency, and that experience was just very fulfilling in terms of the people I worked with and the impact I was able to create, and those were the first two steps really that just led me to pursue a career in the Jewish community, so then, Adath Israel felt like a natural next step.

Q: What was inspiring about your Birthright trip?

A: In general, it just gave me the sense that I wanted to give back. Our camping in the Sinai Desert was very meaningful. I don’t know that I can relate it directly back to why I work in the community necessarily, but I just got the sense that our history and our tradition is important to me and that I could tie it in with my skills in terms of writing ability, communication ability.

Q: What did you get out of your experience at JRA?

A: I made a lot of meaningful connections, personal connections with our regular volunteers, as well as some clients and my colleagues. I got a really good feel for the Philadelphia Jewish community, which has been helpful in my role here at Adath Israel.

Q: Are you particularly interested in nonprofit work?

A: I really like the feeling that what I do matters and that the fact that I come into work every day makes a positive difference in people’s lives.  

Q: After those initial experiences, what is it that has made you want to continue working in the Jewish community?

A: I would say the people. At JRA and at Adath Israel, I just feel like, from day one, I was really welcomed into the community and that makes me want to continue in this line of work.

Q: What’s the story of how you met your fiance?

A: It was at [the Chevra’s Mi Casa SUKKAHsa] gathering. We made a connection there. We talked. We discovered we had a lot in common. We exchanged numbers, went out and then the rest is kind of history from there.

Q: What do you see for yourself in the future?

A: I see myself continuing in a role probably in a nonprofit, I would like to say, in the Jewish community. I could see myself doing something similar to what I’m doing now, but maybe in more advanced positions. 

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