Muslim school Zaytuna College moving to Berkeley’s ‘Holy Hill’

May 31, 2012 2:36 pm 0 comments Views: 401

Zaytuna College, a small school in Berkeley that offers majors in Islamic Law and Theology and also Arabic, is moving across town to a spot on “Holy Hill” north of the University of California, Berkeley campus.
The college, now on Hillegass Avenue near People’s Park on the south side of campus, raised $4.9 million through a “brick by brick campaign” to buy a 1939 church building in the angle where Le Conte and Scenic avenues meet. Walter Ratcliff Jr. designed the building for the University Christian Church. A two-story addition was added in 1956.
Zatyuna plans to spend $2.1 million on renovations at the site, recently vacated by the Unity of Berkeley congregation (which has moved in with Chochmat HaLev, a Jewish congregation across town on Prince Street, for a year). When done, there will be a large lecture hall, a library, a prayer room, a computer lab and eight classrooms that have space for 25 students each.
It’s a 29,217 square foot lot and a 21,777 square foot building.
The new site is smack in the middle of Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union, or GTU, a group of theology schools that joined forces in 1962. So when it settles into its new space, Zaytuna will find itself rubbing elbows with neighbors like the Unitarian Universalists at Starr King School for the Ministry (right next door), the Episcopalians at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (around the corner), the Pacific School of Religion (a multi-denominational seminary of the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church and the Disciples of Christ, just across the street) and three Catholic seminaries — Dominican, Franciscan and Jesuit.
But Zaytuna’s already used to diverse theological neighbors — it will be leaving another GTU member neighbor, the American Baptist Seminary of the West at its current home at Dwight Way and Hillegass Avenue, kitty-corner from People’s Park.
The new spot is also just around the corner from the excellent GTU library.
Since the GTU’s been working to break down religious barriers for more than half a century in the neighborhood (and after all, it’s Berkeley, one of the most liberal cities in the country), Zaytuna will most likely fit in nicely.
Down the hill on Euclid Avenue, Zaytuna’s students will find other signs of Holy Hill’s pluralist atmosphere at Brewed Awakening, a cafe opened in the 1980s by Israeli and Palestinian partners.
And Zaytuna looks forward to that pluralist spirit.
“We want to be there, at the heart of a meaningful engagement of faiths in our increasingly interdependent and pluralistic world that is unfortunately still too rife with conflict and misunderstanding,” the school said.

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