December 11, 2019

Rabbi Sherre Hirsch: AJU’s New Chief Innovation Officer

Rabbi Sherre Hirsch; Photo courtesy of AJU.

It seems there is nothing Rabbi Sherre Hirsch can’t do when it comes to shaping the Jewish community. She was a pulpit rabbi at Sinai Temple, is a published author, a leading public intellectual and, as Hillel International’s senior rabbinical scholar, has made the wellness of college students a priority.

On Aug. 1, Hirsch will take on the role of chief innovation officer at American Jewish University (AJU). She has been tasked with reimagining Jewish education, outreach and engagement for AJU’s two campuses, rabbinical school, and community and public educational programs. She also will provide leadership for AJU’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education, which offers classes, lectures, author events and concerts.

In an interview with the Journal, Hirsch said the AJU offer simply was one she couldn’t pass up.

“There is so much potential and so much possibility, and I really just thought there was something magical that could happen,” she said. “I first told [AJU] no, because I was so happy with Hillel and we were developing HillelWell (Hillel’s initiative to educate and normalize mental health in and around the Jewish community), but [the AJU offer] just kept me up at night.”

Hirsch said she is ready to start thinking about how to put AJU on the map not just as a religious institution but also as an academic institution, and to find new ways to approach college and programming. 

“We are thrilled to bring Rabbi Hirsch onto our senior leadership team to help drive AJU’s development of a new paradigm for education that meets the needs of our rapidly evolving community in Los Angeles and beyond,” AJU President Jeffrey Herbst said in a statement. “At a time when people are increasingly searching for spirituality and educational options beyond traditional institutions, AJU is uniquely positioned to deliver a new model for programming that engages and enlightens communities locally, nationally and globally — both inside and outside of the Jewish world. Rabbi Hirsch’s extraordinary experience, wisdom and insight will be invaluable in developing this new model.”

“I think the first thing I’m going to do is listen and understand how we can take [AJU’s] history and move it to modern things. I want to understand literally the holiness of this place.” — Rabbi Sherre Hirsch

Hirsch’s expertise spans more three decades. She told the Journal her first 10 years were working as a pulpit rabbi, her second 10 years consisted of bringing the Jewish perspective into media and television, and her next 10 years will be in organizational leadership. 

“I think the first thing I’m going to do is listen and understand how we can take [AJU’s] history and move it to modern things,” she said. “I want to understand literally the holiness of this place. I want to see where the need is. I want to really look at problems and possibilities and fill them.”

Hirsch added she is excited to change the way people look at education and find new ways to collaborate with entrepreneurs in Silicon Beach.

“I think we can be something at the forefront and we can be leaders for other institutions,” she said. “I‘m really looking forward to understanding what we can bring in for the next generation — really [striving] to help develop young people into the Jews we want them to be, serving the next Jewish world.”