New Jewish Campus, Funded by Lauder, Opens in Budapest

The new campus of a Jewish school, funded with a grant of $4.5 million from the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, was inaugurated here this week.

The first school campus to be privately built in Hungary since the end of World War II, the Lauder Javne Jewish Community School houses a kindergarten, elementary school and high school. It will offer a Jewish education to 600 Hungarian children ages 5 to 18.

The school, which was first founded here in 1990, found a new site on a five- acre campus in the Buda Hills that was donated on a rent-free, 99-year lease by the Budapest municipality.

Among those attending the new campus’ inauguration ceremony were Lauder, Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, Israeli Ambassador Joel Alon and other Hungarian officials.

The new school campus represented Lauder’s largest investment in an Eastern or Central European Jewish community. The Lauder foundation also funded Jewish kindergartens, schools and summer camps in Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Belarus.

Hungary, with an estimated 80,000 Jews, has the largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe.

At Thursday’s dedication ceremony, Donald Blinken, the U.S. ambassador to Budapest, read a letter from President Clinton, who said the school “is the fruit of the young Hungarian democracy and tolerance, which will prevail over the deepest darkness.”

Lauder spoke at the dedication ceremony of strengthening the Jewish identity of the school’s students. “After so many years of repression, the spirit of Jewish education has once again taken root in Eastern Europe,” he said.

“We believe that our school creates a unique environment for strengthening the Jewish identity of our children in this region,” Lauder said, adding the hope that “the graduates of our Javne School will proudly carry the Jewish faith into the future.”

In his speech, Alon recalled his childhood at a school in a district outside Budapest, where most of his Jewish schoolmates perished in the Holocaust.

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