KRAKOW, Poland (JTA) — The JCC of Krakow has received a $500,000 grant from the New York City-based Eric and Erica Schwartz Family Foundation, the largest single grant awarded to a Polish Jewish organization in the last 20 years.
The funds will support the creation of an Early Childhood Center at JCC Krakow located in Kazimierz, the heart of the city’s Jewish district. It will be the first full-time that a pluralistic Jewish nursery school will be open in Krakow since before World War II. The school is scheduled to open in fall 2017 with a soft opening earlier.
The Early Childhood Center, to be named “Frajda” meaning “joy” in both Yiddish and Polish, will be a Jewish pluralistic nursery school serving the growing number of young Jewish families in Krakow. Frajda will provide a comprehensive Jewish curriculum focusing on the holidays, history, and Jewish identity. The newly designed, state-of-the-art space is being created in consultation with leading Jewish early childhood experts from Poland, the United States, and Israel.
“The preschool years are the ideal time for learning about Jewish culture, values, and traditions. We are so pleased to make it possible for Krakow’s Jewish families to send their children to a school that will focus on providing this foundation for the youngest members of the community,” said Erica Schwartz in a statement.
“Jewish life is once again thriving in Krakow and the Schwartz family believes that this community deserves a future and that Jewish education is an integral part of that future,” said Jonathan Ornstein, executive director of JCC Krakow.
JCC Krakow also received support of The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation to underwrite the annual security needs of Frajda. Lauder was the first philanthropist to commit serious resources to rebuilding Jewish life in Poland after 1990, including restoration efforts in the Kazimierz district and its seven historic synagogues, as well as numerous educational initiatives serving the Jewish population of Krakow. His foundation today is the largest provider of Jewish education in Poland through the Lauder Morasha School in Warsaw, and the Lauder E-Learning School for Jewish children in small communities across the country.
JCC Krakow was opened in April 2008 by The Prince of Wales. It has quickly established itself as the focal point of Jewish life for the city’s residents, as well as thousands of visitors from around Poland and the world every month. Today it has over 600 active Jewish members, including 75 Holocaust survivors.