Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. is the 10th President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). A leading political scientist and distinguished Jewish communal leader, Dr. Rehfeld’s career has bridged both the academic and professional worlds as Associate Professor of Political Science at Washington University (2001 to 2019) and as President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis (2012 to 2019). Elected on December 18, 2018 by the HUC-JIR Board of Governors after a national search, he began his tenure on April 1, 2019, and was inaugurated on October 27, 2019, at Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati. He succeeds Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., z”l, HUC-JIR’s previous President (2014-2018).
Joy G. Greenberg, Chair of the HUC-JIR Presidential Search Committee, stated, “We are honored and delighted to welcome Andrew Rehfeld as our new President. A distinguished academic and creative thought leader, Andrew is uniquely qualified intellectually, spiritually, and professionally to lead the College-Institute in our mission to transform the Jewish community and the broader world. Andrew brings to HUC-JIR a passion for teaching and scholarship, as well as exemplary leadership skills that have set him apart as a dynamic visionary and community builder."
As HUC-JIR President, Dr. Rehfeld leads the four-campus international institution of Jewish higher education and seminary for Reform Judaism, which educates leaders to serve the Reform Movement and the Jewish people worldwide as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. He also holds a tenured faculty position as Professor of Political Thought. Dr. Rehfeld oversees campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, an annual operating budget of over $41 million, 36 full-time tenured faculty, and an enrollment of about 400 full-time students and 800 part-time education students, graduate studies students, and undergraduate students at HUC-JIR’s partner institutions, University of Southern California and Xavier University. HUC-JIR’s 4,000 active alumni serve the Reform Movement’s 1.5 million members and nearly 900 congregations, representing the largest Jewish denomination in North America and the growing Progressive Movement in Israel and around the world.
Dr. Rehfeld stated, “I am deeply humbled by the faith and confidence that the Search Committee and Board of HUC-JIR have placed in me. I am thrilled by the opportunity to work collaboratively with a dynamic professional team of deans, program directors, academic administrators, and faculty across all four campuses to shape the future of professional Jewish leadership by inspiring, educating, and learning from a new generation of students. These are challenging times for the Jewish People that I believe HUC-JIR, as a multi-faceted institution of higher education, is well suited to address. I can only hope to live up to the historic legacy of transformational leadership that characterized those who held this position before me, from Isaac Mayer Wise and Stephen S. Wise to David Ellenson and Aaron Panken. I am honored to serve as the President of HUC-JIR.”
Sue Hochberg, Chair of the Board of Governors, remarked, “Andrew Rehfeld brings to HUC-JIR a deep personal commitment to Reform Judaism and Jewish values, a profound understanding of academic excellence and the mission and impact of Jewish nonprofit institutions, demonstrated success in ensuring financial sustainability, and an entrepreneurial spirit of innovation. He will be building upon the vision of his predecessor, Rabbi Aaron Panken, of blessed memory, as he leads HUC-JIR in meeting the challenges of the Jewish future in North America, Israel, and around the world.”
A leading political scientist and distinguished Jewish communal leader, Dr. Andrew Rehfeld’s career has bridged both the academic and professional worlds as Associate Professor of Political Science at Washington University (2001 to 2019) and as President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis (2012 to 2019). The academic values of thinking, writing, and teaching are the core of his identity, coupled with a passionate commitment to building communities based on the Jewish values that are central to his life. He is an advocate for pluralism, inclusion, and racial and social justice, and an activist in combatting antisemitism, advancing peace and security for the state of Israel, and strengthening the ties binding Jews worldwide.
Dr. Rehfeld brings to HUC-JIR his extensive expertise in academic and nonprofit administration, fund raising, strategic planning, and community leadership. He was recruited in 2012 from his tenured faculty position at Washington University to lead the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Over the past six years, he galvanized the St. Louis Federation by implementing a “bottom up” community-focused engagement approach. He led a team that raised $15- $20 million annually, and allocated $14 million per year to support, educate, and connect thousands of individuals in St. Louis, Israel, and globally, while overseeing an annual operating budget of $6.5 million and a $130 million endowment. His leadership achieved a sustainable, balanced budget, three years of real growth of the annual campaign for the first time in over 30 years, the completion of an organizational integration with the Central Agency for Jewish Education of St. Louis (CAJE), a major renovation plan for the 35-year-old facility, the first community demographic study in 19 years, and a resulting strategic plan to boost Jewish communal engagement. He oversaw the creation of a new center for pluralistic adult Jewish education, and mobilized support for an extensive renovation of the community’s 25-year-old Holocaust Museum and Learning Center. Through its 2017 strategic plan, Dr. Rehfeld put into place a novel model for a Federation as a community development organization that works collaboratively to achieve impact, clarified the Federation’s provision of direct services that include a community library and archive, and an award-winning volunteer program to serve hundreds of seniors in the community, and implemented an engagement-first model that fosters engagement in the Jewish community as part of a life well lived.
In response to multiple communal security and bomb threats and the desecration of the Chesed Shel Emeth Jewish Cemetery, Dr. Rehfeld demonstrated significant crisis leadership and has offered guidance to other communities facing these challenges, including leading the Federation Board to make an important symbolic investment in Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s Ferguson Commission. He fought the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement less by restricting speech and more through focusing Federation on expanding mutually beneficial economic and cultural partnerships between the state of Missouri, the St. Louis region, and Israel. This work included leading four missions from the Missouri State Legislature to Israel, and, in 2014, a successful effort to create a Missouri Trade Desk in Israel – its 11th in the world – to promote trade.
Prior to joining Federation, Dr. Rehfeld achieved distinction in the academic world for his work as a scholar and professor. He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science (2000) and a Master of Public Policy (1994) from the University of Chicago, and a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, in the Philosophy Honors Program at the University of Rochester (1989). His Ph.D. dissertation was entitled Silence of the Land: An Historical and Normative Analysis of Territorial Political Representation. In 2001, he joined the faculty of Washington University, where he received tenure as Associate Professor of Political Science in 2007.
As a member of the faculty at Washington University, Dr. Rehfeld worked to build academic community through collaborative leadership. His leadership roles in academic administration within the political science department included Director of Undergraduate Studies, revamping the major, and invigorating its student association. He served as a Residential Faculty Fellow, implementing innovative educational programming with students. He served on the Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee and New Curriculum Review Committee, launched the University’s Washington, DC program, served on the academic review committee for a peer department, and was appointed the Chair of Washington University’s Judicial Board. In 2002, he founded a faculty workshop in political theory that remains a vibrant, multi-disciplinary institution today. He received teaching awards from the Arts and Sciences Council of Washington University and the American Political Science Association.
Dr. Rehfeld’s research focuses on contemporary democratic theory with related interests in the history of political thought and the philosophy of the social sciences. While his main area of academic interest is in political thought and institutional design, more recently he has been involved in translating those interests to Jewish studies and contemporary politics. He was actively involved in a project that explored the role of the Hebrew Bible in western political thought, publishing what is thought to be the first article on John Locke’s use of the Jephtha story in his extensively researched Second Treatise on Government. His recent teaching of undergraduate courses in “Zionism” and “Jewish Political Thought” reflects this engagement. In addition, he currently is working on a project to address how to retain the two-state solution given present political realities, without giving up on either the democratic or Jewish character of the state of Israel.
His first book, The Concept of Constituency (Cambridge University Press, 2005), provided a conceptual, historical, and normative analysis of territorial redistricting. His next book project, A General Theory of Representation, is under contract with Cambridge University Press. He has published numerous articles on topics in political philosophy, redistricting, and the use of the Hebrew Bible for political purposes in a range of scholarly journals. In 2011, Dr. Rehfeld was appointed as Co-Editor of NOMOS, the yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, and he served on the Editorial Board of The Journal of Politics. He also served on the Governance Committee for the Association for Political Theory and as Secretary of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy.
Dr. Rehfeld held the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in the Study and Practice of Federalism at McGill University and served as Visiting Professor at the Liberta Universita Internationale Degli Studi Sociali in Rome and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He currently holds academic affiliations as a faculty affiliate of the Washington University Danforth Center for Religion and Politics and in 2015-16 was a Senior Fellow in HUC-JIR’s Center for the Study of Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems in Cincinnati, OH.
A product of the Reform Movement, Dr. Rehfeld was involved in the Reform camping movement for over 35 years as a camper and song leader at Kutz Camp and more recently as faculty of the URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Institute. He lived in Israel for a year prior to college, where he studied Hebrew on a kibbutz ulpan and was an early participant in the work-study program Livnot U’l’hibanot. Prior to his graduate studies, he was the regional director of NFTYGER (the New Jersey region of NFTY) and worked in India for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. During his graduate studies, he ran the confirmation program at KAM-Isaiah-Israel in Chicago, advised its youth group, and later served on its Board of Directors. He was a member of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis and is now a member of Temple Israel and Kol Rinah congregations in St. Louis. He has also served on the Board and Executive Committee of Washington University’s Hillel and the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council.
Dr. Rehfeld’s appointment is the result of a national search conducted by a 23-member Search Committee, including members of the Board of Governors, alumni, faculty, students, and staff, with the assistance of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates.
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.