by Lindsey Herring

We all remember what it was like to navigate the murky waters of our teenage years. We begin learning more about who we are, exploring who we want to be and the variety of paths we might take to get there. With countless detours along the way, it can be easy to get lost among the divergent directions. Some teens handle this well, clearly discerning their priorities from an early age. Julia Goldberg is one such teen, and one of the 2020 Young Leadership Award honorees at Temple Beth-El.

Julia is very distinct in the Young Leadership category, being the first award recipient age 18 or younger. This is no surprise, though. Julia stepped into Temple Beth-El nearly six years ago, following her family’s move to Birmingham, and naturally began to fill various volunteer roles. She not only feels that filling these positions is the right thing to do, but also that it’s vital to the growth, strength and continuity of the Jewish community, something she is heavily invested in doing. On any given day you might find Julia leading services, working on a social action project, teaching Hebrew School or facilitating youth group engagement. That’s just what she does. Leading services isn’t something a great deal of teenagers do at Beth-El, so Julia is one in a small handful at TBE. Julia’s response to that: “In service leading, I’m able to help bring people joy and I want to contribute to the community. if I’m able to lead services and read Torah, I don’t want to waste that ability.” That thoughtful approach shines through in more than just her service leading.

Julia is extremely passionate about USY, United Synagogue Youth, and naturally fell into leadership positions in that group as soon as she was old enough to participate. “That’s my outlet to be able to see other dedicated Jewish kids,” Julia explained. “I don’t have as many of them here. The USY organization, as a whole, brings Jewish kids together from everywhere.” Julia recently served as USY chapter president and was co-chair of the USY subregional convention held at Temple Beth-El this year. She was actively facilitating the congregation of Jewish youth, which she thoroughly enjoys. “I get to have a role in both the synagogue and do a lot of communication within USY, so I get to link our synagogue with other synagogues of the Conservative Movement,” Julia said.

The number of Jewish youths in the area is low and Julia’s felt the challenges of this demographic firsthand. But she finds solace in her Temple family. “It’s been really important to me to have TBE because there aren’t any Jews in my grade in school,” Julia said. “When I come to TBE, I can be who I am. It’s an outlet for me to be around other Jews and it is really important for me to have that.”

This sense of community is something that Julia, who cares deeply about the environment, helps perpetuate through her social action volunteer work, which extends beyond Beth-El as she connects with youth across the country. “I was social action chair of our USY region,” Julia said. “Within the Tikkun Olam position, social action chair, my job was to get people more involved in volunteering and as active in the community as they could be. I did a lot of promotion for volunteer opportunities across the region.”

As far as the future is concerned, Julia will be attending List College, the joint program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, in the fall. She is hopeful that she will return to Temple Beth-El during college breaks and see an active USY chapter. “I want to come back and see a flyer on the table with the current semester calendar and know that it’s still happening,” Julia said. “I want to know that I’ve helped set a good foundation for it to continue.”