Internationally-prominent businessman, philanthropist, community and civic leader, Ronald S. Lauder maintains a deep commitment to his Judaic heritage within a mosaic of charitable and professional endeavors that reach around the world.
Mr. Lauder was appointed United States Ambassador to Austria by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He brought to this position an extensive knowledge of European history; fluency in European languages; and solid experience gained from his Pentagon position in the early 80’s as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO policy. In his capacity as Ambassador to Austria, Mr. Lauder built strong diplomatic bonds between the two nations while personally repudiating Austrian President Kurt Waldheim’s Nazi past.
During his diplomatic posting, Mr. Lauder’s confrontation with anti-Semitism led to an exploration of his own Judeo-Hungarian roots. In the process he discovered that Jews were still living not only in Hungary, but throughout the Central and Eastern European region. Contrary to the then prevailing opinion, Mr. Lauder was confident that these Jews, devastated by the Holocaust and stifled by decades of Communism, would gladly embrace their faith and heritage if only they were given the means to do so. Mr. Lauder felt certain that the once proud Jewish communities that had formerly thrived in this region could flourish again. He resolved to help.
Recognizing the urgency of his mission and the magnitude of the need, Mr. Lauder immediately established his foundation with Jewish education at its core when he returned to New York in 1987.
Indeed, the Foundation focuses most of its resources on Jewish schools, camps, and community centers as the ideal vehicles for Jewish renewal. Today, The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation proudly operates and/or supports over fifty programs spread throughout a network of 13 countries: Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and the Ukraine.
He is the President of the World Jewish Congress, former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and President of the Jewish National Fund. He is a trustee and/or member of the board of: The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Anti-Defamation League Foundation, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and the Abraham Fund. He is a member of the International Society for Yad Vashem and the International Board of Governors of the Tel Aviv Museum. As Chairman of the Jewish Heritage Program of the World Monuments Fund, he is involved in stimulating the restoration of landmark synagogues across the globe.
To build better understanding between individuals living in different cultures, Mr. Lauder has created a non-sectarian International Student Exchange Program linking New York City high school students with their counterparts in Vienna, Budapest, Warsaw, Prague, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Sofia. Now in its 12th year of operation, the program is an integral part of The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.
The son of Estee Lauder and the late Joseph Lauder, founders of Estee Lauder, Inc., Mr. Lauder was born on February 26, 1944. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and holds a Bachelors degree in International Business from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He studied at the University of Paris, and received a Certificate in International Business from the University of Brussels.
Mr. Lauder married the former Jo Carole Knopf in July of 1967. They have two children, Aerin and Jane. The family resides in New York City.