Jewish children at Kraków’s first post-holocaust kindergarten end year in joy

The Hebrew alphabet FRAJDA Kindergarten

Kindergarten founder Johnathan Ornstein is proud to have set up the first Jewish kindergarten since the Holocaust.

Millions of happy children went on their summer vacation when the school year came to a close in Poland last Friday. Among them were 13 young Jewish children who have just completed the year in FRAJDA - the first Jewish kindergarten established in Krakow since the Holocaust.

The initiative, led by Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Krakow, was to create a pluralistic Jewish preschool – before FRAJDA, no such option had existed before in Krakow. Once generous donors stepped in with funding, Ornstein and his staff were thrilled to be able to make the school a reality.

The 13 children who enrolled at the beginning of the school year were mainly the children of members of the small Jewish community in Krakow. 

Among the kindergarten’s daily activities children can learn the Hebrew alphabet, and celebrate Jewish holidays and the Sabbath. The staff also teach them basic behavioural conduct and prepare them for elementary school.

The reactions of the children and their parents have been overwhelmingly positive. 

“We have a direct connection with the parents and they are very happy with the activity of the kindergarten. They even tell us that on Shabbat, when the kindergarten is closed, the children ask them ‘Why do not we go to kindergarten today?’” director Malgorzata Pustul told The First News.

When asked how they feel to be part of the first kindergarten in Krakow since the end of World War II, they children said, almost in unison: "Great pride. We are very proud and glad that we have taken a part in it."

Ornstein does not hide his pride in being the one who founded the first Jewish kindergarten since the Holocaust. For him it is a gesture towards the future.

“It's so important to have a pluralistic Jewish preschool in Krakow. FRAJDA's opening was a natural step in the Jewish revival we're seeing, bringing Jewish learning to the next generation,” he told The First News. 

“It's critical that our community's youngest members find Judaism accessible. By engaging with Jewish culture, practice, and community in their earliest school experiences, our students will gain the foundation from which to build their own Jewish identities.”