JTS Plans Major Redesign Of Its Campus


Making good on expansion plans announced last year, the Jewish Theological Seminary has completed a $96 million deal to sell a portion of its Morningside Heights campus and build a state-of-the-art library, performance center, residence hall and conference facilities.

“This signifies that JTS, as a training ground for Jewish leadership, can reimagine our campus as we boldly invest in our future,” Chancellor Arnold Eisen told The Jewish Week. He said the reinvestment in the campus would better serve the needs of the students at the Conservative seminary as well as allow for “deeper collaboration with our neighbors, our city, and with individuals and communities around the world.”

The sale of a plot of land on the eastern edge of the campus, which includes the current library and an off-campus residence hall, to Savanna, a local real estate investment and development firm, will allow JTS to fund the ambitious plan.

The centerpiece of the project is the library, which will house a world-class Judaica collection including rare books and sacred scrolls that will not only be available to scholars but will also be on public display.

In addition, through international conferences, advanced technology and a focus on the arts, the 30-year-old institution intends to broaden the reach of the seminary.

“We want to bring people to JTS and bring JTS to the world,” Eisen said. “In embarking on this mission we can better prepare leaders for the American Jewish community.”

JTS has engaged architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, who have designed projects at Lincoln Center, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

Eisen and Marc Gary, executive vice chancellor, emphasized that for more than a year, students, faculty and lay leaders have been involved in plans for the new project. The new dormitory will house about 150 students in single and double rooms.

JTS has about 500 full-time students, 1,700 adult learners, hundreds of alumni participating in continuing education programs, and tens of thousands of people taking part in their online learning programs, according to a school official.

During construction, which calls for the demolition of the current library, built in the 1970s, up to 12,000 books will be housed on the seventh floor of the school’s main building. The rare book collection will be kept off-site but retrievable within a day.

Demolition will occur over the summer and early fall, with construction following. The project is scheduled for completion in time for the 2019 fall semester.

Savanna plans to build a 250,000-square-foot residential building at 122nd Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.