Hillary Clintons visit to Poland includes stop at Jewish school

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

"Those voices also reflect the dedication of your teachers to ensure the tradition which has enriched Poland for centuries will continue to enrich it now and into the next century."

Clinton was in Poland for one day to participate in an international conference called "Partners in Transition: Lesson for the Next Decade." Poland's government hosted the event.

During her visit, Clinton sat in on two classes at the Jewish school, which is run by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. The school has just moved to a large, new campus that will be formally inaugurated at a ceremony next week.

She also spent about half an hour meeting with all teachers and students.

Lauder flew in from New York especially to show Clinton the new school building.

About 165 pupils attend the school, where they learn Hebrew and Jewish culture, religious traditions and history as well as regular academic subjects. It had only 18 pupils when it was founded five years ago.

The school is thus seen as a symbol of the post-communist renewal of Polish Jewry.

Three million Polish Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Most remaining Jews were forced to leave Poland during a state-sponsored anti-Semitic campaign in 1968.

About 10,000 to 15,000 Jews live in Poland today.

The Lauder foundation has been active over the past decade in sponsoring numerous educational, community development and youth activities, as thousands of Jews have stepped forward to reclaim a Jewish identity. The foundation sponsors a smaller school in Wroclaw.

The first lady visited with representatives of Polish Jewry on a trip to Poland in 1996.

Her visit to the school was meant to underscore a decade of economic and cultural revival in Poland since the fall of communism.

But observers noted that the first lady is expected to be the Democratic candidate for the Senate next year in New York, which has a large Jewish population.

They also noted that New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, will be part of the delegation attending the formal opening of the Lauder-Morasha school in Warsaw next week.

White House press secretary Joe Lockhardt, however, said Clinton's trip had nothing to do with New York politics.

The trip, he said, which takes her to Iceland, Slovakia and Italy, focuses on "democracy in Europe and the many programs that she's worked so hard on."