Julie Bressler is a currently completeing her final year as a rabbinical student, and during her tenure she also received her M.A. in Jewish Education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education. As an intern with the National Office of Recruitment and Admissions, Julie serves as the Jack H. Skirball Campus Outreach Ambassodor, visiting Hillels and other Southern California based organizations.
I never predicted I would become a rabbi and a Jewish educator. While I grew up incredibly involved in my home synagogue, served on youth group board, and loved my summer at URJ Camp Newman, I did not necessarily see myself working as a Jewish professional in the future. Now I can look back and see that all of these experiences played a role in my eventual choice to pursue this path and helped to shape me into the person I am today. When I think back as to what pushed me to apply to HUC-JIR, many stories come to mind, though one experience stands out. As an engagement professional at Berkeley Hillel, I frequently met with students 1:1 to hear about their stories and think about how they could become more engaged in Hillel's programming. Over coffee, one of the most involved student leaders shared with me that she never felt Jewish enough. My mouth dropped, but I asked why to learn more. Even though she regularly attended programming and served as one of Hillel's social justice leaders, she shared that she did not feel confident in her Judaism. I shared with her that her Judaism emerges in her commitment to justice, her passion for community, and her welcoming presence in Hillel. We all find our connection to Judaism in different ways, but one way is not more "Jewish" than another. That moment sparked something in me - I knew that I wanted to work with individuals of all ages to help them feel confident and committed to their Jewish life. I am grateful to HUC-JIR for providing me with ample opportunities to grow, question, and reflect upon my own Jewish journey and learn the practical, textual, and pastoral skills that will help me best serve my future communities as a rabbi and educator.