About the President
Uri D. Herscher was named Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the Skirball Cultural Center in 1996 after having begun work on the Skirball Cultural Center conceptual blueprint in the early 1980s.
From 1970 to 1974, he was the National Dean of Admissions of Hebrew Union College. In 1975, he was appointed Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculty of the four-campus Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, a position he held through 1995. In 1979, Dr. Herscher established his headquarters as Executive Vice President on the Los Angeles campus. He continues to hold the rank of professor of American Jewish history at Hebrew Union College.
Dr. Herscher was born in Tel Aviv in 1941 to German Jewish refugee parents who fled Hitler’s rise to power and made their way to British Palestine in the mid-1930s. His grandparents and other family members were murdered in Nazi concentration camps.
In the mid-1950s, he immigrated to the United States with his parents and brother. They settled in San Jose, California, which at the time was mainly an agricultural area with few Jewish families. There, Dr. Herscher received a warm welcome from the predominantly non-Jewish students of his high school by electing him student body president.
After high school, he enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, where he graduated with honors in 1964 with a BA in history and sociology. During his undergraduate years he founded Cal Camp, a summer camp which continues to serve underprivileged children in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was ordained a Rabbi at Hebrew Union College in 1970 and received a doctorate in American Jewish history in 1973. He embarked on an academic career and is the author of several books in the field of Jewish immigration to the United States and the sociology of American Jewish life, including On Jews, American and Immigration (American Jewish Archives), Jewish Agricultural Utopias in America (Wayne State University Press), A Century of Memories, 1882–1982: The Eastern European Experience in America (American Jewish Archives), and Queen City Refuge (Behrman House). His articles and reviews have appeared in more than thirty academic journals devoted to ethnic studies, sociology, and Jewish history and religion. He holds honorary degrees from the University of Southern California and the University of Judaism, and recently completed his five-year term as one of five commissioners on the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Dr. Herscher’s personal interest in the history of Jewish immigration to the United States and his awareness of the need for Jewish institutions to reach out to their communities led him to propose the creation of the Skirball Cultural Center.
He and his wife, Dr. Myna Herscher, have four sons.
President's Message, Oasis 2011—Read Uri D. Herscher's message from the 2011 issue of Oasis, the magazine of the Skirball Cultural Center