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The Jewish Pass

The Growth of Jewish Institutions in Los Angeles' Sepulveda Pass

Erik Greenberg, Author

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The University of Judaism, Part I: An Institution in Search of a Home

THE UNIVERSITY OF JUDAISM (UJ) began as the vision of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, a central figure in twentieth-century American Jewish thought and the founder of Judaism's Reconstructionist Movement.  Kaplan, a rabbi and teacher at New York City's Jewish Theological Seminary (the institutional and intellectual center of the Conservative Movement in America) had hoped to re-form the seminary into a less parochial institution.  But the powers that be at the seminary decided, instead, to use Kaplan's idea to build a west coast beachhead for Conservative Judaism.

FROM ITS INCEPTION IN 1947, the University of Judaism moved from location to location continually seeking a site which could accommodate the school’s growing student population and course offerings. 

THE UJ ORIGINALLY BEGAN ITS CLASSES in borrowed space from Sinai Temple and the Jewish Federation.  To many of the university’s benefactors, this arrangement was unacceptable.  Their feeling was best summed up by one of the school's earliest boosters, Peter Kahn, when he observed that, The acquisition of a building would in a sense crystallize the problems and needs of our University and give concreteness and a rallying center to our project. A number of important Jewish Angelenos shared Kahn's belief in the need for the seminary to purchase a building to house its new university, and in 1948 Ben Platt, a member of Kahn's Board of Governors (an assemblage of local supporters of the UJ) convinced the seminary to purchase a building on 6th and Ardmore--the first real home, if you will, of the University of Judaism.  But even this salutary development could not keep up with the UJ's growth. The very next year Kahn wrote to the seminary to complain that the building was not big enough, and that if the seminary would not purchase additional space, the university would have to reduce its enrollment.

The map below shows three early locations of the University of Judaism.  ***If you cannot see three icons, use the zoom out (-) tool in the map.

View Early Sites of the University of Judaism in a larger map
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