Vienna’s Jewish Community Campus Officially Inaugurated by Austria’s Federal President

Austrian Press Agency (12/15/2009)

Fischer: Austria has lost part of its identity through the expulsion of the Jewish people – senior home concludes the building of the complex in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt.

Vienna – The new campus of the Jewish Community in Vienna (IKG) is now in full operation following  the opening of the Maimonides Center, a modern nursing home and home for the elderly located on the previous premises of the Jewish Community elderly home in Döbling. “Today is really a special day,” claimed Austria’s Federal President Heinz Fischer during his official speech. “This center will make it possible for people who were treated wrongly during their lifetime to enjoy the end of their lives with a sense of protection and well being.”

When addressing the survivors of the Holocaust, President Fischer also said that even if one cannot turn back the wheels of history, it is never too late to assume responsibility for that history and try to ease the suffering caused by it: “After having lived an indescribably difficult life journey, you can now find here a safe haven in which you can feel protected and at home.”

The Federal President claimed that Austria had lost a significant part of its identity through the expulsion of the Jewish population. “And Austria took a very long time before it was prepared to confront the dark chapters of its past.” That is why it is even more important that with the new Jewish Community campus a place has been created which allows the past to reunite with the future.

Moreover, there is really no better time to inaugurate such a home as during the current celebration of Chanuka, said Jewish Community President Ariel Muzicant during the ceremony, to which Nobel Prize winner for Medicine Erich Kandel as well as film producer Eric Pleskow sent their greetings. Pleskow expressed his strong criticism of Austrian restitution policy.

Apart from the Maimonides Center, the Zwie-Perez-Chajes School including kindergarten and Hakoah Sport and Recreational Center are also located on the campus, the latter two institutions of which were opened in 2008. The evening was primarily spent reflecting on the last phase of life. Muzicant and actor Peter Matic presented a program entitled “The Magic of Old Age,” including poems, essays and film excerpts from the documentary “Young@Heart,” the same name of the British senior rock group. Finally, Muzicant emphasized that the Maimonides Center is no ordinary home but rather a place with warmth and the kind of feeling that distinguished a Jewish home for the aged.

Moreover, Muzicant emphasized that the opening of the entire campus located in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt was a financial show of strength by the Jewish Community. Following his comments, an excerpt was performed from the comedy about a trio of senior bank robbers, “Now or Never – Time is Money.” Some 30 million Euros were funded by the Jewish Community itself while the remaining amount was funded by loans. An additional 27 million Euros came from the City of Vienna along with various ministries; and 4.5 million Euros came from member donations. According to Muzicant, a total amount of 1.5 million Euros is still lacking.

The location of the campus goes back to the previous site of the Jewish sports club, Hakoah, which was expropriated during the NS regime. The ground was restituted to Hakoah no earlier than 2002 as provided by the Washington Agreement regulating the restitution of property looted by the National Socialists. Afterwards, sorely-needed space was also bought by the Jewish Community.

Pleskow criticized Austria for waiting so long to complete restitution in comparison to other countries which long since had it behind them. It took years to discuss every small step instead of working through the issues expeditiously.

Addendum: In 1994 the psycho-social center Esra was founded together with the Jewish Community and the City of Vienna. Its main task is to deal with the medical, therapeutic and social needs of the victims of the Shoah and their members.

In addition to Esra, the Maimonides Center tries to meet other needs of the Jewish community: This home for senior citizens is not only home to many members of the Jewish community, it also runs a geriatric department, two wards and is also a meeting place for the elderly community members who still live in their own homes. Its aim is to meet the expectations and needs of its inhabitants and those in need of care.

The Maimonides Center Sanatorium unites many functions under one roof: a clinic, day care, old age home, nursing home and two nursing stations. At the heart of all its efforts liesthe fulfillment of the expectations and needs of the healthy residents as well as the sick or the needy.