Brandeis Hillel plans massive expansion of its S.F. campus

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Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Francisco will soon expand its facilities and its 1.9-acre campus on Brotherhood Way, its home for 18 years.

The school plans to add 63,000 square feet — including a technology center, a Jewish studies chapel and a performing arts space.

The first of three phases will be a 24,200-square-foot building that will include, in addition to the technology center and chapel, a library, art room, classrooms and staff offices.

Phase one will cost an estimated $8.7 million, according to Rabbi Henry Shreibman, head of schools at Brandeis, which also has a campus in San Rafael.

With a total of 535 students at both campuses, the San Francisco campus currently houses 325 in grades K through eight. Shreibman expects the San Francisco student population to max out at 360.

Ultimately, the campus will encompass the existing Brandeis facilities and the adjacent former Jewish Community Center building on Brotherhood Way, both bought by Brandeis in 1995. It will also include land owned by the neighboring synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel-Judea.

Phase two involves erecting a building along the back of the property for classrooms and an additional art room. The third phase includes adding a cafeteria and a performing arts complex, both near the gym in the JCC building.

Costs and timelines for phases two and three have yet to be determined, but the overall cost for the entire project is expected to range between $15 and $20 million.

"Brandeis will be [the city's] largest Jewish educational and cultural center south of Golden Gate Park," said Shreibman. "It will be like a one-stop shop."

The renovation plans are still subject to final approval by the Brandeis board and the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, however, Shreibman said.

Beth Israel-Judea granted its approval last month, and the city of San Francisco planning department gave approval last year.

If all goes well with the other approvals, Shreibman said he intends to break ground on phase one in May. The new facility, which will replace a building formerly owned by Beth Israel-Judea, should take about 18 months to complete, he added.

"The school will be operational during this whole time," Shreibman said. "We'll have to use temporary modules, but as it says in the Talmud: According to the amount that you suffer, you will gain."

The estimated $8.7 million will cover the costs for construction, furniture and other expenses for phase one of the expansion. So far, an ongoing capital campaign has raised approximately $6 million.

"Our goal is to be able to pay off all construction costs and have no debt," said Michael Bien, co-chair of the capital campaign committee. "We also hope to have money left for an endowment fund, for professional development, tuition assistance and other programmatic purposes."

The 35-year-old JCC building itself will be progressively demolished and rebuilt throughout the three phases. The gym is the only component in the building that will not be torn down; instead, it will be renovated during phase three.

Because both the JCC and the former synagogue-owned building have been in the San Francisco Jewish community for so long, Shreibman plans to find a way to commemorate them.

"There's a great deal of nostalgia for these old buildings," said Shreibman. "We will be collecting pictures and memorabilia from the JCC and the old temple building to, in some way, be woven in as an educational component for the Jewish community and students."

He also hopes to make the construction process an educational one for students and the Jewish community.

"They will learn how construction works," said Shreibman. The builder, S.F.-based Plant Construction, "is an expert in independent school building and has an excellent way of incorporating community," he said.

Construction will not take place on Shabbat or any other Jewish holidays.

Founded in San Francisco in 1963, Brandeis moved to its current site on Brotherhood Way 20 years later, renting its space from the United JCC. Before the move, the school had rented space from Reform Congregation Sherith Israel.

In 1994, to meet its long-range planning goals and accommodate growth, the school began upgrades to the campus, which included building a library and two middle school classrooms.

In 1995, Brandeis purchased the JCC building and the 1.9 acre Brotherhood Way property from United JCC for $1.8 million. The JCC became a Brandeis tenant, renting on a permanent lease and continuing to operate some of its programs, including a 70- to 75-student early childhood education program.

Brandeis, meanwhile, rented space from Beth Israel-Judea, to accommodate its ever-increasing student population.

All three institutions will continue to share space on and around the campus. "We have a natural relationship growing between us," said Shreibman, adding that the plan will create a sort of "cultural center" on Brotherhood Way.

"Between the three agencies' students, teachers and congregants, we'll have over 1,500 families sharing our campus," Shreibman said. "It will be a wonderful combination of synagogue life, early childhood education and learning."

Shreibman added: "Over the years Brandeis has become more exciting and dynamic. Now the facility will match."

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