Julia may be new to Houston, but she has made her mark in the Jewston community and is a shining light to everyone she meets. Julia is a jigsaw puzzle master with the voice of an angel, but her passion for tzedek (justice) and helping children on our southern borders is really what makes her the mensch of all menches!! Keep reading to learn more.
Alyssa: You moved to Houston during the pandemic, right?!
Julia: I did! It was kind of a crazy thing to do, but in August I drove from Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, right outside of Philadelphia, in my Toyota Rav 4 with my mom, my dad and my cat. We took two days, we stopped in Alabama and got to Houston the next day! I found an apartment on Apartments.com, signed a lease and that’s where I’m living!
Alyssa: What inspired you to move to Houston?
Julia: After graduating from The University of Virginia in Charlottesville in May 2020, I knew that I wanted to work before going to grad school. I really wanted to be in a job where I was interacting with people I could help and I wanted to be speaking Spanish. I thought immigration would be a good field for me. I could learn what it takes to be a lawyer, learn about immigration system and continue to use Spanish with clients. I pulled up a list of all the immigration nonprofits in Texas and submitted an application to each one that was hiring paralegals. Catholic Charities had a position open working with their children's program and I love working with kids so when I got the offer I felt like this job was going to let me help people in a meaningful way and engage with them in their native language. I decided to take the plunge and go for it, because when’s a better time to take a chance than when you’re 22 and have nothing holding you back.
Alyssa: Regardless of age moving across the country during a pandemic is a very brave thing to do!
Julia: In hindsight it was definitely crazier than I thought it was at the time. I still can’t believe that I did it!
Alyssa: What does a day on the job look like for you?
Julia: My job consists of two sides. I work in the unaccompanied children’s program which is when children come across our Southern border without their family members. They are put into the office of refugee resettlement program. They are not supposed to be kept in jails or adult detention centers. When they are in those shelters for children, Catholic Charities is charged with giving them a legal screening and a "know your rights" presentation. About 25% of my job is sitting with kids and asking them a variety of questions to determine if they qualify for relief in the United States which would allow them to stay here. It’s intense, but very rewarding to be on the front line, trying to help these kids. The other part of my job comes into play when these children are reunited with their families and we take them on as direct clients. I am an assistant to a lawyer who represents them in immigration court. If they are submitting a case for asylum or something else along those lines we represent them there too. That side of the work is more administrative, but I still get to interact with the client and their family which is the part of the work that is most meaningful to me. It’s so important for them to have someone they can trust that can explain what is going on in their case.
Alyssa: Do you feel like your passion for the work you do is rooted in Jewish values you were raised with?
Julia: I definitely think it is. Just the value in wanting to be involved with community directly goes back to us being in synagogue every Saturday as a family. Seeing people sitting in services together for hours and feeling at home there, surrounded by people who understood me. The work that I do now and being on the ground working with clients directly is motivated by my experience growing up. I want to help these people find a community they can trust to help them if they fall into a bad spot. I also think the Jewish history as wandering people and the diaspora is a shared theme amongst our clients as well, as they are making an Exodus from persecution and from a place they do not feel safe. That narrative is so closely linked to us as modern Jews because we understand the feeling of trying to reunite with people who have the same roots. Also doing good deeds is a part of my Jewish upbringing, so I’m trying to put that teaching into practice now.
Alyssa: When you moved to Houston, did you know there was a Jewish community here?
Julia: I was actually really nervous about that, but I googled Hillel in Houston, discovered Jewston and was super excited! My Hillel in Charlottesville was just for undergrads, so when I saw that Houston Hillel has a community for young adults I was shocked! There are enough Jews in Houston to sustain that kind of community, who knew! I grew up on the main line in one of the most Jewish places in the US, so Jewish that my public school had off for High Holy Days.
Alyssa: When you’re not at a Jewish event or saving the world, what are you doing for fun?
Julia: I love to read, and have gotten into narrative nonfiction. David Graham and Stephen Johnson are a couple of authors that I am into right now. Other than that I love rewatching TV like Schitt's Creek on Netflix and Veep on HBO. I also religiously keep up with the new MCU content every Friday. I am really close with my family so we Zoom every other day too! I love to do jigsaw puzzles and have done 10-15 1000 piece puzzles since August. If anyone reading this would like a jigsaw puzzle, I have tons, so message me and I’ll give one to you! I also can’t wait to join a choir or an acapella group when things start to open back up. I grew up singing and would love to continue singing here in Houston.
Alyssa: What are you looking forward to doing in Houston when the pandemic is over?
Julia: I’m really looking forward to going to restaurants! I have heard how amazing the food is in Houston, but take out is just not the same, so i’m excited to go out with friends, have a drink and really experience it all. I’m also excited to meet people, it’s been hard to make new friends, but Jewston has been super helpful for meeting new people, so I can’t wait til we can do more in person events. I also look forward to exploring the Miller Outdoor Theatre, Memorial Hermann Park, and other cultural places in Houston!
Alyssa: When Jewston comes together we…
Julia: Create Meaningful Jewish Connections