NET WORTH: $4 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Estee Lauder
JEWISH FUNDING AREAS: Jewish Youth in Europe
OVERVIEW: In 1987, Lauder established The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, dedicated to rebuilding Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe that were devastated by the Holocaust, with an emphasis on Jewish schools, camps, and community centers. Lauder is president of the World Jewish Congress and Chairman Emeritus of the Jewish National Fund.
BACKGROUND: The son of Estee and Joseph Lauder, Ronald S. Lauder was born in 1944. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and holds a bachelor's from Wharton. In 1964, Lauder began his professional career working for his parents’ company, Estee Lauder Company. In 1983, he took a leave from the company to serve in the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for European and NATO Affairs. In 1986 he was named U.S. Ambassador to Austria. Lauder resides in New York with his family.
"For three decades, we have been committed to rebuilding Jewish life in that part of Europe where the destruction of the Holocaust was followed by the oppression of Communist rule. Why are we helping in these countries? Because half a century after the Holocaust, Jews are still there and want to be Jewish once again."
The primary focus of this rebuilding is a commitment to youth education. The foundation's website features this quote of Lauder's:
"Our philanthropy underwrites the future of Jewish life in Europe through supporting excellent Jewish schools. And what is an excellent Jewish school? One that prepares young Jews for personal and professional success, and that inspires active participation in Jewish life.”
An important part of Ronald Lauder's perspective stems from his experiences as U.S. ambassador to Austria from 1986 to 1987, a period that he says shaped him because of the the anti-semitism he encountered. More recently, in 2015, on the heels the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Lauder said "European leaders have stepped up and strongly condemned these attacks on Jews and the rise of anti-Semitism. The United States must do the same. The United States must lead."
Lauder is also a prolific art collector who owns a massive art collection with 4,000 works worth at least $1 billion. He has advocated for museums across Europe to return art stolen by the Nazis to the descendants of their original owners. Lauder is also a cofounder of Neue Galerie New York, a museum devoted to early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design.
The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation works within several initiatives. It funds Jewish kindergartens in Europe. The foundation supports over a dozen kindergartens in around ten countries. These include Lauder Chabad Kindergarten in Vienna, Austria and Lauder Gan Yehuda Kindergarten, Prague, Czech Republic.
The Lauder Foundation also funds Jewish youth centers and camps. This includes the Lauder JOINT International Jewish Youth Camp in Szarvas, Hungary. The foundation also supports youth centers in eastern and northern Germany and in Austria.
The foundation is also interested in institutions of higher learning. The foundation established the Lauder Business School in Vienna, as well as Lauder Yeshurun-Yeshivat Beit Zion and the Midrasha in Berlin. The foundation is a longtime supporter of Lauder-Morasha School in Warsaw and recently the school launched the Lauder Morasha e-Learning School.
The foundation has also supported organizations like Council of Jews in Germany, and Orthodox Union, an "educational, outreach and social service organization serving the Jewish community in North America, Israel and worldwide."
LOOKING FORWARD: Lauder's outspokenness on the United States' role in support for the Jewish community around the world should be watched carefully (his art collection, too). Down the line, we'll also have to keep apprised of the next generation of Lauder family philanthropy.
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