Lauder praises Mayor Häupl's efforts to revive Jewish life in Vienna
16 December 2009
Michael Häupl, mayor of the Austrian capital Vienna, has been presented with the World Jewish Congress' highest distinction, the Nahum Goldmann Medal, named after the long‑time president of the organization. In the presence of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos and Jewish leaders from Europe, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder awarded the medal to Häupl on Monday in a ceremony at Vienna's City Hall.
Lauder praised Häupl for the huge contribution he has made in reviving Jewish life in Vienna during his tenure as mayor, by facilitating the construction of Jewish schools and other institutions, by courageously speaking out against anti‑Semitism and extremism, and by always having an open ear for the community's concerns. "Mayor Häupl is well aware that this was once one of the major Jewish centers in Europe, and through his words and actions he has helped to turn Vienna into a magnet for Jewish visitors from around the world. Jews feel welcome there again," the WJC president declared.
Prior to 1938, when the Nazis annexed Austria, Vienna had a Jewish population of nearly 200,000. "Before 1938, for over 700 years, important Jewish schools and scholars of the Torah had their place here, and these Jewish authorities had a huge impact on communities around the world," Lauder told guests at the ceremony, adding: "Steadily, Jewish life is returning to this great city. Without the personal engagement of Mayor Häupl, all this would not have been possible. He has the vision, and the ability to make it happen. And he has always had an open ear for the needs of the Jewish community here."
Lauder praised Häupl's support for building the new 'campus' of the Viennese Jewish Community, which includes the Maimonides Center, the biggest home for elderly Jews in Europe. The center was inaugurated on Tuesday. In thanking the World Jewish Congress for the award, Häupl said he would continue to speak out against racism and anti‑Semitism and the extremist policies espoused by the right‑wing Freedom Party once led by the late Jörg Haider.
Among past recipients of the Nahum Goldmann Medal are former US President Jimmy Carter, former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, former Argentinean President Raúl Alfonsin, and the American astronomer and writer Carl Edward Sagan.
In Vienna, Lauder ‑ who during the 1980s served as US ambassador to Austria ‑ also met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, and discussed issues such as the Iranian threat and the situation in the Middle East.
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