Czech Jewish Day School Begins to Enroll First Pupils

When registration began earlier this month, nine students enrolled at the first Jewish day school to open in Prague since World War II. The opening of the Ronald Lauder Basic School is indicative of the revival of Jewish life in Prague, a city whose vibrant Jewish community was all but annihilated during the war.

Depending on the number of students who enroll in the coming months, the school will have either one or two first-grade classes when it opens its doors in the fall.

The school, which is financed by the U.S.-based Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and other Jewish organizations, has been accredited by the Czech government.

It will teach its students Judaism as well as computer and English-language skills, along with other core courses that are required by law.

Rabbi Mordechai Deshe of the Prague Jewish community said the school’s administrators set out to develop “an excellent curriculum in order to attract parents.”

“We want to convince parents that there is no better education available for their children in Prague,” said the chief rabbi of the Czech Republic, Karol Sidon. “Many Jewish parents are concerned about the quality of education their children receive.”

Administrators hope to add more first-grade classes as well as classes for older children. They want to ensure that the student-teacher ratio never exceeds 20:1.

“I like the fact that he will receive individual attention from his teachers,” said Halka Tresnakva, explaining why she had enrolled her son, Alan, at the school. “And I want to raise him in the Jewish tradition.”

Many other parents will want the same for their children, Deshe said.

“Jewish life has been [flourishing] here every year since the collapse of communism in 1989,” he said. “There is no comparison to the way it was 10 years ago.”

Deshe said the Jewish community has in recent years overseen the opening of a club, an afternoon Hebrew school and a kindergarten, whose popularity convinced the community that there was a need for a primary school.

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