Alyssa Geller, 30, has served as communications manager at Congregation Rodeph Shalom for a little more than a year, but in that time she’s found a special community at the synagogue on North Broad Street. The University of Wisconsin grad and Columbus, Ohio native spoke about her work, her Jewish journey and her plans for strengthening community engagement at Rodeph Shalom.
Q: What made you enter the Jewish professional world?
A: I wanted to go into radio, and I wanted be the person who sets up the meet-and-greets and does promotions. I’m a creative person, so I love being creative. … My first position was being a communications assistant at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Columbus, [Ohio]. I kind of found out about that job through networking, and they were just creating this position and somebody thought I’d be good at it, so I just sent in my resume and I worked there from 2011 to 2014. And then I moved to Baltimore and worked at Beth El Congregation.
I honestly got into the Jewish world on a whim, but I absolutely love it. I’ve met so many great people throughout my Jewish journey, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without the experiences that I’ve had in the Jewish community. So, I absolutely love working as a Jewish professional. The people are just so friendly, especially because I’m not from Philadelphia, and I moved here without knowing anybody, and the people I’ve met have taken me under their wing and they’ve been so friendly and so welcoming, so that’s what I love about the Jewish community.
Q: And what’s kept you there?
A: The people. When I was working in Baltimore, my grandfather had passed away, and the outpouring of support and condolences just meant the world to me. And it felt like I was part of a community that really accepted me and really cared about me, and I stayed in the Jewish professional world because there’s a network of people who are always willing to lend a hand and to always help you when you’re in a time of need. And I just really like that, and like I said, I moved here knowing nobody, and everyone I’ve met so far has invited me to different events going on in the community, and everybody’s been so warm and friendly.
Q: Has there been an event at Rodeph Shalom since you started that’s been really meaningful for you to be a part of?
A: I know it’s a very tough time going on in the Jewish community, but when Pittsburgh happened, literally I was sitting at home watching CNN and I found out about it, and I texted my boss right away and said, ‘What do we need to do, is there anything we need to send out to our members about what’s going on?’ and the vigil was organized at Rodeph Shalom. And just being there at the vigil, and seeing the community come together in solidarity gave me a lot of hope, and it was very inspiring to be in that room. And I know it was such a horrific time for the Jewish people, but honestly it was … just being in that room and hearing all the leaders of different faiths and all the politicians that came and showed their support … I’m still at a loss for words for it, because it was … I still can’t find the words for it. It was just awe-inspiring.
Q: What do you want to accomplish at Rodeph Shalom?
A: I mean, I’m still new to my position, so I’m still learning the ways of how everything works, and all the different events that we’ve done so far, and there’s always something new to discover. So that’s what I love about working in the Jewish community and working at Rodeph Shalom, because it opens doors to other community organizations that I didn’t know anything about, and I mean, personally, I’d love to explore more community activities. Right now, I’ve been to a lot of Moishe House events, but there’s still so much that goes on that I don’t know about. So I’m always looking and always going online and always searching to find great activities and great events to go to.