Alumni Profile: Sam Spektor

by Zev Horowitz, Winter 2015

Sam Spektor

To say that Sam Spector ’10 knows a thing or two about global Jewry is to say that it rains sometimes in his hometown of Seattle, Washington.

Spector, who graduated UCSD with a Judaic Studies major, has been nothing but busy since walking for commencement. Having studied Jewish communities and their origins in over 20 countries in Asia, Europe and North Africa, Spector has experienced the scope of Jewish history not only in the classroom, but firsthand as well.

Spector was accepted to the rabbinical program at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles directly out of undergraduate school and spent a year in Israel following graduation. During his 

time at HUC, Spector spent at least one weekend per month in the fledgling Jewish community in Merced, California as part of school program that pairs rabbinic candidates with regions that don’t have any full time clergy.

“It was really rewarding to be a part of the community,” Spector said, adding that he would lead prayer services, teach classes and officiate b’nei mitzvah.

The drive from Los Angeles to Merced monthly for the three years he was involved with the community did get to him at some points.

“It’s five hours through cow country,” Spector says, laughing.

Throughout rabbinical school, Spector says, much of the materials for his classes was already very familiar to him.

I found a lot the coursework in rabbinical school included scholarly articles from UCSD Judaic Studies professors.

“I found a lot the coursework in rabbinical school included scholarly articles from UCSD Judaic Studies professors,” Spector said. “I was really impressed that in order to become a Rabbi, HUC had us study the work of the gifted faculty at UCSD.”

Spector credits his all-around passion for Judaism and the Jewish people in part to his experiences with the UCSD community. On campus in La Jolla, Spector was involved in all the corners of Jewish life at UCSD. In addition to his being a brother in the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, Spector co-founded the Tritons for Israel student organization, headed an AIPAC-affiliated group, was active with Hillel and spent a summer at an ulpan in Israel studying Hebrew language.

As if his duties to rabbinic school, the Merced community and now his newly appointed position as junior Rabbi at Temple Judea in Los Angeles, Spector has also achieved the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade in the United States Navy where he serves as a chaplain to on-duty service members.

“Joining the Navy as a chaplain was a great way for me to serve my country as well as the Jewish people,” Spector said. “It can be scary for a lot of people to serve in the military and I’m glad I’m able to assist people who are going through a lot.”

Still Spector credits much of his post-graduate successes to the Judaic Studies Program at UCSD.

“I look back at UCSD and JSP with only the fondest of memories,” he says. “UCSD completely changed me. I’m incredibly proud of being Jewish and being a part of the leadership of the Jewish people.”

Spector expects to receive his ordination – and become Rabbi Sam Spector — in May 2015.