Ashes to Blossoms

Building our Future: An Update On Our Malibu Site

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As the new year 5782 approaches and we look towards the future, we find it a fitting time to say thank you and to provide you with some updates on our Malibu site.    

We are extremely grateful that we successfully ran both of our overnight camps, Camp JCA Shalom and Camp Gesher, this summer. We are proud that we did so with even more happy campers than we had in 2019 – nearly 750 campers experienced that Jewish camp magic! We thank our incredibly dedicated staff for their hard work to make this summer EPIC. Our ShemeshFarms community continues to thrive. This summer our ShemeshFarms’ Farm Fellows, young adults with diverse abilities, came back to work in-person at our Shemesh gardens at Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue. Our continued impact and success is because of your support and participation and belief in our mission. 

From Ashes to Blossoms

This has been our inspiring mantra since the Woolsey Fire destroyed 95% of our Malibu campus on November 9, 2018. Our goal has been, and remains, to turn those Malibu ashes into blossoms.  

In the last year, we have been working closely with Los Angeles County and California Coastal Commission officials. Our Malibu site is located in an ESHA (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area) and in the Coastal Zone, which makes the planning and permitting process much more challenging, complicated, and lengthy. We knew going into this that our location would make rebuilding a challenge. With that said, we are thrilled to tell you that we recently jumped our first hurdle by receiving the entitlements to rebuild! However, this is just the first step among many that need to be taken before any construction begins.  

Our next steps are currently in progress, and include applying for an infrastructure permit for significant code and safety upgrades (required by the Fire Department and other governing bodies) and for building permits for each of the structures. We anticipate additional hurdles and possible complications, but we hope that these permits will be secured in 2022.  

This planning and permitting process is expensive, and construction costs have skyrocketed the last few years and appear to be increasing. As a result, significant funds will be needed to complete the rebuild. While we are seeking these permits, we are working with our architects and consultants on the rebuild price tag and a phasing plan.   

In short, it is extremely complicated, time consuming, and costly. However, we are patient, resilient, tenacious, and optimistic. 

Speaking of ashes to blossoms – we have additional news! We are proud recipients of the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Yashar Grant generously funded by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. This funding supports accessibility features of our rebuild, including fully accessible cabin bathrooms, pathways, staff housing, ropes course, and eight portable ADA compliant bathrooms located in remote locations on our campus, along with support for capacity building around inclusion staffing and program. 

This fall after the holidays, we look forward to running programs and service days on site in Malibu and virtually, as well as camp programs and retreats for synagogue, day schools, and other organizations at various sites in Southern California. Updated program information will be on the website and emailed soon. 

We will continue to keep you informed and very much look forward to being together again soon. 

We wish you all a happy and healthy New Year! 

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova U’Metukah!  

Larry Cohen, President, Shalom Institute
Rabbi Bill Kaplan, Executive Director, Shalom Institute
Joel Charnick, Director, Camp JCA Shalom