Inaugural ORT America Convention in Washington DC


April 30, 2007 ORT America Inaugural Convention More than 300 people have attended the inaugural ORT America Convention in the national capital Washington, DC. Lay leaders, chapter representatives and others gathered at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, near the White House, for the three-day convention, which acts as the annual parliament of the newly unified organisation. Just days after the State of New York ratified the union of American ORT (AO) and Womens American ORT (WAO), the convention paid tribute to those organisations last presidents Joe Cohen and Judy Menikoff for their vision and tenacity in completing the merger. In discharging the Boards of Directors of WAO and AO, as well as Mr Cohen and Ms Menikoff, WAO Past President Sandy Isenstein said: You should feel great for achieving this one amazing transformation. You accomplished a task many people tried to do and made history in the process. World ORT Past President Justice Richard Goldstone installed Doreen Hermelin as ORT Americas first elected president. Doreens commitment to public service is demonstrated by her impressive biography, said Justice Goldstone, who succeeded the late David Hermelin as World ORT President. Doreen, you come with outstanding credentials, he added. It amazes your friends that you are able to do so much without compromising your devotion to your five children and 16 grandchildren. Doreen Hermelin and Judy Menikoff at a reception held for members of World ORTs elite donor organisation, The 1880 Society. Shelley Fagel, who sits on World ORTs Board of Directors and Executive Committee as well as co-chairing its International Next Generation initiative, was installed as Chair of ORT Americas Executive Committee. During the convention, ORT America presented its first Tikkun Olam Award to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the first Jewish woman to be elected from Florida to serve in the House of Representatives. The award is presented annually to an individual who is committed to strengthening the Jewish community and repairing the world through good deeds. ORTs work is truly in the spirit of tikkun olam, repairing the world, Ms Wasserman Schultz said. What impresses me so about an ORT education is that it goes far beyond giving people marketable job skills. It teaches students the importance of their Jewish heritage while promoting the uniqueness of varying cultures and backgrounds. The Head of World ORTs International Liaison Department, Sonia Gomes de Mesquita, addressed the convention. Ms Gomes told attendees about the strides World ORT had made in providing new and critical support directly to Israeli schools through Kadima Mada (Science Journey) and through joint initiatives with the Weizmann Institute of Science, Technion Israel Institute of Technology and the University of Haifa, among others. At the conventions plenary session, during which attendees pledged more than $500,000 to ORT America, World ORT Director General Robert Singer introduced a moving film showing how dozens of schools across Israel were already benefiting from new science and technology laboratories installed as part of Kadima Mada. An impressive list of high profile speakers addressed the convention: Noam Neusner, former advisor to President George W. Bush, Jay Footlik, former Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton, Kenneth Pollak, Senior Fellow for Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institutions Saban Centre for Middle East Policy, and CNN correspondent Andrea Koppel, Mr Singer said later: The convention was a superbly executed entrance by ORT America onto the philanthropic stage. A positive spirit was present in all the meetings and everyone left feeling highly motivated. I strongly believe that ORT America will build on this success and will reach new heights. World ORT fully supports the path that ORTs American supporters are taking and I look forward to continuing a close partnership with them. In addition to the $500,000 pledged during the conventions plenary session, another $137,000 was collected thanks to the presentation of cheques by chapter and area presidents.