The overriding importance of ORT’s work raising the next generation of Jews has won the admiration of Israel’s Vice Prime Minister, Dan Meridor.
Mr Meridor was in Buenos Aires this week for the first meeting of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) first Board of Governors meeting outside the Jewish State.
While in the Argentine capital he met the Foreign Minister and influential Diaspora figures. And he joined the JAFI delegation in visiting ORT Argentina’s impressive Almagro high school campus.
“I think the most important thing I have done, with all due respect to the Foreign Minister and the Jewish Agency, is my visit here because here I see the future of the Jewish People, which is you,”? Mr Meridor said in a speech during the school visit, which included a look at how ORT uses the latest technology in Jewish education. “To see here thousands of students is heart warming for me. I was brought up in Israel, in Jerusalem, my children and grandchildren are studying in Jerusalem, but to see so many students, so many young men and women, studying Hebrew and Jewish culture is a very moving sight for me.”?
The Zionist movement did not only build a state, he went on, but placed a priority on reviving the Hebrew language.
“I have only good words to say about the teachers who run the school and do a great job teaching the Hebrew language. It is of great importance: we are one nation, one people because of the common history that we have, because of the common culture and common faith”ﾦ To hear today the Hebrew language spoken in Argentina, as we do in Israel and other places, is one of the greatest achievements in human history,”? Mr Meridor said.
Without ORT Argentina it is difficult to imagine how Jews in the country would have been able to participate in, and contribute towards, this nation building in the way they have. As Director of Studies Luis Perez told the visitors, studying at ORT is the first contact with Jewish education for two-thirds of students, who themselves represent more than 80 per cent of the community’s teenagers.
And for many of them, attendance at ORT would not have been possible without the organisation’s commitment of 35 per cent of its budget to scholarships, which subsidise to varying degrees the tuition fees of more than half the students at the Almagro and Belgrano campuses.
“This is possible thanks to the educational and financial support of World ORT and their partners,”? Mr Perez said.
Among those partners is the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), whose President and CEO, Jerry Silverman, was among the visitors together with the organisation’s Senior Vice President, Israel and Overseas, Rebecca Caspi.
It had been a privilege to spend time at such an extraordinary school, Mr Silverman said.
“The rich and diverse curriculum was perfectly complemented by the inspiring and enthusiastic professional staff,”? he went on. “Their dedication to Jewish life and to their students is an incredible gift to the Argentine “ﾓ and in fact the global “ﾓ Jewish community. Seeing the level of technology and connectivity that these ORT students access as a routine part of their school day is frankly a beautiful example of great Jewish day school education.”?
An audio-visual presentation about ORT Argentina contained the statement, “There are rich schools for rich children and poor schools for poor children; ORT offers excellence for all.”?
But, the organization faces a new challenge in living up to those words “ﾓ a lack of space, which has only been partially resolved with the building of a spectacular new science and technology building at Almagro.
“Our main challenge today is that we don’t have enough room for 200 students each year in each campus,”? said Mr Perez, who also thanked JAFI for its vital financial assistance during the 2001 economic crisis.
But for the thousands of young people who do study at ORT Argentina, the experience is powerfully life-enhancing as Mr Meridor and the JAFI Board of Governors discovered by meeting some of them.
Among them was Mariano Wechsler, who went on to become a teacher at ORT after receiving an education there. Mr Wechsler set up a software development company which employs ORT graduates.
“Everything I have, I have because of here,”? he said. “My friends, my wife, my daughter, my company, and my profession.”?
Ezequiel Glinsky, who graduated from ORT in 1995, is now Director of the Server and Tools Business Unit in Microsoft Argentina and Uruguay. For him, studying at ORT was his first experience of a Jewish institution and, like Mr Wechsler, he felt he owed the organisation for the education he received, the wife he met there, the children they now have, and the lifelong friends he made.
“I also owe ORT the idea of reciprocity, of giving back, and that’s why I’m here today,”? he added.
The JAFI Board members were also addressed by fifth-year student Melanie Wessler in English whose fluency was enhanced thanks to her selection for this year’s World ORT Rosner English and Science Summer School in London.
“I am here thanks to a scholarship,”? she said. “Without it I don’t think I would have been able to afford the school and have such an excellent education.”?
World ORT Representative in Latin America Isidoro Gorodischer said Mr Meridor had not imagined he would see something of
the size and quality of the ORT school.
“He was so moved by what he saw; he and the visitors from JAFI were very, very impressed,”? Mr Gorodischer said. “It’s one thing to tell people what’s being achieved here, it’s quite another for them to see it for themselves.”?
In London, World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said he was delighted by the enthusiasm of the emails he had received from participants in the JAFI visit.
“It is truly a privilege to be part of the team which enables ORT Argentina to scale the heights of excellence which it does “ﾓ and deeply gratifying when our friends, particularly our closest ones in the Federations and Jewish Agency, can see what is being achieved with their support. We are grateful to the Jewish Agency for making this week’s visit possible and to the JFNA for its steadfast partnership. Appreciating what ORT Argentina has been able to do with the resources at its disposal one can only wonder at what it could achieve “ﾓ and for how many more people “ﾓ were it to have the capacity to increase enrolment and extend its scholarships,”? Mr Singer said.