For more than 140 years ORT has been transforming lives through training and education


ORT in the 19th Century: Strong Foundations

ORT was founded in St Petersburg, Tsarist Russia, in 1880 to provide employable skills for Russia’s impoverished Jews. The organization’s founding fathers were Nikolai Bakst, Baron Horace Gunzburg and Samuel Poliakov.

Together with several influential members of the St Petersburg Jewish community they obtained permission to form ORT, a “charitable fund for a useful purpose”, in honor of the Tsar’s 25th anniversary. The name “ORT” was coined from the acronym of the Russian words “Obshestvo Remeslennogo i zemledelcheskogo Truda”, meaning “The Society for Trades and Agricultural Labour”.

ORT distributed funds to Jewish schools for handicraft and agricultural training and provided grants or loans to artisans and farmers. In the early 1900s the organization began to sponsor cooperative ventures, to support training programs in Jewish schools and to establish its own vocational schools.


1880 Founder and President of ORT

Samuel Poliakov


Founder and President of ORT 1880-1888

1880 Founder and Chief Executive of ORT

Nikolai Bakst


Founder and Chief Executive of ORT 1880-date unknown


1890 Founder and President of ORT

Baron Horace de Gunzburg


Founder and President of ORT 1906-1909



The house of CL Koifuan, a Jewish peasant, in Criuleni, Bessarabia


1920s-1930s Pervomaiskii settlement, Belarus

Pervomaiskii settlement


1921 Delegates during the first ORT Congress

Delegates during the first ORT Congress,where World ORT Union was founded.

Berlin, Germany, August 1921

1920s and 1930s

1920s and 1930s: ORT continues to grow

During and after the First World War, ORT’s workshops, credit and labour offices saved thousands from starvation and unemployment. In 1921 the ORT Union (today’s World ORT) was created to coordinate fundraising efforts and to oversee ORT’s growing activities in Europe and elsewhere.

Through the interwar years ORT supported Jewish farmers with equipment, loans and training while graduates of ORT’s technical schools gained employment as technicians and engineers. In the 1930s ORT courses helped Jewish refugees fleeing the rise of Hitler to prepare for life in other countries.

In the Soviet Union, ORT worked with the authorities to establish industries and supply materials and machinery but was forced to close down its operations in 1938.


1938 At work in Berlin

Students working in a workshop with instructor Max Abraham

ORT Berlin, November 1938

Photographer credit: Lilli Szkolny

Sifting grain

Sifting grain using a machine hired from ОRT Alexandreni [Aleksandreny], Bessarabia, Romania [now Moldova]


1940s: ORT becomes a 'Passport to Life'

The movement of Jewish refugees led to the development of new ORT programs beyond Europe, mainly in South America. In Europe, during the Holocaust, ORT became a “Passport to Life” as our trainees in ghettos received extra food rations and were selected for labour details. In many cases, this meant the difference between life and death.

After the war ORT trained tens of thousands of survivors and displaced persons from Jewish communities throughout Europe. ORT graduates contributed to the building of the early Jewish community of Palestine and, after the founding of the State of Israel, ORT became a key feature in the country’s education system.

ORT also turned its attention to the needs of “forgotten” Jewish communities in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Iran.


1948 Taking to the skies in Italy

Engingeers at the ORT School for Pilots

Italy, 1948

1949 Auto-Mechanics in Vienna

Students at work at the ORT school for auto-mechanics

Vienna, Austria, c. 1949


1950s ORT Place in New York

A city government official joins members of Women’s American ORT to rename a street “ORT Place” for the day

New York, United States, mid-1950s

1950s Mechanics' workshop in Casablanca

Getting busy in a mechanics’ workshop

 ORT Casablanca, Morocco, 1950s

Photographer credit: Marc Lacroix.


1965 Student training at Anieres

A student training at the ORT Central Institute

Anieres, Switzerland, 1965

1960s and 1970s

1960s and 1970s: Branching out

In 1960 ORT was asked by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to undertake technical training programs in Africa. Seeing this as an integral part of its mission, ORT took up the challenge and began a new phase of humanitarian activities outside the international Jewish community while at the same time expanding its work with Jewish communities in France, Latin America, North Africa, the Middle East and India.

In Ethiopia, ORT received permission to operate in the Gondar province in 1977. It brought crafts, vocational skills, modern agricultural methods, medical help and general and Jewish education to these remote areas.


1971 Chemistry education in Argentina

Students at the ORT Argentina industrial chemistry laboratory

Buenos Aires, 1971

1970s Lighting up ORT Morocco

An ORT Morocco student lighting the candles

Casablanca, Morocco, 1970s


1982 Casablanca computer club

Students working on a new computer

ORT Casablanca, Morocco, November 1982

1985 On the airwaves in Chile

Students taking part in filming

ORT Chile TV, circa 1985


1991, Back to Russia after an absence of 53 years

In the 1990s ORT returned to Russia, the country of its birth, followed by other countries in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and Eastern Europe.

In addition to its existing Jewish day schools in Latin America and elsewhere, ORT established day schools in the major Jewish communities in the FSU as well as vocational training centers for women in rural FSU communities.

In 2007 ORT founded the World ORT Kadima Mada educational network in Israel.


Back to the former Soviet Union

In the 1990s ORT returned to Russia, the country of its birth, followed by other countries in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and Eastern Europe.


2005 Almagro Languages Lab

Students at the Argentina Languages Lab Campus

Almagro, in 2005

2006 Biotechnology in Brazil

Studying biotechnology

Brazil, 2006

2006 Hebrew lessons in Bulgaria

Studying in a Hebrew class

Bulgaria, 2006

2007 A new beginning in Israel

ORT founded the World ORT Kadima Mada educational network in Israel



2018 Colegio Israelita de México

A Sefer Torah dedication at the Colegio Israelita de México (CIM-ORT)

Mexico City, Mexico

2018 On camera in Chernivtsi

A video studies class

Chernivtsi, Ukraine


2019 A global network

By 2019, on the eve of its 140th anniversary, ORT has developed into a global network reaching 300,000 people in more than 30 countries every year.

2019 A 'university' for you

Students in a Biology class at a YOUniversity in Israel