Judah Harstein z”l: ‘A man dedicated to global Jewish life and education’


World ORT is saddened to learn of the passing in Israel of Judah Harstein, our former Head of Jewish Education.

Mr Harstein worked for the organization for almost 30 years until his retirement in 2010. During that time he oversaw a series of innovative developments, including the creation of the Navigating the Bible website which allowed visitors to study weekly portions, hear melodies as sung in synagogues and learn more about the commentaries and analysis of the Jewish Bible.

Robert Singer, current Chair of World ORT’s Board of Trustees, who worked with Mr Harstein during his time as Director General and CEO of the organization, said: “Judah was one of a generation of ORTists who kept building the DNA of this organization.

“He was unique in his own community of Orthodox Jews by choosing to study Engineering at Imperial College in London.

“He was unique in introducing Torah to modern technology tools by being one of the creators of a then-pioneer program, Navigating the Bible. He was unique in working in a very secular, traditional ORT environment.

“He was unique in being a part of World ORT’s senior professional team in one of the best groups of professionals ORT had in its history. He was instrumental in bringing the Jewish spirit into completely new operations in the Former Soviet Union and Kadima Mada in Israel.

“He will be very much missed, especially by his colleagues from those days – Sonia Gomes de Mesquita, Vladimir Dribinskiy, Avi Ganon, David Benish – and many others who were lucky enough to know him.”

Judah Harstein with colleagues Vladimir Dribinskiy and Robert Singer

Daniel Tysman, World ORT’s current Head of Education Department, added: “Judah’s kind and easy manner made you immediately feel like an old friend, whatever your nationality or background. He was dedicated to technology education and Jewish education but became most excited at the intersection between the two.

“Some of the major projects that Judah was working on during my early years at ORT included designing innovative programs that used digital tools to share the richness of Jewish heritage across the world, a significant international program to develop the next generation of communal leadership in Europe, Holocaust education programs in various countries and a training program to bring Jewish educators up-to-speed with the latest developments in education technologies.

“Beneath his gentle exterior, Judah had a passion for his work at ORT and was an inspiration to colleagues all over the world. He stayed connected with us long after he’d retired and always asked after colleagues, and about our latest projects and future plans.

“Judah made his mark as a man dedicated to global Jewish life and education, but more than all of that he will be remembered as a mensch.”

Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “Judah embodied the spirit of ORT, helping transform countless lives and strengthening communities and Jewish life worldwide. His contribution to our network was immeasurable – at the turn of the century he helped transform our approach to using technology to improve Jewish education. He will be sorely missed by people on many continents. My thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

The whole ORT network sends condolences to Judah’s wife, Loretta; children Doron, Avraham, Shoshana and Raquel; his sister, Pauline Kihaly and his extended family.