“The ORT school in Buenos Aires is a phenomenon in the Jewish educational landscape – around 11,000 students across four campuses and with a fifth planned. But it is not just about size – the quality in terms of entrepreneurial excellence, professional development, student attainment, resources… it is second to none.”
That was the assessment made by Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, after touring ORT Argentina’s flagship educational centers this month for the first time since the onset of global pandemic.
He was in Buenos Aires alongside Vladimir Dribinskiy, Chief Program Officer, for a first-hand view of the largest school in the Jewish Diaspora. And the opportunity clearly did not disappoint.
Escuela ORT Argentina, with its three school campuses across sites in the capital and its school in the city of Rosario, is home to the largest number of students by country in ORT’s global network. It is a beacon of educational quality.
The World ORT leaders met fellow professionals from ORT Argentina as well as students, teachers, families and Board members from the organization.
At the Belgrano campus they met students from the media courses and toured the school’s TV and radio stations; saw presentations from students developing projects using new information and communication technologies; and looked around the school’s new design, art and technology laboratories.
The following day in Almagro presented a chance to visit music classes complete with recording studios; mechatronics technology labs; and meetings with parents and school graduates.
Dan Green added: “We also spent a day in the northern suburb of Nordelta, an area around 45 minutes from the center of Buenos Aires that is seeing a large migration of Buenos Aires Jews who wish to move away from the city.
“We met prospective parents who would love to send their children to an ORT school in Nordelta if we can build a new ORT campus there.”
Creating such a campus is now the main strategic objective of ORT Argentina. Land given by a major donor is available and the organization is raising funds to build the new center, hopefully in time to open in 2024 or 2025.
Twenty minutes away in Tigres, the leaders also saw the newest ORT campus in the country which opened in March. It currently features two grades starting from kindergarten and will grow year-on-year. The school is set in the grounds of the Hakoach sport and country club which serves the neighbourhood’s growing Jewish community.
“The idea is that these students, when graduating from this primary school, will go on to the new school in Nordelta,” explained Mr Green.
Leaders of Argentina’s Jewish community, from the AMIA organization, briefed Mr Green and Mr Dribinskiy on the status of Jewish education in the country today. Colleagues from ORT Chile also flew to Buenos Aires to brief the pair on current events in Santiago.
Summing up the trip, Mr Green was effusive in his praise for the Argentinian arm of the network.
“Representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs recently told ORT Argentina that their Jewish education materials were the best they had ever seen in the Spanish language,” he said.
“Critically, their willingness to share resources, knowledge and expertise is something we came to hear about, and we were not disappointed. They are willing to share for the benefit of our network – our challenge is how to leverage their skills and excellence.”
Mr Dribinskiy added: “This was my eighth visit to ORT Argentina and I was particularly impressed by meeting so many former students who not only feel their strong connection to their alma mater, but are also involved with it in different capacities: ORT Argentina trustees, supporters, teachers, community leaders and parents who would like to see their children go to the best school in Buenos Aires.”
In November, World ORT leaders from London will return to the region for a conference in Mexico City which will feature senior professional figures and lay leaders from ORT schools and organizations around the Latin America region.
They will discuss further cooperation opportunities in the hope of building on the platform in Buenos Aires.