Florida woman a driving force behind ORT at 100


8 July 2009 Florida woman a driving force behind ORT at 100 Within days of her 100th birthday Esther Barrish renewed her driving licence, an indication of the self-reliant spirit which has drawn her to ORTs mission for 54 years. Since she helped to set up the first Womens American ORT chapter in the Florida district of Hollywood in 1955, Ms Barrishs generosity and commitment have helped to put countless Jews in the driving seat. Her contributions have touched the lives of many people whom she will never meet, said Leah Siskin, ORT Americas Advancement Director of the Florida Region, who has known Ms Barrish (pictured) for 39 years. She is an Aishet Chayil, a true woman of valour courageous, kind, and energetic. She is absolutely incredible. A long serving member of the Board of Directors of American ORT, Ms Barrish rose to Vice President of the organisation. In 2004 she received the William Haber Award in New York for her lifelong commitment to ORT. This commitment also saw her set up the first Womens American ORT chapter in Palm Beach County in 1970 and, with her late husband Lou, the West Palm Beach ORT chapter in 1974. She has visited ORT schools around the world and is a co-founder of the ORT Braude College of Engineering, which is now one of northern Israels leading tertiary institutions. And, to the delight of all who know her, she shows no signs of slowing down. She is, in the words of a letter sent by ORT Americas President, Doreen Hermelin, and Executive Committee Chair Shelley Fagel, to congratulate her on her birthday, a true visionary who provides an exemplary role model to emulate. You are the embodiment of ORT, they wrote, an organisation that for more than a century has been educating Jews of all ages with the skills and training to build lives of hope, dignity and economic self-sufficiency. Ms Barrish is also known for her decades of service to organisations such as Hadassah, Jewish Womens International, Israel Bonds, and the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. But ORT appears to hold a special place in her life. I come from an Orthodox family and my parents were interested in organisations that helped people, Ms Barrish said. I also believe in helping people and ORT helps people to live and work and to get along in this world. I help ORT in any way I can; I believe in the work it does. Theres nothing about ORT I dont like. Ms Siskin said that Ms Barrish had always striven for the Jewish People to have a quality Jewish life which explained why Ms Barrish was so generous in her support for Jewish charities, synagogues, and the State of Israel.