(JTA) – The financial future of American Jewish University is in flux again after a plan to raise a reported $65 million by selling its 22-acre campus in Los Angeles to a Swiss education company fell through.
Nine months after the university announced a deal had been reached to sell the property, the prospective buyer, EF Education First, said it was pulling out and abandoning its plans to establish a language school for international students at the site because of the opposition of residents in the highly affluent neighboring community.
“This is obviously a disappointment, but we will regroup to ensure that we use our land and facilities in the best way possible,” AJU president Jeffrey Herbst said in an email to the campus community Wednesday.
Proceeds from the deal were expected to alleviate the financial pressures faced by AJU, which shut down its undergraduate program in 2018 and whose Conservative rabbinical school, like many other seminaries, has struggled to attract applicants. Under Herbst, the university dedicated itself to expanding its online educational offerings.
Only last month, AJU’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies announced it would relocate to a leased space in a commercial office building in Pico-Robertson, a Los Angeles neighborhood with a large concentration of Jewish institutions and businesses. A spokesperson said AJU was not prepared to comment on what might happen to that plan given the cancellation of the sale.
In response to questions regarding the announcement, the university released a statement saying it would explore its options for the future of the campus. It is unclear whether the university will try to revive a previous offer from Milken Community School, a Jewish day school, to purchase the site for a reported $60 million, and whether Milken is still interested.
Milken’s head of school Sarah Shulkind declined to comment.
In a letter to the Los Angeles Planning Commission, which was overseeing the proposed conversion of the campus, EF blamed xenophobic complaints by neighbors for its decision to cancel the deal.
“Based on the comments we have heard and the letters submitted in opposition, it is crystal clear to us that there are individuals in the neighborhood who do not want international students in their community,” reads the letter signed by EF Vice President Shawna Marino. “This is the first time we have experienced this level of fear and bias.”
The company declined to respond to questions.
A leader of the local homeowners opposing the sale rejected the company’s characterization of the opposition and said neighbors were worried about the effects of the company’s plans to increase the level of activity at the site, including the housing of up to 700 students, especially in the case of an emergency evacuation in the wildfire-prone area. In one letter to the association, a resident of the adjoining development called the Education First plan “incredibly disturbing and dangerous” while saying that he wanted the land to be used by a school.
“Our concerns were always about safety, security and parking that logically flow from their high enrollment numbers,” Elizabeth Barcohana, vice president of a homeowners association representing nearly 100 nearby homes, told the Forward.
For some in Los Angeles’ Jewish community, the collapse of the sale revived previously abandoned hopes that the campus, with its major library and community ritual mikvah bath, would be handed over to another Jewish institution.
Immediately after the Jewish Journal broke the story of the deal’s cancellation on Wednesday, the Los Angeles newspaper’s publisher, David Suissa, published a short post saying that when Milken’s bid for the campus wasn’t accepted, “there was some bad blood” and that a new deal could bring reconciliation.
“We don’t always get second chances in life,” Suissa wrote. “This is one of them. Hanukkah seems to have come early for our community.”
A proposed law could open the door to other uses for the land. Spearheaded by a legislator who says he is driven by his Jewish identity, the California Senate recently voted to allow colleges and religious institutions to build affordable housing on their properties — even if they aren’t zoned for residential use. The legislation still needs approval from the California’s Assembly and governor. who has made the state’s housing crisis a top priority.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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