UCSB Hillel will begin celebrations for Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year — at sunset tonight, and the new year brings with it the promise of change as the organization awaits the arrival of its new executive director.

Assistant Rabbi Allison Conyer of Sydney, Australia’s North Shore Temple Emanuel will take over as the new executive director of Hillel in mid-December, said Josh Kashinsky, the acting executive director. Conyer, a native Californian, replaces former Executive Director Rabbi Steve Cohen, who left his position about a year ago to serve at the Congregation B’nai B’rith, located on San Antonio Creek Road in Goleta.

Jody Kaufman, co-chair of the search committee assigned to find a new executive director, said Conyer responded to an advertisement through the Los Angeles Hillel Council that listed the open position.

“Rabbi Conyer is an extraordinary hire for the Hillel system,” Kaufman said. “She possesses the ideal skills and background for assuming this position, with many years of experience in leadership development, student programming, counseling, teaching, and officiating at a myriad of life-cycle events … She possesses a strong desire to continue her work with students through Hillel, and is excited about partnering with an excellent school, UCSB, to enhance student life.”

Kashinsky said the executive director is responsible for overseeing Hillel’s staff and budget, working with the leaders of the community, fundraising and providing support for students.

“We did an extensive search process to make sure we found someone who was a good fit,” Kashinsky said. “We’re very fortunate to have found Rabbi Conyer. She’s going to be terrific.”

Before the search committee found Conyer, Kaufman said, it reviewed numerous applications, did preliminary screenings by phone and invited seven candidates to visit Santa Barbara for two days. Hundreds of people, including students, faculty, administrators and community members then met with the candidates to help make the final decision, Kaufman said.

“We wanted an open process to ensure that we recruited someone who represented our dynamic constituency and full diversity of Jewish beliefs and practices,” Kaufman said.

Although Conyer has not yet arrived in Santa Barbara, Kashinsky said Hillel will continue with its services and traditions, which include celebrating Rosh Hashanah.

“We’re doing services here as we’ve done for many years,” Kashinsky said. “They’re free and open to everybody — Jewish, non-Jewish, students and non-students. Dr. Judy Karin will be leading the services. She has been doing High Holy Services for 20 years.”

Hillel president and third-year global studies major Aaren Alpert said several religious services and traditional foods such as challah — a type of bread — will be offered at Hillel over the next two days.

“Rosh Hashanah is technically the birth of all Jews,” Alpert said. “It’s a time of celebration. We’re trying to make it into a fun and modern experience … It’s customary to eat round challah. It’s round only on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize the way a year comes full circle.”

This year for Rosh Hashanah, Alpert said about 800 people are expected to attend and that anyone from the community is welcome to come.

“As the largest Jewish student organization on campus, it is important to reach out to our Jewish students but to also make sure we’re providing a space for people who want to learn about Judaism,” Alpert said.

Kashinsky said visiting rabbis are expected to attend Hillel’s services, and former 35th District State Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson will be the special guest speaker after Hillel services tonight. Tashlikh, the tradition of throwing away bread crumbs to symbolize the casting away of sins, will be held at Goleta Beach tomorrow.