Austria’s Largest Jewish School

Die Presse (09/18/2008)

Austria’s Largest Jewish School

Opening. The Perez-Chajes School with 600 children opened their doors.

Vienna – Children are running through the halls, others are sitting in their classrooms studying while a teacher rushes by. Daily routine has settled in at the Zwi-Perez-Chajes School (ZPC) in the 2nd district, recently inaugurated by Federal President Heinz Fischer.

The private Jewish school, offering instruction to children in kindergarten, elementary school and high school, can accommodate up to 600 school children. That makes it the largest Jewish school in Austria and “largest of its kind in Europe,” explained president of the Vienna Jewish Community Ariel Muzicant.

Currently enrolled in the Zwi-Perez-Chajes School are some 380 children who, due to lack of space, were forced to relocate from the Castellezgasse in the Augarten to Simon-Wiesenthal-Gasse near the Prater stadium. The number of school children attending the school is expected to increase to 500 within the next two years.

Apart from required subjects such as mathematics and German, children are instructed in the Jewish tradition. “Children begin learning at the age of three,” says Muzicant. Kosher food is served; Jewish holidays are observed and the boys wear the Kippa or skullcap; school uniform is mandatory; instruction is partly in Hebrew; and coursework is often interdisciplinary, with comparisons drawn to Jewish history. “The school children are to be taught a sense of Jewish pride and self-confidence. We teach Judaism without forcing it on a child.”

The cost of the modern building, consisting of 28,000 square meters and made of steel and glass, is some 16 million euros. Four million came from the Federation, four million from the City of Vienna, 4.57 million from the Vienna Jewish Community and the rest was raised through donations and grants.

The Jewish school, open to children between the ages of one-and-a-half to 18, is not the only sign of a new Jewish identity observed in the 2nd district. The Jewish sports club Hakoah shares its sports field with the school. Also currently under construction is the Jewish home for assisted living, the Maimonides Center.