VIENNA (Oct. 5)
In keeping with its goal of rekindling Jewish life in Eastern and Central Europe, the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation inaugurated two Jewish schools in Warsaw and Prague in September and broke ground for a new school campus in Budapest.
“Today we are beginning a job that never ends, because education has no end. It is my dream that what we undertake today will live on and on,” Ronald Lauder said at the opening ceremonies for the new school in Warsaw.
The Lauder-Morasha School, which has 15 students in the first grade, is the first Jewish school to be established in Poland in a quarter-century; it is the first to open in Warsaw in 45 years. It joins schools sponsored by the foundation already established in Budapest and Vienna.
The school’s director, American-born Helise Lieberman, said the school curriculum will offer the basic requirements of Polish primary schools and will meet the standards set by the Ministry of Education.
It will also, she said, include the teaching of Hebrew and English, as well as offer classes in Jewish tradition and culture. In addition, there will be classes in computers, music, fine arts, theater arts and sports, as well as numerous after-school activities.
‘SEE THAT THE CHAIN OF FAITH IS UNBROKEN’
“Savaged by genocide and continuing repression, the Eastern European Jewish communities have only barely survived to see the changes of today,” Lauder said at the opening in Warsaw. “But they have survived, and as renewal begins here and in Jewish communities across Eastern Europe, we must see to it that the chain of faith is unbroken.”
Lauder attended the inauguration ceremonies in the three cities within a two-day period in early September.
The ceremonies were timed to coincide with the 55th anniversary of the start of World War II on Sept. 1, 1939. They were designed to show that the spark of Jewish life in Eastern and Central Europe still glowed, despite the Nazi efforts at eradicating all traces of the European Jewish community.
Lauder, a former U.S. ambassador to Austria, became deeply interested in his Jewish roots and in preserving Jewish religion and culture in Eastern and Central Europe during his posting to Vienna.
A day after attending the school’s opening ceremonies in Warsaw, he traveled on to Prague, where the Lauder Foundation was opening a Jewish kindergarten — 55 years after the forced shut-down of the city’s Jewish school.
The Lauder kindergarten in Prague is located on the premises of a state-run kindergarten, where some 150 children ages 3 to 6 already attend morning classes.
Twelve children have enrolled so far in the Jewish kindergarten. While they will be supplied with kosher meals and will be taught about Jewish holidays and tradition, they are expected to take part in activities with the children in the state-run kindergarten.
“We can easily compare our 12 children with the 12 tribes in the Bible,” said Zeno Dostal, president of the Prague Jewish community. “They would have gotten lost altogether, if we could not have offered any Jewish education to them.”
Thirty-five thousand Jews lived in Prague at the outbreak of World War II. At least two-thirds of them perished in the war.
Dostal estimated that there are now between 5,000-7,000 Jews living in the Czech Republic.
“Today, the true victory belongs to us and our children. Just a few years ago, the foundation of a Jewish kindergarten like this, marked with cooperation and support from the government, would have been impossible,” Lauder said.
Lauder arrived the same day in Budapest to break ground for the construction of a new campus for the Lauder Javne School in the Hungarian capital.
Established in 1990, the Lauder Javne Community School currently has three schools operating separately in Budapest — a kindergarten, elementary school and high school.
The new campus, for which the Lauder Foundation has committed $4,250,000 for construction costs, will permit the three schools to operate as one unit in one location.
The municipality of Budapest has provided a free 99-year lease on the five-acre site of the new campus, which is expected to open for the 1996-97 school year.
Some 500 children, ages 3-18, currently attend classes at the three schools. With the completion of the new campus, more than 600 students will be able to attend the school.