BERLIN (Jul. 15)
The German city of Cologne will soon have its first Jewish elementary school since World War II.
Starting this September, about 20 first-graders will attend classes at the Lauder Morijah Elementary School, named for both a school that existed prior to the Nazi era and for the New York-based Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.
The charitable organization contributed $1.4 million toward the construction of the school and a new social service center, a project that had been put on hold because of funding problems. The building is now expected to be finished by 2003.
Within a few years, Rabbi Binjamin Krauss, director of the Lauder foundation in Germany, expects to have enough pupils to fill four grades. Until the new Jewish center is completed, children will meet in the city’s Jewish community center. The new building will include a synagogue, kindergarten, old age home, meeting rooms and social halls.
At a July 3 ceremony, Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called the new school a “sign that Jews have confidence in this country.”
The first postwar Jewish elementary school in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia was opened in Spiegel’s home city of Dusseldorf 10 years ago.
The total cost of the building project is approximately $19 million. Financing has been secured with help from the Lauder Foundation, from the state of North-Rhine Westphalia for security elements, and from the Protestant church.
Sixty years ago, the Nazis closed all Jewish schools. Some 500,000 Jews lived in Germany before Hitler took power in the 1930s, and Cologne boasted one of Germany’s oldest Jewish communities.
After World War II, about 25,000 Jews lived in Germany, most of them Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe.
That number remained stagnant until 1990, when an influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union began to arrive. Today, there are an estimated 100,000 Jews in Germany.
In recent years, the Lauder foundation has initiated several Jewish educational projects in Germany, in keeping with its goal of supporting Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe.
In the fall of 2001, the foundation opened a new Orthodox Jewish educational program for women in Frankfurt. The Ronald S. Lauder Midrasha for Women is a sister school to the three-year-old Lauder Judisches Lehrhaus for men, located in Berlin.