BUDAPEST (Oct. 5)
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has told students at a new Jewish school campus in Warsaw to let their voices be heard in the new, democratic Poland.
Pupils at the Lauder-Morasha school sang “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem” to welcome Clinton on Tuesday.
“When I listened to you sing your song of peace, I thought how hard you work to make sure that your voices are heard in today’s Poland,” she told them.
“Those voices also reflect the dedication of your teachers to ensure the tradition which has enriched Poland for centuries will continue to enrich it now and into the next century,” she said.
Clinton sat in on two classes at the school, which is run by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and has just moved to a big, new campus that will be formally inaugurated at a gala ceremony next week. She also spent about half an hour meeting with all teachers and students.
Lauder flew in from New York especially to show Clinton the new building.
Some 165 pupils attend the school, where they learn Hebrew and Jewish culture, religious traditions and history as well as regular academic subjects. It had only 18 pupils when it was founded five years ago.
The school is thus seen as a symbol of the post-communist renewal of Polish Jewry.
Some 3 million Polish Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Most remaining Jews were forced to leave Poland during a state-sponsored anti-Semitic campaign in 1968.
Some 10,000 to 15,000 Jews live in Poland today.
The Lauder foundation has been active over the past decade in sponsoring numerous educational, community development and youth activities, as thousands of Jews have stepped forward to reclaim a Jewish identity. The foundation sponsors a smaller school in Wroclaw.
The first lady visited with representatives of Polish Jewry on a trip to Poland in 1996.
Her visit to the school was meant to underscore a decade of economic and cultural revival in Poland since the fall of communism.
But observers noted that the first lady is expected to be the Democratic candidate for the Senate next year in New York, which has a large Jewish population.
They also noted that New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, will be part of the delegation attending the formal opening of the Lauder-Morasha school next week.
White House press secretary Joe Lockhardt, however, said Clinton’s trip had anything to do with New York politics.
The trip, he said, which takes her to Iceland, Slovakia and Italy, focuses on “democracy in Europe, and the many programs that she’s worked so hard on.”