“The attractiveness of the Conservative Movement, from the time of Solomon Schechter, is that it is to be a movement for K’lal Israel, for the entire Jewish people. The university must be a school for the entire Jewish people and, as such, must reckon with the fact that among the Jewish people, there are not only religious Jews, but non-religious Jews as well; there are not only Conservative Jews but a variety of other groups of Jews.” Dr. David Lieber, President Emeritus, 1985
Now more than 50 years old, American Jewish University has become a national institution that fully reflects the diversity of American Jewish life. In addition to the Ziegler School, the University is home to undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences and master’s programs in Jewish Education, Education and Nonprofit Management (MBA), and Jewish Communal Studies.
As part of its mission of outreach and service to the community at-large, the University is heavily involved in educational and cultural programming for adults, including day and evening classes, an Elderhostel program, a public lecture series, Jewish travel programs, a performing arts series, a fine arts program and many other offerings.
History of the University
The spiritual fathers of American Jewish University were Dr. Simon Greenberg and Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, the well-known author of Judaism as a Civilization. Dr. Kaplan envisioned an institution that would reflect the broadest possible conception of Judaism and would embrace all forms of Jewish creativity and educational achievement.
Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Greenberg succeeded in convincing the leadership of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York to invest in the creation of a American Jewish University. Additional support was received from the Bureau of Jewish Education of Los Angeles.
By the early 1960s, a new team assumed the leadership of the University. Dr. David Lieber was elected the University’s first president in 1963, and two years later, Jack Ostrow was chosen as chairman of the board of directors. These two men guided the growth of the University for the next three decades.
The 1970s saw an expansion of the University both programmatically and physically. By 1977, the University had moved to its current site in Bel Air and had become an independent institution. Under Dr. Lieber’s leadership, the UJ created its College of Arts and Sciences, the Lieber School in Nonprofit Management, the Fingerhut School of Education and the Whizin Center for the Jewish Future.
In 1992, Dr. Lieber returned to full-time teaching and Dr. Robert Wexler assumed the presidency. Since that time, the University has strengthened its identity as an institution for the entire Jewish community. Continuing to grow and expand, the University launched a full program leading to rabbinical ordination - the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. In addition, the UJ became the home of the Center for Policy Options and the Synagogue 2000 project (in conjunction with Hebrew Union College).
American Jewish University also houses the undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences, offering majors in business, literature, communications, political science, Jewish studies, psychology, bio-ethics (pre-medical major offered in cooperation with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center), and Liberal Studies.
The University has developed a growing library collection, a modern computer center, arts, theater and science facilities, an art gallery, a sculpture garden and spacious residence halls and campus apartments. The University’s Gindi Auditorium, built in the early 1980s, is considered one of Los Angeles’ finest concert halls.
American Jewish University continues to live by Dr. Greenberg’s and Dr. Kaplan’s vision of an institution that views Judaism as a civilization consisting of both religious and cultural elements. The variety in Jewish life is cherished and is the driving force behind the education and inspiration of future lay and professional leadership of our community.