Outbid on current school, Kehillah moves to Palo Alto campus

Forced out of its home, Kehillah Jewish High School is moving closer to its student base.

School officials were surprised when their current site, the Blackford campus in San Jose, was yanked out from under them by the Harker School, which made a higher bid on the campus.

Now administrators are confident that they’ve got a better deal with their new site, a former Palo Alto office building on 3900 Fabian Way, across from the future Campus for Jewish Life and down the road from Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School.

“It’s perfect. It’s a 50,000-square-foot building that actually has the look and feel of a school in terms of the layout. It’s ideal for us in terms of our growth, too,” said school principal Reuven Greenvald of the 26-classroom building.

“We’ve already begun to talk to our new neighbors about cooperating together. And we’re in the center of our area for [student] recruitment.”

The school signed a five-year lease on Dec. 13, with options for three five-year extensions and a clause permitting the purchase of the property within the next 10 years. School officials refused to discuss the rent, or whether it was more expensive than their current arrangement, which runs roughly $1 million a year. That three-year lease expires in July 2005.

One of Kehillah’s major complaints about Blackford was that the campus was too large for the school. Kehillah currently serves less than 100 students, with a proposed ceiling of 250 to 300. Blackford was so large, Kehillah sublet out various portions of the campus to other, small schools.

“The current site is really spread out so we don’t always interact with everyone on staff,” said Rabbi Joey Felsen, a Jewish texts instructor.

At the new site, “I think there’ll be a lot more cross-interaction. One of the goals of Kehillah is interdisciplinary work and cross-curricular discussion. We’ll have it a lot more so.”

Felsen is also excited to use the new facility to house his Jewish Study Network adult education classes. Greenvald looks forward to attending school basketball games in the Campus for Jewish Life gyms.

“I like the idea of a campus that’s exclusively our own,” said Felsen.

“Everybody is happy because the place is giving us a sense of permanence. Kehillah is a startup school and everyone was looking to see where we’d land. To be locked into a contract with long-term viability gives everyone a sense of hope.”

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.