Carolyn Amacher, originally of Washington, D.C., has spent the last 20-something years of her life dedicated to Jewish communal service, with the last 13 years spent in Jewish Community Center executive management in Richmond, Va.; Tuscon, Ariz.; and most recently as chief operating officer of the Merage JCC of Orange County, Calif. Now, Amacher is moving to St. Louis to fill the position of executive director of St. Louis Hillel at Washington University, and says she and her family — husband Rich, also of Washington, D.C., and two sons, Ezra and Samuel — are looking forward to putting down roots in the St. Louis Jewish community.
While this is Amacher’s first official foray into the Hillel world, she said she has been looking at Hillel for quite some time, and
believes it is “a great opportunity to build the generation of the future.”
“What a great opportunity to stimulate these minds and help them look at the world also through a Jewish lens,” she said.
According to Bill Sitzer, St. Louis Hillel board president, a search committee, led by Miriam Rogers Singer — a member of the St. Louis Hillel Board and Executive Board, conducted a nationwide search over a period of several months to find a replacement for Margo Schwartz, after it was announced earlier this year that she would not be returning in the fall.
Members of the committee included Hillel board members and past presidents, representatives from the Washington University community, a representative of the St. Louis Jewish Federation, and college students. The search committee was also assisted by the Human Resources Department of Hillel’s International Center in Washington, D.C.
“We believe that Carolyn possesses the requisite background, training, experience, personal qualities and track record to succeed as our next executive director,” Sitzer said. “She has an impressive record of outreach, engagement and community building from her years with the JCC. She exhibits a strong commitment to the values and philosophy of St. Louis Hillel at Washington University, and a strong desire to engage with students, the board, the university, and the larger Jewish community.”
Rabbi Hershey Novack, director of Chabad on Campus serving Washington University in St. Louis, said Chabad on Campus looks forward to welcoming and supporting the incoming Hillel director, just as “when we first arrived to establish the Chabad on Campus organization, we were graciously welcomed by the Hillel rabbi and staff.”
“We anticipate maintaining and further developing a professional relationship that can benefit Jewish student communities at Washington University and at other campuses in the area,” Novack said. “Hillel is one of the key organizations that serve Jewish collegiates. I am optimistic that her hiring will be a positive step forward for Jewish campus life in he broadest sense of the term.”
Amacher said she feels the most important thing will be to create a welcoming environment, “so we captivate the students right away when they get to campus … always with the focus on the value of Jews of all backgrounds being welcomed under one roof.”
Amacher said she plans to focus on building the Hillel center into more of a home for the students.
“I think we want to perpetuate the legacy of the past,” Amacher said, noting that Hillel will be celebrating its 60th anniversary. “I want to honor the legacy of its past and the torch that was passed to me, but also build a new future that will be focused on the development of the strongest and most able Jewish leaders to take the helm of Jewish communities all over the country in years to come.”
Keren Douek is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected]