Who We Are:
American Jewish University (AJU) is a thriving center of Jewish resources and talent that serves the Jewish community of the twenty-first century. A portal for Jewish belonging, AJU equips students, faculty, campers, and learners of all ages with the tools to create the ideas, build the structures, and develop the programs to advance Jewish wisdom and elevate Jewish living.
American Jewish University advances and elevates the Jewish journey of individuals, organizations and our community through excellence in scholarship, teaching, engaged conversation, and outreach.
In 1947, the University of Judaism (UJ) was founded in Los Angeles with the aim of incorporating diverse elements of Jewish civilization and culture into an educational institution. Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, author of "Judaism as a Civilization," played a pivotal role in shaping this vision.
Six years prior to the establishment of UJ, Dr. Shlomo Bardin founded the Brandeis Camp Institute (BCI) to address the assimilation of young American Jews. BCI aimed to make the ethical heritage of Judaism relevant to them. Initially, BCI was located in Amherst, NH, Winterdale, PA, and Hendersonville, NC, before finding its permanent home in Simi Valley, California in 1947.
Over the years, the University of Judaism had several locations before eventually moving to the Familian campus in Bel Air in 1977. Under the leadership of founding president Dr. Simon Greenberg, his successor Dr. David Lieber, and the first Chairman of the Board, Dore Schary, the UJ gained recognition for its exceptional teacher training and adult education programs. It became known as a Jewish academic institution that welcomed students from diverse backgrounds and beliefs.
In 1979, the UJ introduced a program aligned with Mordecai Kaplan's vision, offering a master's degree in Nonprofit Management. Initially known as the MPMA (Master's in Public Management and Administration), the degree later became an MBA, and the school itself was renamed the Graduate School of Nonprofit Management.
In 1982, the University of Judaism opened a four-year liberal arts college called Lee College, later known as the College of Arts and Sciences. This was followed by the establishment of the Fingerhut School of Education (now titled the Graduate Center for Jewish Education) in 1986, and the creation of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 1996. The Ziegler School became the first independent ordaining rabbinical school in the Western United States.
Initially focused on a summer program for young adults aged 18-26, the Brandeis Camp Institute expanded its offerings over time. The Institute's collegiate summer program was adapted for adults of all ages through weekend retreats known as House of the Book Weekends. Camp Alonim, a summer camp, was established in 1953. The facilities of BCI, now known as the Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI), have been used year-round for various youth and adult activities. In a remarkable gesture, James Arness, the neighbor of Dr. Bardin and star of "Gunsmoke," gifted his adjoining ranch to the Institute, significantly expanding its total acreage and making it one of the largest parcels of land owned by a Jewish community organization outside of Israel.
The University of Judaism and the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, two institutions that had been operating independently, joined forces in 2007. This merger led to the establishment of the American Jewish University, which serves as a vibrant center for Jewish resources and talent.