prince charles 88.
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The Krakow Jewish community gathered last week for a ceremony to mark the construction of a new Jewish Welfare and Community Center (JCC), an initiative of Prince Charles, son of Britain's Queen Elisabeth.
On a visit to Poland in 2002, Charles was struck by the poor living conditions of the elderly members of the Jewish community in the Kazimierz area of Krakow. Deeply moved by their plight, he was motivated to change their lives for the better.
On his return to the UK, the prince contacted World Jewish Relief (WJR), the London-based charity that provides humanitarian aid for Jews in need around the world, and made a substantial personal donation to the project.
The new center, to be be based in the heart of Kazimierz, near the Tempel Synagogue that was built between 1860 and 1862, will function as a gathering place for the entire community, hosting various social, educational and religious programs.
The project is not a commercial venture and is dedicated solely to satisfying the welfare, educational, social, religious, medical and day-care needs of people of all ages within the community. It will also host exhibitions and will be open to the thousands of tourists who visit Krakow each year.
Key members of the Polish Jewish community and WJR representatives spoke to an excited audience of 200 at the groundbreaking ceremony. They thanked and praised Charles, and spoke of the center as a significant turning point for the community.
Tadeusz Jakubovicz, president of the Krakow Jewish community, said: "Many people come and promise us a future, but the Prince of Wales, and World Jewish Relief promised, and today's ceremony shows that they also deliver and we are so grateful for this."
Nigel Layton, chairman of World Jewish Relief, paid tribute to the prince's vision and support. "A house is not a home, it is just a building," Layton said. "The WJR-supported JCC and programs, and the participation of the Krakow community - students, families and seniors - will fast turn the house into a warm, welcoming home, full of vibrancy and flourishing Jewish life.
"WJR is proud to be at the forefront of the renewal of the Krakow Jewish community," he said.
Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Warsaw-based Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, said: "I have mixed emotions today. I am very happy for the community of Krakow but am filled with envy because we don't have such a wonderful facility in Warsaw!
"The project will revitalize a community that has suffered so much over the years and will enable the rich history of Jewish life in Krakow to be rekindled and enhanced," he said.
Daniella Malec, the head of the Krakow Jewish Student Association, said: "We are not a dying community as everyone seems to think. We are active, young and alive and Krakow is no longer just a place where people come to see how the Jews lived
before the Holocaust. We are a living Jewish community."
In March 1941 the Nazis forced all Krakow Jews to resettle in the newly created ghetto north of Kazimierz. Two years later, the Nazis liquidated it. Most of the 17,000 ghetto inhabitants perished in the Nazi concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Krakow's Plaszow, which is now a commemoration park.
Since the fall of communism in Poland in 1989, Kazimierz, once the vibrant Jewish Quarter of Krakow, has been revived as a Jewish community. It has also become a popular tourist attraction as it is the site where Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List was filmed.
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