September 18, 2019

Bnei Akiva seals $7.1 million deal on massive campground east of Los Angeles

On Sept. 12, Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles, the local chapter of an international religious Zionist youth group, purchased a 78-acre campground in Running Springs for $7.1 million.

The group has raised $8.5 million in a major capital campaign this year and plans to raise an additional $1.5 million to prepare Running Springs — which has been sitting dormant for three years — to become the only Orthodox Jewish summer camp and year-round retreat center in the western United States. 

The property was previously owned by Chabad of California, which purchased it for $4.3 million in 2005, only to lose it in foreclosure to Pacific Mercantile Bank after defaulting on an $8.25 million loan. The campground had served as collateral for the loan. 

Since November 2011, when the bank foreclosed on the property, the two parties have been engaged in 33 months of legal proceedings in San Bernardino. A victory in a state appeals court by Chabad in July 2013 temporarily set back Pacific’s attempts to sell the property. The court ruled that the bank improperly had evicted Chabad from Running Springs, although Chabad’s default was not in question.

Chabad of California’s leader, Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, said the group plans to pursue legal action against the bank, with regard to the large amount of personal property still at the site — including bunk beds and expensive kosher kitchen equipment. Cunin said Chabad will not sue Bnei Akiva.

In 2013, Bnei Akiva opened the Moshava Malibu summer camp, renting land from the Shalom Institute. It was the first Orthodox summer camp in Los Angeles in nearly two decades, and local Bnei Akiva leaders said that the demand and need for Orthodox camping was a major reason for its purchase of Running Springs, which will replace Moshava Malibu, expanding the sessions for a summer-long camp.