Leaders of Jewish communities from across North America experienced the impact of World ORT’s Federation-supported work in Israel when they visited Kiryat Yam this week. The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission brought 100 people from 30 communities to Israel to find out more about how their money is used, to build their fundraising skills and to be inspired ahead of their annual campaign which raises hundreds of millions of dollars for domestic and international projects.
And they were able to do all that in just one hour at World ORT’s Alex and Betty Schoenbaum Science, Educational, Cultural and Sports Campus.
“People really, really were very impressed with what they saw,”? said Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, Greater MetroWest UJA Annual Campaign Chair. “It’s so visible what all the projects here at Kiryat Yam are doing for the kids and for the community in general. It’s very moving and very encouraging.”?
The mission listened to World ORT’s Senior Development Officer, Jim Lodge, run through what has been achieved since the launch of Kadima Mada, World ORT’s programmatic arm in Israel, in 2006.
Now there are 34 affiliated schools with a total of 30,000 students, while the pioneering Schulich Canada Smart Classroom Initiative is benefiting 170,000 students in schools throughout the country’s disadvantaged northern and southern communities.
Meanwhile, SASA Setton Kav Or is providing quality distance learning and properly equipped on-site classes in Israel’s hospitals for the 120,000 children who undergo treatment there each year and has provided a rocket-proof science and technology centre for Sha’ar HaNegev High School on the front line with Gaza.
All this and more was laid out before the American visitors at Kiryat Yam.
“It’s a microcosm of our work in Israel,”? said Avi Ganon, the Executive Director of Kadima Mada. “Here, the mission has seen the impact of our work on a city, a combination of the projects we’re implementing in communities throughout the periphery.”?
But they did more than look and listen; like our students they learned by doing.
“We provided “ﾘstations’ where our guests could interact with students. They performed experiments; they became participants. This hands-on experience opened people’s eyes to what we’re doing in Israel,”? Mr Ganon said.
The 100-strong mission was divided into six groups, each one visiting two of the six stations in the Schoenbaum Campus’s science park. At the Margot and Jozef Rethazy Planetarium Building they took part in an astronomy quiz using the computerised voting kits used by students; at the oceanarium they immersed themselves in ecological topics; and at the Science Garden they researched an assignment designed to illustrate project based learning.
Another station featured working with students doing architecture and design at the Centre of Excellence in nearby Nahariya “ﾓ one of five after-school centres, or YOU-niversities, which World ORT has set up in disadvantaged towns to introduce kids there to science and technology. While the Centre’s applied physics students were waiting at another station where they presented a “ﾘcannon’ they had designed which uses an air pump to shoot soft balls against targets.
“We were able to see with our own eyes what we in the United States and Canada contribute to and I for one felt such pride and privilege to see these students who undoubtedly will make a major impact in science and technology in our homeland thanks to World ORT,”? said Linda Hurwitz, National Campaign Chair of the JFNA. “I’ve heard from many people how proud they were to witness what World ORT accomplishes. It gives us hope for the future and give us optimism and faith that we’re using creative, innovative and participatory exercises , activities and additional classes that will move the agenda forward in our efforts in Israel.”?
Mission members from communities which are not so familiar with World ORT would be able to return and speak first-hand about how the money the Federations had raised was being used for the future of Israel.
“Israel’s only natural resource is her children and I appreciate World ORT for realising this. Jim Lodge taught me that ORT’s mission is in step with the highest form of tzedakah, as stated by Rambam, by giving people the ability to live independently, without the need for charitable or welfare support. But from what we’ve seen, World ORT is moving these people beyond self-sufficiency to become experts and future teachers,”? Ms Hurwitz said.
She said she was also impressed by Dr Ido Horresh, the Director of the Centres of Excellence programme, on hearing how he had left his job instructing PhD students at the Weizmann Institute of Science to take up the position with Kadima Mada.
“I was sure that I was promoting science in Israel, an issue that very much defines the state’s future,”? Dr Horresh said. “But now I am sure that I am 10 times more effective in doing that. Just watching how many teenagers joined our You-niversity program this year makes me believe that some of them will seriously consider taking up something scientific or technological for life.”?
World ORT’s Acting Director General and CEO, Sonia Gomes de Mesquita, said she was delighted that the JFNA mission had been able to see the organisation in action.
“World ORT has long valued its close and strong partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America,”? she said. “Thanks to this partnership we have been enabled to promote and support education for thousands of people in scores of communities around the world.”?