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American Jewish University Announces Plans to Sell Bel Air Campus to International Education Company

Under the terms of the agreement, AJU will continue to house its administrative offices at the Familian Campus until September 2028.
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September 13, 2022

American Jewish University’s Board of Directors voted on Sept. 13 to accept an offer to sell the university’s Familian Campus in Bel Air to EF Education First, an educational organization that offers language learning and international degree programs, for an undisclosed sum.

Under the terms of the agreement, AJU will continue to house its administrative offices at the Familian Campus until September 2028. The university’s 2,700-acre Brandeis Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, which hosts the annual Camp Alonim summer program, will not be affected by the sale and will remain under AJU’s management, university officials confirmed. 

The university announced plans to put the Familian Campus on sale in February, referring then to the decision as a “strategic investment in the future of AJU” that will “generate significant endowment funds for a range of academic offerings and community programs that are tailored to our world — and the Jewish community’s needs — today and tomorrow.” 

In a letter to the AJU community on Wednesday, Dr. Jeffrey Herbst, who has served as the university’s president since 2018, said that “the cost of maintaining our Bel Air campus” during the COVID-19 pandemic had run counter to the university’s mission to “advance and elevate the Jewish journey of individuals, organizations and our community.” 

“This sale will enable AJU to devote significantly greater resources and focus to our core mission – and to meet the evolving needs of the Jewish community in Los Angeles and beyond, now and in future generations,” Herbst continued. 

AJU acquired the 35-acre Familian Campus, situated above the Sepulveda Pass in the Santa Monica Mountains, in 1977. It is currently the home of the Ziegler School, one of two Conservative rabbinical schools in the United States, and hosted an undergraduate college that the university closed in 2018. Over the last four-and-a-half decades, the campus has hosted countless lectures, performances, classes and community events. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, AJU has invested significantly in expanding its online course offerings. It established an online conversation platform, Maven, that has hosted a wide range of speakers, including former  Ambassador Michael Oren, UAE Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy Omar Saif Ghobash, and “Ozark” actress Julia Garner.  

Later in 2020, the university relaunched its business program. Retooled as the School of Enterprise Management and Social Impact, the online program seeks to train MBA students to become ethical change agents and purpose-driven leaders.  

Herbst wrote in his statement that the Familian Campus sale represents an opportunity to “be nimble in meeting this moment” with future programming.

“AJU is determined to serve our community where it is – and where it is going in the coming decades – through our range of schools and academic centers, community programs, camps, and other offerings,” said Herbst. 

“AJU is determined to serve our community where it is – and where it is going in the coming decades – through our range of schools and academic centers, community programs, camps, and other offerings,” said Herbst. 

AJU has established a working committee to oversee the process of transitioning out of its Bel Air campus and planning for the future, according to university officials, and will provide regular updates to the community.

EF Education First is a family-owned international educational organization established in 1965 that offers students language learning, educational travel, cultural exchange and academic degree programs. 

EF plans to use the property for an EF International Language Campus, which will bring students from more than 75 countries together to learn English through a fully accredited program. EF has similar schools globally and across the U.S., including campuses in Pasadena, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. 

The school expects to open by summer 2024. 

The sale will not affect AJU’s recent partnership with the SEED School of Los Angeles County — the region’s first public boarding school — in which SEED will be permitted to use AJU’s Bel Air facilities for its inaugural year of operation as construction is completed at its permanent campus in South Los Angeles.  

“We are honored to be selected by the American Jewish University to purchase its Familian Campus following a comprehensive RFP process,” said Martha H. Doyle, Chief Administrative Officer of EF Education First. 

“We are aware of the tremendous meaning associated with this site, and therefore, we want to emphasize our commitment to fundamentally preserving the campus’ beauty.  We look forward to introducing ourselves to the local community in the weeks ahead and starting the conversation about EF’s proposed re-use of the AJU site into an EF International Language Campus,” she continued.

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