Dr. Jeffrey Herbst is the fourth president of American Jewish University. Prior to joining AJU, Dr. Herbst was president and CEO of the Newseum and the Newseum Institute in Washington, DC. From 2010 to 2015, he was president of Colgate University, where among other accomplishments he is credited with helping the university complete its nearly half-billion-dollar fundraising campaign, leading the development and initial implementation of a university-wide strategic plan, and increasing the diversity and academic caliber of its educational programming.
Additionally, Dr. Herbst was a Senior Fellow at the Brenthurst Foundation, was a two-time Fulbright Scholar, and is currently a trustee of Freedom House. He has also served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and as a professor of political science at Miami University in Ohio and taught at Princeton University for almost two decades.
Dr. Herbst earned his bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from Princeton University, and a master’s degree and a doctorate in political science from Yale University. He is the author of the award-winning “States and Power in Africa” and, with several co-authors, the just-published “Making Africa Work.” In addition to many books and articles, he has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other digital and print publications around the world.
Vice President of Finance and Administration
Chief Financial Officer
Adrian Breitfeld leads the university’s accounting and finance operations and brings to AJU more than a decade of finance and accounting experience within the non-profit and Jewish communal sector. Mr. Breitfeld has an extensive background in accounting, financial planning, management, and strategy in changing landscapes.
Mr. Breitfeld was previously the Chief Financial Officer of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco where he worked to align financial resources to strategic priorities while leading and developing a tactical response to guiding the organization through its goals. He is also a graduate of the Marshall School of Business of the University of Southern California, holding an MBA as well as an M.A. in Jewish Communal Service from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
Vice President for Advancement
Chief Development Officer
Catherine Schneider is a seasoned fundraising and nonprofit professional, with over twenty years of experience transforming organizations through development, stewardship, and community relations. Ms. Schneider was previously the Executive Vice President, Donor Experience at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. During her tenure at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Schneider also held the positions of Associate Chief Development Officer and Senior Vice President, External Affairs and Community Engagement. Prior to her time at the Federation, she held leadership and development roles at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Progressive Jewish Alliance, and Beit T’Shuvah.
Ms. Schneider holds an MBA in Nonprofit Management from the Graduate School of Nonprofit Management at American Jewish University, and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley.
Rabbi Sherre Hirsch
Chief Innovation Officer
AJU is pleased to welcome Rabbi Sherre Hirsch to its leadership team. Rabbi Hirsch has a broad mandate ahead of her - to reimagine Jewish education, outreach, and engagement by leveraging AJU’s wide-ranging platforms. She will also be providing intellectual leadership for AJU’s Whizin Center.
Rabbi Hirsch made headlines as the first female rabbi at Sinai Temple, the largest Conservative congregation on the west coast. In her most recent role as Senior Rabbinic Scholar at Hillel International, Rabbi Hirsch created and developed Hillelwell, an initiative for Hillels worldwide to become the recognized address for preventative mental health. A thought leader on spirituality and religion, Rabbi Hirsch has appeared on the Today Show, ABC News, Extra, and PBS, among other outlets, and has been a contributor to Time.com, Oprah Magazine, the Jewish Journal, the Hollywood Journal, and more. She is the author of “Thresholds, How to Live Fearlessly and Regret Free” (featured in “Hot Type” in Vanity Fair), and “We Plan, God Laughs, What to do When Life Hits You Over the Head” (recognized on Amazon’s Top 100 List).
Rabbi Hirsch was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson
Abner and Roslyn Goldstine Dean's Chair, Ziegler School
Rabbi Artson graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1981 with a B.A. in History and Literature. He received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Jewish Studies in 1988, and a Doctor of Hebrew Letters in 2010 from Hebrew Union College, Magnin School of Graduate Studies.
Following ordination in 1988, Rabbi Artson led a congregation in Mission Viejo, which he helped grow from 200 to 600 family units. In 1998 he moved to L.A. as the Executive Vice President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.
In 1999, a year after the Ziegler School was established as an ordaining seminary, the founding dean made aliyah. AJU President at the time, Dr. Robert Wexler, invited Rabbi Artson to breakfast to offer him the position of Dean of the Rabbinical School. The proposition was irresistible and has allowed Rabbi Artson to serve as one of the leaders of Conservative Judaism, and to show his love for rabbis and rabbinical students.
Artson is the author of seven books. His most recent is The Gift of Soul: Spiritual Resources for Leadership & Mentoring.
Vice President of Communications
Michelle Starkman was appointed AJU’s Vice President of Communications in March 2020. In this position, Michelle is responsible for leading the university’s internal and external communications strategies, including media relations. Michelle also oversees digital content, manages the University’s marketing strategy and advertising, and serves on the University’s senior team. Prior to joining AJU in 2017, Michelle served as Admissions and Marketing Director at a local Jewish day school, and as the Director of Marketing and Communications for a local management consulting firm.
Michelle holds an MBA from Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business, and an M.A. and B.A. in Political Science from Cal State Northridge.
Chief Academic Officer
Dr. Robbie Totten joined AJU in 2015 as Assistant Professor of Politics and Global Studies. Shortly thereafter he was appointed Chair of the Department of Politics and Global Studies and an Associate Professor. Dr. Totten also serves AJU as Accreditation Liaison Officer and as the Interim Director of Assessment. Most recently, he also has agreed to serve as Interim Chief Academic Officer and Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Dr. Totten earned his bachelor’s degree from Duke University, and a master’s degree and a doctorate in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Vice President and Director of Camp Alonim
Aaron has been with Camp Alonim since 2014, first as an Assistant Director in charge of teen and community programs and then as the Associate Director in charge of managing day-to-day camp operations, specialty programming, and the staff experience. Most recently, in February of 2020, Aaron became the Camp Director and has been thrilled and humbled to continue to be part of the Camp Alonim community and family in this capacity. Jewish Summer Camp is a core piece of Aaron’s background and identity and has fueled his passion for helping campers and staff create their own unique connections to one another and to Judaism through experiential education.
Aaron grew up in Southern California, and starting at the ripe age of two spent over 20 summers at Gindling Hilltop Camp in Malibu as a camper, CIT, Counselor, and Head Counselor. Aaron received a B.A. in Anthropology with a Minor in Education from UC Berkeley and recently received his Master’s in Education from the American Jewish University. In addition to spending most of his summers at camp, Aaron spent some time working for Disney Cruises as a youth counselor, group supervisor, and children’s entertainment host in which he created and acted out scripted programs as one of over twenty different characters, such as a mad scientist, chef, magician, pirate, and detective. After spending time at sea and missing the land, Aaron was elated to return to his summer camp roots.