The Marilyn and Sigi Ziering Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) brings together young Jewish adults from all over the world-- as well as today’s leading Jewish scholars and artists-- to engage in Jewish learning, arts, culture and an exploration of community and self. BCI is held every summer for 27 days at the idyllic Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Ca.
BCI combines programmatic concepts adapted from the Danish Folk High School (expressing one’s identity and culture through the creative arts) and the Israeli Kibbutz (engaging in physical activity and sharing responsibility for the community), set in the context of the American recreational summer camp.
Led by talented professional staff, BCI’s experiential and immersive program brings alive the Brandeis-Bardin Campus’ 2,700-acre natural classroom. The Brandeis-Bardin Campus is as much a feeling as it is a place. Committed to the artistic, cultural, intellectual, and environmental pursuits of the Jewish people, individuals from across the globe have delighted in our nurturing environment for over seven decades. We strive to "touch and to teach" all who come down Peppertree Lane.
At BCI, exploration of self and Judaism occurs within a safe, pluralistic community, where participants from around the world experience multifaceted aspects of Jewish life and culture. Participants are exposed to a multitude of Jewish perspectives and encouraged to find their voice within the tradition.
Originally founded by Dr. Shlomo Bardin in 1941 as “Brandeis Camp Institute,” BCI was named to honor our nation's first Jewish United States Supreme Court Justice, Louis D. Brandeis, who was instrumental as the visionary and primary funder of Dr. Bardin’s initial programmatic endeavor. Justice Brandeis called BCI "a laboratory for living Judaism."
Individuals have been visiting the Brandeis-Bardin Campus to enjoy creative arts, Jewish learning, and the outdoors for over seventy years. Below are milestones from BCI’s history:
- BCI was originally founded by Dr. Shlomo Bardin in 1941 as “Brandeis Camp Institute.”
- In 1947, Brandeis Camp Institute purchased 2,200 acres of land in the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains outside Simi Valley, CA. To Dr. Bardin, the rolling hills were reminiscent of the Judean Hills outside Jerusalem.
- Dr. Bardin organized the first adult weekend retreats in 1950. These weekends became a model for Jewish adult education across the country.
- In the 1960’s, with the expansion of programs beyond BCI, including significant Jewish experiences for children and adults, the Institute's name was changed to "The Brandeis Institute.”
- In 1972, neighbor James Arness (star of "Gunsmoke," one of the longest-running cowboy westerns in early television history) gifted his entire ranch to BCI, increasing the Institute’s acreage by 40 percent. The Arness gift is believed to be the largest single gift of land to a Jewish institution in the history of California.
- In the 1970s, BCI expanded its youth programs to include weekend retreats for high school students. The name of the Institute was changed again in 1977 to "The Brandeis-Bardin Institute" to honor the memory of its founder, Dr. Shlomo Bardin.
- Since the 1990's, Brandeis-Bardin has been a favorite location for production of feature films, television series, reality shows, and commercials. The extensive list of productions includes Jurassic Park, Man on the Moon, Power Rangers, Spartan, Star Trek VI, Celebrity Fit Club, Diagnosis Murder, Melrose Place, Bones, House, Ghost Whisperer, Got Milk, Big Love, and 24.
- In 2007, the Brandeis-Bardin Institute merged with the University of Judaism in a landmark merger to become the American Jewish University. Known today as the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of the American Jewish University, it is believed to be the largest parcel of land owned by a Jewish institution outside the State of Israel.
- In 2009, BCI was endowed by the Marilyn and Sigi Ziering family to become the Marilyn and Sigi Ziering Brandeis Collegiate Institute.