10 QUESTIONS for Rabbi Philip Graubart


Rabbi Philip Graubart has been Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth El, 8660 Gilman Drive in La Jolla, since 2002. His Farewell Havdalah is Saturday, June 18. During his tenure, Beth El has become a vibrant center of Jewish life and engagement, say congregants. He has held leadership volunteer positions in many organizations, including the Rabbinical Assembly, United Synagogue, San Diego Rabbinic Association, Hillel, Jewish Federation of San Diego, San Diego Jewish Academy, and Jewish Family Service.

He received his rabbinic degree from Jewish Theological Seminary and a master’s degree from Hebrew University. Prior to joining Beth El, Rabbi Graubart served as the rabbinic leader of congregations in New York, and Northampton, Massachusetts.

He is an accomplished writer, with regular columns in The Jerusalem Report, The Jerusalem Post, San Diego Jewish Journal, and Jewish Journal of Western Massachusetts, and blogs at and He is the author of five books: “My Dinner with Michael Jackson,” “Planet of the Jews,” “My Mother’s Song,” “A Suicide Note” and “Rabbis and Gangsters.”

What brought you to La Jolla?

I vacationed here years ago with my family and told myself then that I wasn’t interested in moving, but if a job opened up in La Jolla, I would reconsider. In 2002, Congregation Beth El was looking for a Senior Rabbi. It turned out to be a remarkable fit and a spiritual community that has been our home for 14 years.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

Better parking for clergy in area hospitals. It can take us more than a half hour to park, to visit our sick parishioners.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m most inspired by healthcare workers in our hospitals and nursing homes. They are often the most spiritual people I meet. They’re not always highly-paid, or highly-recognized, but they embody a pure spirit of service to humanity.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

My wife, two sons, my parents (both deceased), and my wife’s parents (also both deceased). Nothing is more important to me than family.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, an inspiring but also depressing look at the criminal justice system in the United States.

What is it that you most dislike?

The current extreme polarization in American culture.

What is your most-prized possession?

My banjo. It was a gift from a good friend. I don’t play it very much, but I like looking at it.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy playing tennis, biking, watching basketball, and listening to music.

What is your philosophy of life?

“Find a teacher, make a friend, and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.” It’s a quote from a rabbinic book called “Sayings of the Fathers.”

What would be your dream vacation?

Driving across the United States.

Rabbi Graubart’s Farewell Havdalah is Saturday, June 18 and his last day at Congregation Beth El is Thursday, June 30. For more details, call (858) 452-1734.