Katie Spector had trouble defining her Jewish identity growing up in Cleveland, OH. Her father is Jewish, and her mother is not. She went through a process of saying she wasn’t Jewish and even questioned converting.
Despite her initial ambivalence toward Judaism, Spector decided to go on Birthright Israel two days following her graduation from Bowling Green State University in 2015. During the trip, she fell in love with Israel for its ability to connect her to people who had similar backgrounds as she—specifically, those from interfaith families.
After she returned to the United States and entered “the real-world,” she felt that Israel was the next step in her professional and personal journey. She decided to participate in the Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship, and while on the program in Israel she learned about an additional leadership opportunity available to Masa participants, Masa-Hillel Fellowship, a professional development program designed to prepare participants for Hillel roles.
Following her year in Israel teaching English to children and adults and volunteering as part of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellowship, Spector now works at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation. Her mission is to promote Birthright Israel to help transform and strengthen Jewish involvement on campus. She said she feels her time in Israel helped prepare her for her role—to be able to discuss the pleasures and challenges of living in Israel, and her experience living in a religious city that still operates around Jewish traditions.
Spector plans to teach the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation students that it is OK to come from an interfaith marriage or a different Jewish background. While her main job focuses on Birthright Israel, she aspires to make meaningful connections with all students.
“I want to be there to talk to students and engage with them…helping them learn about Jewish holidays and learn about Israel, and not just let it end at birthright coordinator.”