American Jewish University, with its Familian campus in Bel Air, California and Brandeis-Bardin campus in Simi Valley, California, is the outcome of the 2007 union of Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI) and the University of Judaism (UJ).
In 1947, the University of Judaism was founded in Los Angeles, the vision of Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, the author of Judaism as a Civilization, who advocated the creation of an educational institution incorporating diverse elements of Jewish civilization and culture under one roof. To carry out his dream, he received the support of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and the Bureau of Jewish Education of Los Angeles.
Six years earlier, BCI was founded by Dr. Shlomo Bardin to safeguard against assimilation of young American Jews by making “the great ethical heritage of Judaism” relevant to them. Brandeis Camp Institute was named to honor our nation’s first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, Louis D. Brandeis, who was instrumental as the visionary and primary funder of Dr. Bardin’s initial programmatic endeavor. BBI was located for brief periods of time in Amherst, NH, Winterdale, PA and Hendersonville, NC before finding its home in 1947 in Simi Valley.
The UJ was originally housed in the vacant Sinai Temple building and relocated to a number of Los Angeles sites before moving to the Familian campus in Bel Air in 1977. Thanks to the foresight and leadership of the founding President, Dr. Simon Greenberg, his successor President, Dr. David Lieber, and first Chairman of the Board, Dore Schary, the UJ became well known early-on for its outstanding teacher training and adult education programs. University friends, such as Milton Sperling, Julius Fligelman and Jack Ostrow, helped lay the groundwork for a college that is now highly regarded as an academic institution that welcomes students of all backgrounds, beliefs and branches of Judaism.
In 1979, an additional program was created to further the vision of Mordecai Kaplan, the Graduate School of Nonprofit Management. In 1982 a four-year liberal arts college (College of Arts and Sciences) followed. These in turn were followed in 1986 by the establishment of the Graduate School of Education and in 1996 by the creation of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, the first independent ordaining rabbinical school in the western United States.In 1947, BCI purchased and eventually moved to 2,200 acres of land in what is now called Simi Valley. During the fifties, Max Helfman and Raikin Ben-Ari elevated the realm of creative music and drama, and the BCI model was adapted for adults, launching the concept of adult weekend retreats known as House of the Book Weekends. Camp Alonim opened in 1953, soon followed by the expanded use of facilities for non-summer activities for youth. In 1960 the House of the Book Association was organized by couples who had participated in weekend programs, leading to the 1970 groundbreaking of the House of the Book. Impressed and inspired by Dr. Bardin’s vision and educational philosophy, neighbor James Arness (star of “Gunsmoke”) gifted his entire ranch to the institute, increasing BBI’s acreage by 40% and making it the largest parcel of land owned by a Jewish institution outside the State of Israel.
These two dynamic institutions united in 2007 establishing American Jewish University, a thriving center of Jewish resources and talent built upon the mission of Jewish Learning, Culture, Ethics, Leadership and Peoplehood.