Jewish Agency increases support for World ORT schools in CIS and Baltics


30 July, 2007 Jewish Agency commits $1 million to World ORT schools through the Heftsiba programme The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) will provide World ORT with $1 million in the coming year in support of the Heftsiba programme that operates in 15 ORT schools in the CIS and Baltic States. The decision, which was confirmed to World ORT last week, not only reverses an expected $350,000 budget cut but adds a further $650,000 to its support. World ORT Director General Robert Singer thanked JAFI Chairman Zeev Bielski and other senior officials at the organisation for the commitment. Mr Singer said he was delighted and surprised by the Jewish Agencys announcement, which heralded a small, positive revolution in our schools in the former Soviet Union. I am extremely happy that months of intensive work, negotiations and lobbying have worked out in this way and to the benefit of our students in the region. The Heftsiba budget is now 500 per cent greater than what we had anticipated, Mr Singer said. Avi Ganon, World ORTs Representative in Russia, Belarus and Central Asia, was similarly pleased by the announcement. Members of the Israeli armed forces visit the ORT Technology Lyceum in Kiev last year. Renewed Jewish Agency funding has assured the Lyceums future as a Jewish day school. Heftsiba funds meet the cost of Jewish education programmes, including the salaries of Israeli teachers in many of the schools and school buses, meals and financial incentives for local teachers. Mr Ganon said the funding boost would also help World ORT extend its reach and bring in more Jewish students. Thanks to the Jewish Agencys support, we will be able to provide transport for children in outlying areas. This will stop the loss of students with long commutes and allow us to serve more Jewish communities, he said. This weeks news dispels fears that the Jewish Agency would cut 40 per cent of its annual $2.5 million in support for 45 Jewish schools in the former Soviet Union. Had that gone ahead, World ORT may have had to have withdrawn support from six of its 15 schools. The schools in Samara, St Petersburg, Kiev, Odessa, Zaporojie and Kishinev faced being turned into regular public schools as early as September. The result, Mr Ganon said, would have been the existence of only a few pluralistic Jewish day schools in the region presenting a dilemma for the many Jewish parents who show little enthusiasm for the Orthodox Jewish education provided by non-ORT day schools. We have many communities knocking on our doors asking for help so there is a need to enlarge the ORT network in the region, Mr Singer added. This is the time to mobilise worldwide Jewish resources to match local funding in order to save more Jewish children from being cut off from their roots. The strategic partnership between the Jewish Agency, World ORT and the Federation system in North America is integral to this. After an enforced absence, World ORT returned to Russia in 1991. It now coordinates operations in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan 53 projects in 32 locations serving more than 30,000 people. 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. This very significant amount of money will give our schools the opportunity to provide better Jewish, scientific and technological education, Mr Ganon said. Now we have the financial basis on which to improve our schools and so attract more children. Under the Heftsiba programme, Israels Ministry of Education and the Jewish Agency help ORT to provide formal Jewish education in Jewish schools in the former Soviet republics; it is a partnership between local governments, World ORT, the Ministry of Education of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel and local Jewish communities. The schools have also been receiving well over $1 million a year from World ORT through Regeneration 2004, the on-going campaign led by ORT America aimed at enlarging the network of ORT schools and centres in the region as well as enhancing existing schools IT provision and broadening the range of subjects on offer. Chaired by publisher Milton Gralla, a long time ORT supporter, Regeneration 2004 has been building on the accomplishments of Regeneration 2000, which established ORTs Jewish schools as a thriving, highly reputed network.