16 May 2008 Celebrating a decade of achievement in Kazan The Israeli Ambassador to Russia met the President of the Republic of Tatarstan, the majority of whose population is Muslim, while in Kazan for the 10th anniversary of the ORT Mishpahteinu school this week. The school, the largest non-religious Jewish school in Tatarstan, has such a prestigious reputation that top families from the wider community are keen for their own children to join its 10 per cent of non-Jewish students. My criterion for judging the success of a Jewish school is when non-Jews are fighting to get into the school, said Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari. The ORT school in Kazan is an extreme example of such success thanks to ORTs technology and techniques on one hand and the support of the wonderful Jewish community on the other. The Ambassador toured the school with World ORTs Representative in Russia, Belarus and Central Asia, Avi Ganon. They also met local dignitaries including the President, Mintimer Shaimiev. The President told the ambassador how the school sets an example of excellence and how happy he was that in a Muslim republic there was a Jewish school of such high standing, Mr Ganon said. The President considers new technology to be an important component in Kazans future. Ambassador Azari said the warmth shown by the authorities in Tatarstan a constituent republic of the Russian Federation to the Jewish community was a symbol of hope. Its a multi-religious community with a Muslim majority which lives in a very tranquil environment, which is wonderful, she said. ORT Mishpahteinus 431 students learn the State Education Curriculum as well as Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Thanks to ORTs input, the school offers a unique educational programme including ICT-related courses, project-based learning and integration of school disciplines; it has also enabled the training of all the schools teachers in the use of computers as educational tools and introduced distance learning courses provided by the Moscow ORT Technology College. The school is no stranger to awards and prizes. This year, chemistry teacher Valentina Grigorieva was one of three ORT teachers in the Russian Federation who won the highly prestigious Presidents Prize, having been deemed by judges to lead the country in their use of modern technology, their ability to communicate knowledge and in their students academic results. Last year, her colleague Marina Cheremisova was one of the recipients. In addition to strong local communal and official backing, ORT Mishpahteinu was initially supported by World ORT President Sir Maurice Hatter and his wife, Suzanne and Henry Davis, Shirley and Milton Gralla, Paul and Marlene Borman, British ORT, Israels Ministry of Education, the Russian Jewish Congress, the David and Inez Myers Foundation, President of the Tatarstan Jewish Community Mikhail Skoblionik (who attended the ceremony), and the Jewish Agency. The schools continued success over the last four years has been made possible by the massive support of The Dorset Foundation in the UK. At the ceremony, which was broadcast on local television, the Mayor of Kazan, Ilsur Metshin, noted how ORT Mishpahteinu had enjoyed a reputation for being one of the best schools in the city and the republic as a whole throughout its existence. Within the premises of your school there is a family atmosphere in which is created an aura of friendship, kindness, and mutual respect between teachers, students and parents, Mr Metshin said. More than 300 people participated in the celebratory concert, which featured, among others, the State Orchestra of Ethnic Musical Instruments of the Tatarstan Republic, the musical groups Simcha and Shtrikh, the Military Orchestra of the Tank School and students and members of their families. Guests of honour at the ceremony included: the Director of the Presidents Department of External Relations, Timur Akulov, the Deputy Minister of Education, Ludmila Ngumanova, the Head of the Jewish Agency for Israel in Russia, Chaim Ben-Yakov, the Head of the Department of Educations Vahitoskiy District, Minzailya Zakirova, the Head of the Department of Education, Ilsur Hadiulin, the Head and Deputy Head of the Vahitovskiy District Administration, Ruslan Shakirov and Alsu Asadullina, and Director of the Moscow ORT Jewish School 1311 Grigory Lipman. In honour of the anniversary, the Mayor presented the school with wireless internet connectivity and a mobile computer class, the Vahitovskiy District Administration presented equipment for a science laboratory, the Tatartstan Ministry of Education gave a laptop computer, the citys Department of Education gave laboratory furniture, and the Tatarstan Jewish Community committed to sharing the cost of the school bus with World ORT. World ORT Director General Robert Singer, who was unable to attend the celebrations because of his attendance at the Facing Tomorrow conference in Jerusalem, congratulated the school. ORT Mishpahteinu has achieved great things in a remarkably short period of time. The impressive guest list at the anniversary celebrations testifies to the superb results that students attain year after year. But it is not only the teachers and support staff who deserve our gratitude and recognition it is also the individuals, organisations and foundations who commit their time, money and expertise to the school who have generated the conditions within which educational excellence can flourish. I look forward to being in Kazan for the Chai 18th anniversary.