High profile panel draws new faces to British ORT event


25 March 2009 High profile panel draws new faces to British ORT event Hot on the heels of British ORTs highly successful Business Breakfast, some of Londons leading literary and journalistic figures discussed a range of issues with a capacity crowd at the ORT House lecture theatre last week. More than 100 people many of them first timers at an ORT function came to hear the sometimes clashing opinions of Norman Lebrecht, Assistant Editor of Londons leading daily newspaper the Evening Standard, former BBC television presenter Lady Valerie Solti, widow of internationally renowned conductor Sir Georg Solti and a patron of British ORT, groundbreaking agony aunt Irma Kurtz, acclaimed biographer Anne Sebba, and Mark Urban, Diplomatic Editor of BBC televisions flagship current affairs programme Newsnight. The panel was placed under the firm but witty chairmanship of Daniel Finkelstein, Associate Editor of The Times. The bringing together of so many leading figures of Londons media and cultural worlds was a sign of the expertise, charm and superb contacts of the veteran members of Friends of ORT, which used to be known as British Womens ORT. We often talk of the need to attract younger people, the next generation, to become lay leaders, said British ORTs new Chairman Simon Alberga (pictured with, from left, British ORT Director of Fundraising Dr Noga Zivan, Daniel Finkelstein, Susan Roffman, Mark Urban, Lady Valerie Solti, Irma Kurtz, Anne Sebba, Norman Lebrecht, Claire Connick and World ORT Director General Robert Singer). But fantastic events like this one are a reminder of the valuable contribution our long-time supporters make to the organisation and will, I hope, continue to do for many years to come. Claire Connick, one of the main organisers of the event, has been supporting ORT for nearly 50 years. She hoped that the attention garnered from having high profile personalities on the panel would attract new blood to Friends of ORT but recognised it could be a struggle. When I started with ORT nearly 50 years ago we would drop the children off at school and then get together to raise money for ORT before picking up the children in the afternoon, Mrs Connick said. Now, young women are so busy; many of them work as well as having children. They just dont have the time to do what we do. Its a different world now and I dont know how we can get over that. Before the panel faced the public they were invited to a buffet dinner courtesy of World ORT. There they were able to get to know each other as well as meet senior ORT lay leaders and staff. British ORT brought together a very impressive line-up, said World ORT President Dr Jean de Gunzburg. I was able to introduce them to ORT, how it started, how it grew and what it is today. They seemed very interested, even intrigued, by it. The panel faced questions from the floor on diverse issues. Rosalind Preston, an accomplished figure in Britains Jewish community, asked how they dealt with the current wave of anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel news. Other questions included whether a government could last beyond one term in the current financial climate, whether health and safety regulations had gone too far, whether extended pub opening hours had exacerbated problem drinking, and whether it was right to reveal intimate family details in an autobiography. Judith Mishon, who with Mrs Connick spearheaded organising the event, said: The questions were varied but the panellists all had something to say. They had a lovely sense of humour as well as being very educated and to the point. We were all delighted. Susan Roffman, Co-Chair of Friend of ORT, said the panel lived up to expectations. And I think they also enjoyed doing it and that came across, Mrs Roffman said. The evening raised approximately 2,500 for British ORTs campaign to provide Shaar HaNegev High School, near the Gaza border, with a rocket-proof science and technology centre. The school is one of more than 30 high school campuses in Israel participating in World ORTs Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme to raise the quality of science and technology education in the Jewish State. Mark Mishon, past Chairman of British ORT, opened the evening and Mrs Roffman presented members of the panel with two books detailing the history of ORT throughout the World: Facing the Future and The Hope and the Illusion.