Jewish Journal

Milken Schools President Is Moving On

Milken Community Schools president and Jewish educator Metuka Benjamin will leave Milken at the end of the current school year.

Benjamin, 81, has served as president of Milken Community Schools since 2012. Decades earlier, she was among the founders of the education system at Stephen Wise Temple schools.

“I have been privileged to spend more than four decades as a Jewish educator working in the Stephen Wise and Milken communities,” Benjamin said in an April 23 statement. “Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin, who hired me and became my closest collaborator, shared with me his vision of a pluralistic educational system, based on Jewish values, that would bring unparalleled excellence in Jewish and secular education to Los Angeles. …

“It is now time for me to expand my reach,” Benjamin said. “Just as Rabbi Zeldin identified the critical need for a pluralistic high school in the 1980s, I am now preparing to use my experience, skills and relationships to address a critical need in our community today: ensuring Jewish continuity by strengthening the next generation’s connection to Israel. I promise to share more information about this exciting project with you as soon as I can.”

“I am now preparing to use my experience, skills and relationships to address a critical need in our community today: ensuring Jewish continuity by strengthening the next generation’s connection to Israel.” —  Metuka Benjamin

Benjamin was not immediately available to respond to the Journal’s requests to discuss her future plans.

In a phone interview, Richard Sandler, chair of the Milken Community Schools board of trustees, said he was confident Benjamin would continue to support Milken even as she pursues other endeavors.

“This is something she has been considering for a number of years — what else she wants to do. Basically, she made a decision, which I respect, and there is no question in my mind she will stay involved with the school,” Sandler said. “She is an asset to the school. There probably would be no school without her. She is a dear friend and tremendous educator and a treasure to our community, and I respect her wanting to do things she is passionate about.”

Additionally, Benjamin announced the creation of the Metuka Benjamin Scholarship Fund. “As a gift to this community, I’m proud to announce the creation of the Metuka Benjamin Scholarship Fund, which will ensure that every Jewish child in need can access Jewish education,” she said.

Benjamin has overseen many fundraising and development campaigns for Milken Community Schools, and has been involved with the school’s Israel and Judaic programs.

A Tel Aviv native, Benjamin is responsible for Milken’s Tiferet Israel Fellows Program, which enables Milken sophomores to spend a semester in Israel. She also created the Nofim Integrated Israel Curriculum at Milken, providing middle-school and high-school students with a sophisticated understanding of the Jewish state.

Benjamin moved to the United States when she was 15 and received a master’s degree in education from Columbia University’s Jewish Theological Seminary.

She began her education career as a Hebrew teacher at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. There, she met the late Zeldin, who shared her passion and educational vision. In 1964, the two teamed to establish what would later become Stephen Wise Temple.

Benjamin was instrumental in the process that led to the 2012 split between Stephen Wise Temple and Milken. Benjamin became president of Milken after the two institutions severed ties.

Sandler said Benjamin would be difficult to replace.

“Metuka is unique,” he said. “I’m not sure anybody can succeed her in the position.”