Mission & Activities
The Jewish Welcome Service was founded at the end of 1980 at the initiative of then Mayor Leopold Gratz and City Councillor Heinz Nittel together with Leon Zelman, himself a Holocaust survivor. The goal was to demonstrate the existence of an active and self-confident Jewish community after the Shoah.
The initial situation could scarcely have been worse: 130,000 Jews had been expelled and over 65,000 murdered in concentration and extermination camps. By the end of the War, the once flourishing Jewish community of Vienna had been reduced to just a few hundred members.
The current community was established primarily by “displaced persons” since very few of the Viennese Jews were willing or able to return, and neither were the authorities particularly interested in enabling the exiled Jews to come home.
The Jewish Welcome Service began by inviting small groups of exiles to visit Vienna. These trips have taken place regularly since 1989. By now the Welcome to Vienna programme has made it possible for thousands of former Vienna residents expelled in 1938 to revisit their home town.
The tasks of the Jewish Welcome Service are:
- Run the invitation programme for exiled Austrians, including the second and third generation of Shoah survivors
- Carry out numerous school and adult education projects that address Jewish and Austrian history, and involve inviting and hosting eyewitnesses and speakers
- Cooperate with academics and cultural organisations with an interest in expulsion and exile
- Provide information about Jewish life in Vienna
- Carry out press relations work with journalists from Austria and abroad
- Assist in establishing contacts with Jewish institutions
- Acting as a link between organisations – particularly those concerned with restitution (IKG and ESRA), but also the city of Vienna, the Vienna Tourist Board and the Jewish Museum.
- Report on projects and initiatives undertaken by Vienna City Council and the Austrian government.