Covid-19: Jewish school in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia benefits from crisis fund

Written by on September 15, 2020 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Covid-19: Jewish school in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia benefits from crisis fund

The Ronald S Lauder School in Bulgaria, opened in 2019 as the first Jewish school in Sofia for several decades, is among beneficiaries of a crisis fund to counter the threat from the Covid-19 pandemic, a September 15 media statement said.

Thanks to the generosity of seven funders teaming up to secure the future of Jewish education in communities across Europe, more than 3000 children in 13 communities will be able to continue to pursue their studies at Jewish community day schools.

The statement said that the detrimental economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has threatened European day schools, which play a central role connecting children and families to the local Jewish community and educating future leaders.

“Without additional support, many of the schools would be unable to provide tuition relief to families affected by the crisis, and other schools face existential risk of closure,” the statement said.

“Most of the beneficiary schools were in precarious financial positions before the pandemic hit. Now, with parents struggling to pay tuition as well as regular donors unable to support the schools at previous levels, the situation has become dire.”

Educating for Impact (EFI), a London-based nonprofit organisation that promotes strategic change in Jewish schools to secure and strengthen Jewish communities in Europe, supports schools in 19 cities across the continent.

EFI is supported through the generosity of seven partners, together with Israel’s ministries of education and diaspora affairs and their designated partner, United at the Center for Educational Technology. Five of EFI’s partners have come together alongside two external funders to launch the European Jewish Community Day School Crisis Fund.

Ronald S. Lauder, honorary president of EFI’s board of trustees and president of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, said on behalf of the trustees and other fund donors, “Now more than ever, it is our responsibility as Jews to support Jewish communities in Europe by investing in their schools, which will guarantee their future.

“We must be particularly steadfast in that commitment during times of crisis. Historically, we have been able to overcome the greatest challenges by supporting each other and working together.”

The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, an EFI partner, supports more than 30 Jewish schools, kindergartens and summer camps (and other projects) in 15 countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The European Jewish Community Day School Crisis Fund announced 2.3 million euro (about $2.7 million) in grants to 13 schools in need to ensure they could keep their doors open as well as provide scholarships to students struggling to afford tuition as a result of the pandemic.

Communities experiencing hardship applied for grants, and funds were allocated based upon the criteria of increased scholarship needs, decreased donor funding, decreased community funding, and increased costs related to compliance with health guidelines.

Grants awarded range from 75 000 euro to 405 000 euro.

Professor David Latchman, chairman of EFI’s board of trustees, said: “As this unprecedented health and economic crisis continues to unfold, the board of trustees of Educating for Impact remains deeply committed to supporting Jewish schools and communities in Europe.

“We are fully dedicated to ensuring the existence and sustainability of active and thriving Jewish life through Jewish education. We applaud and are inspired by the heroic response and resilience that we have seen from the leadership of European Jewish communities.”

Latchman is also chairman of the trustees of the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation, and a trustee of the Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Philanthropic Foundation, an EFI partner and crisis fund donor.

European Jewish community day schools are unique, irreplaceable institutions. In many cases, they are the only Jewish schools in their respective communities.

All communities which applied for grants received support. The communities include schools in Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Helsinki, Leeds, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Prague, Rome, Sofia and Tallinn.

“There are no words that can express our gratitude and appreciation for the decision of the Educating for Impact board to support our new school with additional funding for COVID-19 recovery,” said Julia Dandolova, CEO of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom”, which is connected to the Ronald S. Lauder School in Sofia.

“This grant is not only financial support but an important reminder that we are not alone, and we have partners who care deeply for our community.”

The crisis fund is funded by the following EFI partners: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Philanthropic Foundation, Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, an anonymous donor, and external funders The Maimonides Fund  and Mikhail Fridman.

Most schools are opening the school year and their buildings under significant public health regulations and social distancing guidelines, requiring them to adjust schedules, change teaching assignments, and invest in new technologies.

At the same time, schools are planning distance learning curricula in preparation for the potential need to shut down again. Many schools have had their start date adjusted many times by local government, the statement said.

(Archive photo: A classroom at the Ronald S Lauder School in Sofia at the time of its September 2019 opening)

For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria, please click here.

The Sofia Globe’s coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria is supported by the Embassy of Switzerland.

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About the Author

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.