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
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.
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.
Director of Open Learning
Mark Oppenheimer received his B.A. in history from Yale in 1996 and his Ph.D. in American religious history from Yale in 2003, the year that he published his first book, Knocking on Heaven's Door: American Religion and the Age of Counterculture.
Since then, Oppenheimer has taught at Stanford, Wellesley, NYU, Boston College (where he was the Corcoran Visiting Professor in Christian-Jewish Relations), and Yale, where for sixteen years he directed the Yale Journalism Initiative. From 2010-2016, he wrote the Beliefs column, about religion, for The New York Times. He is the author of numerous magazine articles and five books, the most recent of which is Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood.
A popular speaker and lecturer, Oppenheimer is the creator of two podcasts: Unorthodox, about Jewish life and culture, which he hosted from 2015-2023 and which had over seven million downloads, and Gatecrashers: The Hidden History of Jews in the Ivy League (2022). He is currently writing biographies of author Judy Blume and newspaper columnist Ann Landers.
Rabbi Tarlan Rabizadeh
Vice President for Jewish Engagement
Director of the Maas Center for Jewish Journeys
Rabbi Tarlan Rabizadeh is Vice President for Jewish Engagement at American Jewish University, where she directs the Maas Center for Jewish Journeys, Miller Introduction to Judaism Program, and supervises BCI - Brandeis Collegiate Institute, AJU Community Mikveh, and Marriage for Life and Opening Doors courses. Ordained at Hebrew Union College-JIR, Rabbi Rabizadeh is thrilled to contribute her culture-merging sensibility towards creating meaningful and inclusive Jewish experiences at American Jewish University.
She previously served as director of student life at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Hillel and the Simha and Sara Lainer Senior Jewish Educator, and was also a Jewish Emergent Network Fellow at The Kitchen in San Francisco, as well as a Milken Community High School faculty member.
Rabbi Rabizadeh holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in Hebrew from Boston University, and a master’s degree in Jewish education and Hebrew literature from HUC-JIR.
Vice President for Advancement
Chief Development Officer
Suzy has been an accomplished philanthropy professional for more than 30 years. She is a leader and colleague who fosters inclusiveness based on trust, compassion, and respect. She is passionate about making a difference and thrives on learning by listening, continually uncovering insights, and building strategies. She is a problem solver who sets and achieves goals. A Los Angeles native and a UCLA graduate, Suzy left Los Angeles to attend Yeshiva University in New York, where she earned her master`s degree in Social Work from the Wurzweiler School. She has also worked in both New York and Los Angeles as a national staff member for the United Jewish Appeal, the Western Regional Director for the Israel Tennis Centers Association, the Western Regional Major Gifts Director for National Hadassah and the Capital/Endowment Campaign Consultant for Hillel at UCLA. Over the past 15 years she has professionally managed campaigns raising more than $300,000,000.
She has worked as the Director of Donor Relations-West Coast, for Hillel International. Prior to Hillel Suzy was the Chief Advancement Officer at de Toledo High School in West Hills, California. dTHS is the second largest community Jewish High School in the country. She served for 6 years as the founding Director of Advancement from 2003 – 2009 and she returned to the school from 2013-2021 as the Chief Advancement Officer. New Community Jewish High School/de Toledo High School has raised over $36,000,000 in Capital & Endowment gifts and the Annual Campaign raises approximately $1,700,000 per year. Suzy supervised a team of 8. She worked closely with the Board of Directors, donors, and Foundations.
From 2009-2013 Suzy was the Chief Development Officer for Jewish Family Service, the first and one of the largest Social Service agencies in Los Angeles. In this position, she supervised 6 staff members, managed an annual campaign of $7,500,000 and implemented the first phase of a $36,000,000 Capital/Endowment campaign securing approximately $14,000,000 in lead gifts. She was also a member of the American Jewish University MBA faculty, where she taught fundraising and marketing for 11 years.
Vice President of Communications
Michelle Starkman was appointed AJU's Vice President of Communications in March 2020. In this role, she not only leads the university's internal and external communications strategies, including media relations, but also plays a pivotal role in the marketing and implementation of university programming. Michelle is deeply committed to Jewish education and actively promotes the values and mission of AJU through her work.
Michelle's extensive experience in communications and marketing spans beyond her time at AJU. Prior to joining the university in 2017, she served as the Admissions and Marketing Director at a local Jewish day school, where she excelled in strategic planning and outreach efforts, making a tangible impact on the institution's growth. Before that, Michelle held the position of Director of Marketing and Communications at a local management consulting firm, where she gained valuable expertise in crafting effective messaging and executing comprehensive marketing campaigns. Earlier in her career, she also held an administrative role at Cal State Northridge, where she first developed a strong appreciation and affinity for higher education.
Complementing her practical experience, Michelle holds an MBA from Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business, equipping her with a strong foundation in business strategy and leadership. Furthermore, she earned an M.A. and B.A. in Political Science from Cal State Northridge, with a minor in Judaic Studies, demonstrating her dedication to deepening her understanding of Jewish culture and history.
Chief Academic Officer
Associate Professor of Politics & Global Studies
Dr. Robbie Totten was appointed in 2018 as AJU's Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer to oversee the administration of the university's degree-granting academic programs. He also serves as AJU's Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO) for the University's relationship with its accrediting body, the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). He joined AJU in 2014 as an Assistant Professor of Politics & Global Studies and has since been promoted to Associate Professor status.
He has previously held positions as a Visiting Assistant International Relations Professor at UCSB, a Political Science Lecturer at UCLA, and a pre-doctoral fellow at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UCSD. Professor Totten’s research has appeared in academic journals and public policy edited volumes, and it has centered on higher education administration, international relations and security, U.S. immigration policy, and the American Founding.
Dr. Totten earned his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s degree and doctorate in political science from UCLA.