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The Jewish Pass

The Growth of Jewish Institutions in Los Angeles' Sepulveda Pass

Erik Greenberg, Author

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Skirball Cultural Center

ONE MIGHT SAY THAT THE SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER traveled the furthest west of all the Jewish institutions on the Sepulveda Pass.  Originally founded as Hebrew Union College Museum at the institution's founding campus in Cincinnati, Ohio, the first incarnation of the Skirball in Los Angeles occurred in 1972 when the Reform rabbi and film producer Jack Skirball agreed to under-write a move of some of the museum's Judaica collections to its Los Angeles campus adjacent to the University of Southern California.  

SINCE ITS INCEPTION the Skirball has been headed by Rabbi Uri Herscher, Ph.D., a Reform rabbi and scholar of American Jewish history.  Herscher envisioned a more expansive role and mission for the Skirball museum.  He championed the creation of a cultural center that would celebrate the historical diversity of the Jewish experience and the role that American democracy has played in ensuring the Jewish future in America.  

IN 1983 HERSCHER SECURED the purchase of a fifteen-acre site on the west side of the Sepulveda Pass. At the time, the site was a garbage dump--not an official dump, but rather a place where people went to discard of a variety of household items and other trash.  Working with a wide array of philanthropists, Herscher secured funding for the creation of the Skirball Cultural Center.  Construction on the new Skirball Center began in 1990 and the institution opened in 1996.

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