Ammiel Hirsch

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Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch
Position Senior Rabbi
Synagogue Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
Other Former Executive Director, Association of Reform Zionists of America/World Union for Progressive Judaism, North America
Personal details
Birth name Ammiel Hirsch
Born 1959
Nationality United States
Denomination Reform Judaism
Residence New York City
Parents Rabbi Richard G. and Bella Hirsch
Alma mater London School of Economics and Political Science
Semicha Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Ammiel Hirsch (Hebrew: עמיאל הירש‎‎, also spelled Amiel Hirsch) (born 1959)[1] is a Reform Jewish rabbi and a bar-certified lawyer in New York. He is the senior rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue and former Executive Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America/World Union for Progressive Judaism, North America. In 2016, City & State New York magazine praised him as "the borough's most influential voice" for Manhattan's more than 300,000 Jews, and in 2015, the New York Observer named him among “New York’s Most Influential Religious Leaders.”

Early life and education[edit]

He was born in the United States[2] to Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch (born 1926)[3] a Reform rabbi who founded that movement's Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C.[3] and is Executive Director Emeritus of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.[4][5] His mother is Bella Hirsch; he has two brothers and a sister.[3]

Hirsch spent his high school years in Israel,[5] serving in the IDF as a tank commander.[2] He speaks fluent Hebrew.[6] He went on to earn an LL.B Honors law degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and became a member of the New York State Bar in 1985.[7] He received rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, in 1989.[5][8]

Reform leadership[edit]

From 1992–2004 Hirsch served as executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), the Israel arm of the North American Reform movement.[8] An ardent Zionist,[9] he guided ARZA to accept a new platform embracing Zionism in 1997.[6] He was also a leader in the struggle against Israel's Orthodox religious establishment – which he called "the monopoly" – to recognize the Reform movement in Israel,[6] and was influential in the successful lobbying effort to change Israel's Conversion Law to recognize conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel.[2][10]

In 2004 he joined Stephen Wise Free Synagogue as Senior Rabbi.[8]

Hirsch is also an officer of the New York Board of Rabbis and a member of the Partnership of Faith, an interfaith body of New York religious leaders. He lives in New York City.[8]

Book collaboration[edit]

In 2000[11] a literary agent introduced Hirsch to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Reinman, an Orthodox rabbi and Talmudic scholar, with the idea of collaborating on a book airing the Reform and Orthodox viewpoints on various issues. Their email correspondence over the next 18 months resulted in the book One People, Two Worlds: A Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi explore the issues that divide them.[1] The book was hailed by the religious left as a breakthrough in Orthodox recognition of religious pluralism, while generating criticism in Orthodox circles for Rabbi Reinman's willingness to conduct an official rabbinic dialogue with Reform.[12] The book was denounced by the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America[13] and the heads of Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood, New Jersey, where Reinman received his rabbinic ordination.[14] Reinman subsequently pulled out of a 14-city promotional tour after two appearances, leaving Hirsch to continue the tour on his own.[15][16]



  1. ^ a b Brawarsky, Sandee (11 October 2002). "Agreeing to Disagree". The Jewish Week. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Shamir, Shlomo (22 August 2002). "Dialogue of the not so deaf". Haaretz. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "Biographical Sketch of Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch". Jewish Agency for Israel. 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Hyman, Meryl (1998). Who is a Jew?: Conversations, not conclusions. p. 181. ISBN 1-879045-76-1. 
  5. ^ a b c Rosensaft, Jean Bloch (2004). "A Vital Partnership: HUC-JIR alumni leading the Union for Reform Judaism" (PDF). The Chronicle. 63: 20. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Nahshon, Gad. "Interview with Rabbi Ammiel Hirsh: A New Zionist Revolution". Jewish Post. Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  7. ^ "Ammiel Hirsch". Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Our Clergy: Ammiel Hirsch, Senior Rabbi". Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  9. ^ Kampeas, Ron (30 November 1999). "Tourism Push for High Holidays". JTA. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  10. ^ Curtius, Mary (21 February 2002). "Israeli High Court Oks Non-orthodox Jewish Conversions". South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "Author Spotlight: Ammiel Hirsch". Random House. 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  12. ^ Adlerstein, Yitzchok (Spring 2003). "Book: 'One People, Two Worlds' By Ammiel Hirsch and Yosef Reinman" (PDF). Jewish Action. Orthodox Union. 
  13. ^ "A Proposed Addition to the Agudah Convention Agenda". The Jewish Press. 6 December 2002. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  14. ^ Brownfeld, Allan C. (March–April 2003). "Orthodox Pressure Causes Rabbi to Pull Out of Book Tour; British Chief Rabbi Changes Book Called "Heresy"". American Council for Judaism. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  15. ^ Reinman, Yosef (2003). "Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover". Jewish Law. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  16. ^ Pine, Dan (21 February 2003). "Reform-Haredi Collaboration Ends in Bitter Brouhaha". Retrieved 2 April 2011. 

External links[edit]