LMU and Academy for Jewish Religion of California Take Partnership to the Next Level with AJR’s Move to the Westchester Campus

The partnership between Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and the Academy for Jewish Religion of California (AJRCA), which has been developing over the past four years, now has more opportunities for scholars from both faith traditions and institutions to work together by being in the same location, as AJRCA finally moved their offices to University Hall last week, after a year+ delay due to the pandemic.

AJRCA is an independent WASC-accredited trans-denominational graduate seminary dedicated to the training of rabbis, cantors, and chaplains, as well as educating other Jewish community leaders and educators through its Masters in Jewish Studies. While grounded in different faith traditions, our two institutions share common goals, including strong commitments to social justice and interfaith dialogue, which are key parts of each organization’s mission and values. As the BCLA community may recall from remarks at past Assemblies, and from participation in various gatherings, events, and shared worship over the past few years, this partnership creates more avenues for our faculties, students, and staff to engage in inter-religious dialogue, collaborative teaching and learning, and interfaith community-building initiatives.

Here is what LMU leaders are saying about the partnership:

VP Mission & Ministry, John Sebastian: “LMU, in concert with other Jesuit universities, has identified interfaith work as a priority and an area of growth. It is a point of pride for our university to answer the call to engage with believers of all faith traditions. This isn’t something we’re doing just because it’s a good thing to do. This is really about who we are, and it’s an expression of LMU’s Catholic identity, which calls us to dialogue with people of all faith traditions and worldviews.”

Provost Tom Poon: “LMU is in a unique position to deeply imagine a growing academic relationship with AJRCA, given that it is situated within the country’s largest Catholic archdiocese, and in a city with one of the largest Jewish populations in the U.S. LMU and AJRCA students who take classes or global immersion trips together, for example, will be more enriched because of their exposure to different faith traditions. We have so much in common in our missions to educate. It’s not just a textbook education; it’s the education of the whole person.”

AJRCA leadership also laud this partnership and frame the auspiciousness of this moment:

AJRCA President Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, Ph.D.: “What’s exceptionally important about this relationship is that our schools are maintaining their individual autonomy while creating a new vision of Jewish and Christian relations. By partnering, we are strengthening the voice of religion and increasing spiritual sensitivity through exploring our values and traditions, in service of creating a better world.”

AJRCA Board Chair Marlene Canter (also LMU grad alum, and member of the SOE Board of Visitors: “I’m excited by this new chapter in Interfaith relations between our two schools. As a longtime advocate of building interfaith bridges, I’m excited that this new alliance will model how to engage in interfaith dialogue and advance (inter)-religious understanding in a rigorous academic setting and through sustained partnership.”

As Dean of BCLA, I have been the primary LMU leadership liaison to AJR as we imagined the potential of their moving to our campus, identified concrete possibilities, and maintained the relationship through the uncertainties and disruptions of the pandemic. I’d like to recognize many BCLA colleagues whose hard work in the trenches supported the process throughout: Jasmine Hamm(!!!), Caroline Madden, and Margaret Butterfield; and the faculty whose engagement also has led to this moment of realization: Holli Levitsky, Fr. Allan Deck, Brett Hoover, Theresia de Vroom, Amir Hussain, Michael Horan, Robeto Dell’Oro, Kim Harris, Jeffrey Wilson, Elizabeth Drummond, Margarete Feinstein, and Rabbi Mark Diamond (with apologies to others I may have inadvertently left out). CFA, SOE, and Hannon Library colleagues, along with members of our Jesuit community have also been involved with building the partnership, and many other staff colleagues have worked assiduously to bring about the lease agreement and move.

Please find an opportunity to pass by AJR’s offices on UHall 3rd floor (where the Center for Undergraduate Teacher Preparation used to be, now located on the 2nd floor). You can also reach out to Rabbi Mel or me if you want a contact with an AJR faculty member who might be invited to speak in a class, or if you want to work together to bring guest speakers, etc. Stay tuned for opportunities to gather and imagine other collaborations, as we seek to cultivate relationships organically that will animate and consolidate this partnership. An interfaith worship service and welcome reception will be planned when it is safe for us to do so.

Robbin D. Crabtree
Dean, Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts