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THE $32 MILLION SCHOOL; MILKEN FOUNDATION AIDS JEWISH CAMPUS.

Byline: Melissa Schmitt Daily News Staff Writer

Move over Beverly Hills 90210.

Welcome to Bel-Air 90066, the home of Los Angeles' newest campus - the Milken Community High School, which sits atop the Sepulveda Pass, up the road a bit from the new Getty Center.

Funded by a $5 million endowment from the Milken Family Foundation, the private Milken High is a pricey campus. It cost $32 million to build. That's a cost of about $49,000 per each of its 650 students.

The 140,000-square-foot, three-story campus that opened this week features an outdoor amphitheater, a broadcast studio, his and her physical-training facilities, four elevators, a library that would shame some colleges, and a student lounge, complete with a coffee shop that sells cappuccino, espresso and creamy lattes.

There is a 40,000-square-foot building to be used for classrooms, yet to be built.

``It's the best-looking school I've ever seen,'' said Neil Matt of Matt Construction, the contractor who built the campus.

But Milken Community High School is about more than a swank student lounge and a Mulholland address, it's got spirit, Rennie Wrubel, head of school, said Friday.

``The world rests on three pillars: Torah, service to others and good deeds. And that's really what this school is all about.''

The new campus is a marked improvement over the prefab bungalows in which the students attended class for seven years until Milken opened down the hill, said Metuka Benjamin, director of education for the Stephen Wise Temple, which is affiliated with the school.

The campus was founded as the Golda Meir School in 1984. For years, the school faced difficulties, renting classrooms at various sites and even shuttling students between those locations, Benjamin said.

Verging on bankruptcy, administrators renamed the institution the Einstein Academy, hoping a name change might improve things.

It didn't.

That's when the Milkens got involved.

School officials approached the Milken Family Foundation, endowed in part by former junk-bond king Michael Milken who was imprisoned for securities fraud, asking for help to pay salaries.

The family obliged.

After that, Benjamin said, the Stephen Wise Temple, a reform congregation nearby, took the school under its wing. ``And that's when we started living a stable life.''

Today, the school even has its own store to sells books on Judaism. Each classroom has an English and Hebrew name. The Israeli flag flies out front. Judaic studies is a very important part of the curriculum.

Milken students are required to take all the courses required by the state, as well as Hebrew and Judaic studies, a heavy load, Wrubel said.

The campus was inaugurated Monday as school Rabbi Bernat-Kunin, carrying the Torah, led a procession of the students to the front door, where they hailed the school's new campus with singing.

The goal of the Milken Community High School is to be a place where students will strengthen their Jewish spirits and enrich their Jewish souls, Wrubel said. ``Every child will leave here with a strong sense of their Jewish heritage.''

Not that admission is limited to Jewish students.

Wrubel said the school is open to students not of the Jewish faith. They have had one non-Jewish student in the past, though they have none now.

Wrubel believes the completion of the Milken school during the celebrated 50th anniversary of the state of Israel is no coincidence.

``What we say in Hebrew is bashert - it was meant to be,'' Wrubel said.

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1--Color) The private Milken Community High School, which received funds from the Milken Family Foundation, opened in Bel-Air on Monday.

(2) Rennie Wrubel, head of school, says Jewish faith is one of the main focuses of Milken Community High.

Myung J. Chun/Daily News
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 9, 1998
Words:620
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