Rabbinical School Announces Plans to Relocate to Beverly Hills

American Jewish University’s (AJU) Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies is relocating to the Beverly Hills area, according to a recent announcement by the organization.

The new 7,700-square-foot space will be located at 350 S. Beverly Drive, on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Beverly Drive, and will feature a library, private offices for tenured faculty, shared workspaces, classrooms, conference room and a Beit Midrash (a hall dedicated for Torah study).

There will also be space allowing for collaboration and communal gathering.

The Ziegler School’s new location will be a short distance from the predominately Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood, near multiple kosher restaurants, synagogues and Jewish institutions.

In an interview with the Courier, AJU President Dr. Jeffrey Herbst said bringing its rabbinical school program to Beverly Hills made the most sense for their students and faculty, many of whom live nearby in Pico-Robertson.

“It’s really part of our efforts to meet the Jewish community where it is rather than expect people to show up to Bel-Air,” Herbst said. “And so, it’s very important for us. We view this as a critical element of our future where instead of being beholden to a particular piece of real estate, we’re dynamic and nimble and go where it makes the most sense to be.”

In September of 2022, the AJU board of directors approved the sale of the university’s Familian Campus—set on 27 acres in Bel-Air, one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Los Angeles—to EF Education First, a family-owned international education organization. Under lease-back terms reached as part of the agreement, AJU’s administrative offices are continuing to reside on the campus until 2028. As of press time, the deal was in escrow.

In a statement announcing the news of the Ziegler School’s relocation, Herbst said AJU was moving its rabbinical school to the “heart of Jewish life in Los Angeles.”

“With this move, American Jewish University begins a new chapter for the Ziegler School, providing our students with innovative opportunities to flourish in the heart of Jewish life in Los Angeles,” Herbst said in the statement. “We are paying close attention to the shifting needs of the Jewish community, our offerings, and our students, and making important changes that will enable AJU’s programs to thrive for generations to come.”

According to AJU, renovations are in the planning process. This includes the combining of office suites in the building as well as work on restrooms.

The decision to relocate was based on comprehensive research into L.A. Jewish life, feedback from Zeigler students and faculty and the recommendations of an external Blue-Ribbon Commission that AJU convened in January 2022, the AJU statement says. According to Herbst, continuing to operate a rabbinical school in Bel-Air—where AJU’s Familian Campus, the current home of the Ziegler School, is based—made little sense for a student body that’s largely based elsewhere.

Ultimately, AJU’s board of directors approved the move. AJU’s regional accreditor, the WASC Senior College and University Commission, approved the additional location “through a substantive change process for the Ziegler School,” according to AJU.

The Ziegler School is expected to begin occupying the new space in early to mid 2024.

AJU’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies ordains rabbis in the Conservative movement. The nonprofit school’s current location is 15600 Mulholland Drive. Along with degrees in rabbinic studies, AJU operate a School for Jewish Education and Leadership, which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Jewish education and Jewish early childhood education along with professional development programs for educators. Earlier this year, AJU announced its appointment of Dr. Bruce Powell as interim dean of the School for Jewish Education and Leadership, effective July 1. Additional AJU programs include the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program, serving those in interfaith relationships, rediscovering their Jewish heritage or seeking to convert to Judaism.

AJU also operates the 2,700-acre Brandeis-Bardin campus in Simi Valley, home to an overnight Jewish summer camp, among other programs.

The move of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies to Beverly Hills follows AJU’s announcement last year that it was restricting the Ziegler curriculum to better serve the needs of the future rabbinate. It transitioned from what was five-to-six-year program to an accelerated four-year program culminating with an innovative residency during the final year. The curriculum development joined other changes that included setting Ziegler tuition at $7,000 per year as part of an effort to promote educational transparency and accessibility.

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