AJR-CA dedicates new campus

With Chanukah marking the rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees’ defeat of Judea’s Seleucid rulers more than 2,000 years ago, the week of the holiday turned out to be the perfect time for the Academy of Jewish Religion, California (AJR-CA) to celebrate the opening of its new campus in Koreatown. 

More than 150 people showed up Nov. 24 for a hanukat habayit (“dedication of the home”) party that marked a new beginning for the school, which moved from a location on the property of Hillel at UCLA to 3250 Wilshire Blvd. in September.

“It’s a dedication. Chanukah was a rededication of the temple, [and] here we had a rededication for the academy and its new space,” AJR-CA president Tamar Frankiel told the Journal.

Founded in 2000, AJR-CA is a transdemoninational, rabbinical, chaplaincy and cantorial school. It strives to be a part of the puzzle of a Jewish landscape that — according to the school — had previously left out community members interested in a career at the pulpit but who did not affiliate with any of the major movements. 

Attendees at the event, which took place just days before the first night of Chanukah, included Jewish, Muslim and Christian clergy. They came together on a rooftop courtyard at the seminary’s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters to enjoy live music, food, guest speakers and more. 

Among the speakers were Frankiel; Imam Jihad Turk, president-designate of Bayan Claremont, an Islamic graduate school of Claremont Lincoln University; Rabbi Steven Leder, spiritual leader of Wilshire Boulevard Temple (WBT); and the Rev. David Jamir, senior pastor of Rosewood UMC Los Angeles.

AJR-CA, which is located one block west of Vermont Avenue, now sits within close distance of both WBT and Rosewood UMC, a Methodist church. This represents the diversity of the faith communities in the Koreatown area, Frankiel told the Journal.

Representatives of those institutions were among a “wide variety of people from across the community, old supporters, new supporters [and] alumni,” who turned out for the event, Frankiel said. 

There was plenty to celebrate. The event featured room-naming ceremonies for the 6,500-square-foot campus. Mezuzahs were installed, and attendees were treated to a tour of the campus artwork.

 “It was indeed a hanukat habayit,” AJR-CA co-founder Rabbi Stan Levy said in an e-mail to the Journal. “Perhaps not as momentous as the first Hanukkah of the [S]econd temple over 2,000 years ago, but in our own unique way part of the chain and fabric of Jewish religious history past, present and future.”