Meeting of minds for ORT France and World ORT


18 March 2010 Meeting of minds for ORT France and World ORT ORT France is set to share the secrets of its success with the world. A two-day meeting in London this week between the principals of ORT Frances six high schools and World ORT management has deepened mutual understanding and generated enthusiasm for working more closely together. ORT France is represented at the highest echelons of World ORT, with French members of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Representatives, said ORT France Director General Marc Timsit. But until now contacts relied primarily on lay leaders and [World ORT Representative in France] Guy Seniak. Mr Seniak, a former Director General of ORT France, added: This is the first time that all the principals and deputy principals of the French schools have come to ORT House. Before, they had a virtual knowledge of World ORT; now, through face to face meetings, they have discovered the reality of World ORT and the work it does. And they were very impressed. ORT Frances top teachers at ORT House, London. Within hours the first concrete results of the meeting could be seen. Following a presentation by ORT Frances Innovation and Development Director, Raphael Attias, who led the creation of the ground-breaking on-line interactive cultural learning experience, Mosaica, a decision was reached to create a World ORT-ORT France think tank. The first meeting will be in May with the goal of developing a common strategy and common operations in the field of innovation and use of Information Technology (IT), said Mr Timsit. But participants in the meeting are excited by the vast potential of greater cooperation. ORT Lyon Principal Michel Benoilid said: We will start to look at our relations with ORT schools in other countries. Student exchanges in the field of computer studies may be a good place to start because the subject is similar from place to place. Its very exciting. Increased uptake by ORT France teachers in the training opportunities offered by World ORT such as the Wingate, Hatter and de Gunzburg Seminars is also anticipated. And collaboration in the translation into French of World ORTs on-line resources would bring websites such as Learning about the Holocaust through Art and Music during the Holocaust to millions of new users. This meeting was, in a word, about networking, said World ORTs Chief Programme Officer, Vladimir Dribinskiy. ORT France is one of the most successful networks within the World ORT network. ORT Frances methodology is likely to be applicable to other networks such as the Former Soviet Union and Kadima Mada. Professional cooperation in education faces cultural and linguistic hurdles, not to mention differences in curricula. However, there will be schools in each network which will share certain characteristics or challenges and which may, therefore, also benefit from sharing experiences. One example is how to meet the dynamic needs of the job market, Mr Dribinskiy said. ORT France has been developing its curricula and has attained state recognition for BA-level courses. Our Moscow college faces similar challenges in preparing for specific professions which are most in demand and how to acquire official recognition for the courses. Mr Benoilid is at the forefront of ORT Frances curriculum development. While deputy principal at ORT Strasbourg he saw the introduction of post-high school courses in optics which can take students up to degree level and qualify them to open their own business. Now, his school in Lyon is to become the first Jewish educational institution to offer a Masters level programme for graduates of the Baccalaurea. We are building on the existing two-year post-Baccalaurea course so that students have the option to learn with us for a further one, two or three years right up to Masters level, he said. This is particularly attractive for Jewish students who can stay in a Jewish environment with kosher food, and no pressure to study on Shabbat or religious holidays. ORT France is nearing the end of a massive modernisation programme which has seen huge material and intellectual investment go into making its schools in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Marseille relevant to the needs of the 21st century and highly attractive educational options for demanding Jewish parents. Fifty years ago we were teaching mechanics now we are offering degree-level qualifications in optics, banking, informatics and other subjects, Mr Timsit said. That is evolution! ORT Strasbourg is looking forward to receiving its first Russian exchange students under a bilateral agreement signed with Moscow ORT Technology College. Strasbourgs Principal, Claude Sabbah, expressed the hope that this weeks meeting in London would facilitate such international collaboration. We must accelerate the process of building relationships with other schools in the World ORT network, Mr Sabbah said. All agreed that the meeting had instilled a genuine warmth in the relationship between the two organisations. ORT House is well named it feels more like a home than an office for us, said Maurice Cohen-Zagouri, Principal of ORT Marseille. We have a lot to learn about how World ORT works and we have a lot to share with World ORT about what we do. But its good to feel that were part of the same family. As a Jew I am very proud to see the great mission undertaken by World ORT in South America, the Former Soviet Union and so many other countries. And World ORT staff members expressed admiration for ORT Frances achievements. Daniel Tysman, the Head of World ORTs Education Department, said: They provide an impressively high level of education and consistently perform well above the national average in exam results. Its also impressive that they dont turn away any Jewish student whose family can not afford the fees. World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said that through its dynamic evolution ORT France had accumulated highly valuable expertise. In any extended family it is possible that some members do not keep in touch as regularly or closely as others. Similarly in a federation as large and diverse as ORT opportunities arise to meet and discuss respective developments, Mr Singer said. Until now World ORTs primary contact with ORT France had been through senior professional staff and lay leaders rather than the heads of schools. The past two days have reinvigorated the historic bonds between us in a way that will create an avenue through which ORT Frances techniques can be more effectively shared with ORT schools and needy communities throughout the world. He added that spending two days with the ORT France delegation had been a real pleasure. They are a wonderful group of high-level professional who have worked for ORT for many years. Their devotion to the organisation is outstanding and it is extremely important that their experience and love for ORT be transmitted to the next generation of educators in ORT organisations worldwide.