November 16, 2007 Inauguration of World ORT computer lab in Tunis A new World ORT computer laboratory has been inaugurated at the Chabad School of Tunis, a project which could herald future ORT projects in North Africa for both Jews and non-Jews. Representatives of the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Education joined the World ORT Representative in Tunisia, Gerard Berrebi, representatives of the JDC, the President of the Jewish Community of Tunis, Roger Bismuth, and the schools co-founder Rebbetzin Rachel Pinson to launch the high-tech facility at the Lubavitch-run school. World ORT Board member Dr Gideon Meyer, who was the first to identify the Tunis communitys need for up-to-date technological training during a visit there in 2004, said: Im very pleased that after 35 years absence from Tunisia ORT has returned and is now helping the Jewish community there by establishing this modern ICT centre. Dr Meyer said that the new facility would not only help the schools 60 students but the whole Jewish community by being available for informal education and training programmes. The ICT Centre, which is funded by ORT Netherlands, comes as Mr Berrebi works to set up a new ORT Tunisia committee. This will be a trigger for the re-establishment of the ORT organisation in the country and for the development of various projects with local authorities to be the benefit of all Tunisians, Jewish and Arab, Dr Meyer said. Representatives of Tunisias Education and Interior Ministries (front left) join the inauguration of the ORT ICT centre in Tunis with Chief Rabbi Haim Bittan (right) and JDC Board Mission to Tunisia participant Martha Freedman (rear). In addition to computers, internet connection and ancillary equipment for the ICT centre already in place, World ORT will provide on-going training and equipment upgrading. The Head of Programmes at World ORT International Cooperation, Jean-Pierre Pons, said: We will provide training for teachers and also senior students so that the IT skills that many of us take for granted in Europe and America can become second nature to the next generation of Jews in Tunisia. The JDC has refurbished the classroom that houses the ICT centre, on the top floor of a building that used to house one of World ORTs two local schools in the 1950s. The other former ORT school building is now the University of Tuniss faculty of Political Science. Senior JDC official Yechiel Bar Chaim, who attended the inauguration, said: The ceremony was a milestone in the projects implementation. Now we will focus on training the teachers and the students on how to take advantage of this most promising facility. What I keep in mind are the words of one of the teachers who told me recently, The pupils here are good seeds, by cultivating their potential we will have a good harvest. There are many students of Tunisian origin studying at ORT schools in France. However, the Tunis school teaches students right up to Baccalaureate, Frances standard high school graduation exams. Armed with this qualification, the students are eligible to attend university in Tunisia, France and further afield. Particularly for those children who continue their studies overseas, it is very important that their IT skills are at a standard comparable to their peers, Mr Pons said. Mr Berrebi said he was happy that such a facility was being established in Tunis. This is going to be of significant benefit to the community, he said. For many of the people using it, it will be their first experience of using computers and the Internet in a professional and educational context. Historically, World ORT programmes in Tunisia were significant in bringing modern technology to young Jews throughout the 1950s. However, rapid emigration occurred in the decade following independence from France in 1956 leading to the winding down of ORT operations. Today, the Jewish population numbers approximately 3,000. World ORT deals with people, not numbers. While this may be a small project it is one that will make a big difference, said World ORT Director General Robert Singer. Im particularly pleased that, as we do in many other parts of the world, World ORT and the JDC are working together in Tunis two major Jewish organisations joining forces. World ORT is the worlds largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organisation and has benefited more than 3 million people Jewish and non-Jewish in 100 countries since its foundation in 1880.