Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius has led wellwishers at the formal opening of the ORT Vilnius Sholom Aleichem Gymnasium’s new premises. Mr Butkevicius toured the centrally located building which has been fully renovated and equipped with public funding and World ORT. With him were World ORT’s Director General and CEO Shmuel Sisso and Chief Program Officer Vladimir Dribinskiy.
“For several years this school has been ranked academically among the best in the country; now its facilities are among the best in Europe,”? said Mr Sisso. “We were honoured to have the Prime Minister, Mr Butkevicius, join us. And we welcome the comments he made at the opening ceremony that his government has zero tolerance for antisemitism and extremism.”?
The Sholom Aleichem school started as a Sunday school teaching Hebrew, Yiddish, and Jewish history and tradition to a few dozen children and adults soon after Lithuania became independent in 1989. It is now a flourishing secondary school with 318 students who learn computer programming, robotics and graphic design in addition to the national curriculum and Jewish subjects.
“The new building will allow the school to comfortably increase enrolment to 350 students,”? said Mr Dribinskiy. “This development is a result of cooperation between the local Jewish community, the city municipality and World ORT. The Prime Minister paid tribute to the Jewish community and its contribution to the country’s independence and he expressed his happiness that the new campus has opened in time for this week’s 25 th anniversary celebrations of independence.”?
The school’s Director, Misha Jakobas, said: “We are very pleased with these new facilities, which are located in such a beautiful part of Vilnius. Our school will concentrate on innovation and incentives. We will be a place of pride for Lithuania, its educational system and for all the people of Vilnius.”?
Speaking at the commencement of renovations at the new site, in 2013, the Chancellor of the country’s Education and Science Ministry, Dainius Numgaudis, noted that ORT’s influence extended beyond the Jewish community.
The school works with the Ministry of Education and other education bodies such as the Institute of Teacher Training, the Exam Centre of Lithuania, and the Pedagogical University of Lithuania. And its teachers train peers from across the city in the use of interactive whiteboards and computerised data loggers. It also has a Tolerance Centre which familiarizes children from other schools with Jewish traditions and culture, and gives presentations on tolerance to other schools in the city.
“The cooperation with ORT and the organisation’s expertise, including the Sholom Aleichem ORT School, is undoubtedly beneficial to Lithuania. The school culture and achievements of Sholom Aleichem ORT School could inspire our educational institutions,”? Mr Numgaudis said.
The Mayor of Vilnius, Arturas Zuokas, and the Vice Minister of Education, Svetlana Kauzoniene, were also at the ceremony.
Mr Zuokas said: “The Jewish community is now increasing in numbers and we hope that it will continue to grow and flourish. The new school will serve this growing community and will invite others from around the world to come to Lithuania to study, learn and take courses here.”?