JCC: New Jew breaks ground

Months after the former JCC at Milken closed its doors at the Bernard Milken Campus in West Hills, officials representing the property’s new owners — New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS) — organized a ceremonial groundbreaking for its new campus.

“A lot of us have been working on this for many, many years,” said Harold Masor, past president and current finance chair at NCJHS. “We’re pretty darn excited about it. The biggest thing is having our own permanent home. That’s a real big plus for us.”

The event planned for Nov. 15 was meant to mark the official start of renovations to the school’s campus, slated to open in fall 2013. Two years after its 2002 inception at the Bernard Milken Campus, NCJHS moved to its current home at the Shomrei Torah Synagogue campus.

The development of the $36 million project will take place in phases, with science and technology taking precedence in terms of scheduling and funds, Masor said. In fact, an entire wing of the school’s campus — set up to accommodate wireless Internet — will be dedicated to the sciences.

Interior walls will be reconfigured to create new offices, including a large, collaborative teacher workspace and approximately 35 learning spaces for students. A renovation of the gymnasium’s basketball floor was finished in August.

In spite of the numerous renovations planned inside, there will not be any exterior structural changes to the building, located on the four-acre site of the Bernard Milken Campus on Vanowen Street. NCJHS purchased it from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in late 2010, and the JCC at Milken, which had been located there, closed June 30. 

Gensler, a global architecture and design, firm, is designing the project.

So far, Masor said, the school has raised $13 million in cash and pledges. Two million dollars has gone toward the down payment owed to the Federation, and NCJHS must pay $9 million more to the organization in the form of a loan.

Additionally, the school has committed to raise $4 million in order to receive approximately $2.2 million from the Jim Joseph Foundation, a grant-making organization that supports the education of Jewish youth and youth adults. That money will be used to fund tuition assistance for middle class families who would not normally qualify for assistance, Masor said.

There is more that officials would like to do if they can find the money. Ideas include building a “heart of the community”— a large space that would be used for assemblies, Jewish learning and which would accommodate a beit midrash (house of study). The construction of an arts wing also remains on the wish list.

When the school opens, everybody will happy with the result, Masor promised.

“It’s going to be beautiful. Kids and parents are going to be in awe when they see the property when we finish.”