National Organisations Updates 2005


Read the latest developments in our Operational Countries world-wide including reports from ORT Switzerland, ORT France, Latvia and Lithuania, Czech Republic, Tunisia, Latin America, Russia and Ukraine. ORT Operational Countries Jump to ORT Switzerland | ORT France | Latvia and Lithuania | Czech Republic | Tunisia | Latin America | Russia | Ukraine ORT Switzerland In addition to our chapters in Zurich, Basel, Bern and Geneva, ORT is looking into the possibility of establishing new chapters in Lausanne and Freiburg. ORT Switzerland held its main gala dinner on 5th October, 2004 in Geneva. The focus of the evening was the ORT Israel Jewish-Arab Coexistence Project, a program for teaching tolerance and encouraging dialogue between Jewish and Arab Israelis. Two ORT Israel students, one Jewish the other Arab, addressed the audience Rachel Leybovich and Reham Abd el Aal. Reham told the 280 guests: My presence at this dinner is a sign that things are advancing in the right way’ ‘In a world full of insecurity, aggression and distrust we thank you for building the bridges between our communities and for giving us the hope that the future will be a better one. ORT France ORT France has launched a busy academic year with on-going renovation and security projects. New enrolment at the ORT France’s seven schools and centres was similar to last year’s at just under 5,000, despite more Jews immigrating to Israel due to the continued problems with anti-Semitism. Improved security programmes at ORT Montreuil, just outside Paris, and ORT Strasbourg are being extended to other ORT sites, with the introduction of closed circuit video cameras. At Montreuil, students are enjoying new eating facilities, renovated classrooms, new leisure areas and a synagogue – all part of phase five of the school’s renovation programme. The program is expected to conclude at the end of the school year, by which time it will have increased the institution’s size by 15 per cent. ORT Strasbourg has restructured its buildings to allow the opening of a new, higher-level optometry class. Latvia and Lithuania World ORT Director General Robert Singer and ORT CIS National Director Vlad Lerner are investigating 14 sites where ORT may have a restitution claim. Two individuals have been recruited by World ORT specifically to look into local government records and documents to ascertain whether ORT can reclaim or be compensated for these properties. While Robert Singer was in Paris recently, he met with OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants – an organisation which provides aid to children in need), and had the opportunity to receive an update on its history and current activities. Our two organisations worked closely together from 1912 until the 1970’s – in fact, many ORT organisations in different countries in the world are still called ORT-OSE. It was agreed that we will prepare a draft partnership agreement to try to reclaim some of our property in Lithuania. Although this process will probably take another three to four years, ORT feels nevertheless that we owe it to our predecessors and to Lithuanian Jewry to try to have this property returned so that it can be used to serve the Jewish community once more as well as for the benefit of the general community. Mr Singer and the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas, addressed the opening of the Second World Litvak Congress in Vilnius in late August, 2004. More than 600 people from around the world were at the opening of the Congress, which the chairman of the local Jewish community, Dr Simon Alperovitch, described as a ‘joyous gathering of our great family, to rediscover our forefathers’ towns and villages, to touch the stones of our eternal Vilna’. A significant part of ORT’s history is bound up with Lithuania: between 1920 and 1944, ORT had operations there that resulted in many prominent ORT leaders – namely Jacob Oleiski, who became Director General of ORT Israel, and the partisan Joseph Harmatz , who became Director General of World ORT in 1980. The Congress program included a visit to the Sholom Aleichem Jewish School, which houses the ORT Technical Centre, inaugurated in 2002 as part of ORT’s Regeneration 2000. ORT Vilnius provides computer literacy courses for adults and has 249 students in grades 1-12. The institute has an excellent reputation and offers courses such as computer science, computer graphics, programming, Web design, and office technology. The comprehensive Jewish syllabus includes Hebrew language and Jewish history and makes wide use of modern technology that attracts young and teenage students. Over the next four years, ORT Vilnius aims to further its teacher training programs, update the school’s curricula and textbooks, and upgrade its technological facilities – a project that will require more than $300,000. ORT signed a memorandum on cooperation with Lithuania’s Ministry of Education and Science at ORT House in London during October, which will facilitate the integration of modern technologies into general use throughout Lithuania’s education system. In attendance were Lithuania’s Vice-Minister of Education and the Lithuanian Ambassador to London. The Minister commented how the quality and scope of IT facilities available would determine the range of opportunities of every individual and country. Czech Republic The President of The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation has committed further support for ORT’s joint project with Lauder Jewish schools in Prague. This is due for completion in spring/summer 2005. Tunisia ORT has been approached by communities in Tunis and Djerba to start up some projects there – one to teach women hairdressing skills and one within the Chabad school. Latin America World ORT appointed a representative to Latin America in the summer. The recurring economic instability that has hit Argentina over the past decade has spread in recent years to Venezuela and Uruguay. Argentina: Despite the trials and tribulations of recent times, ORT Argentina has continued to operate and to produce successful graduates, some of whom are trying to establish a future within their home country, and some of whom are making Aliyah. World ORT has helped ORT Argentina buy a building for a new primary school which is expected to serve as a ‘feeder’ to its secondary institutions. ORT Argentina’s lay leadership has begun a special fundraising campaign for needy students, which is being led by Norma de Werthein, President of ORT Argentina. ORT Argentina’s schools started the new academic year in March fully enrolled. This is a great reflection of the faith that the Argentinean community has in ORT to provide first-class education and prospects for its youngsters. Chile: ORT Chile was given prominence in the publication ‘ Que Pasa ‘, the national equivalent to ‘Newsweek’, which is testament to the superb contribution made by ORT Chile to national society. The article praised ORT Chile’s ‘dream team’ of World ORT’s new Latin America representative Isidoro Gorodischer, national president Sonja Friedmann, national director Marcelo Lewkow, education director Miguel Briceno, and senior executive Patricio Escorza. It is the first time that ‘ Que Pasa ‘ has highlighted a Jewish organisation, and we at ORT believe they chose us because we contribute to the nation as a whole. Being selected for this ‘dream team’ feature means that ORT Chile will be drawn to the attention of important people in the business sector, making it easier now for ORT to approach these people – they will know who we are and be more willing to cooperate. Among ORT Chile’s programs in recent years are the training of special needs students in computer literacy and leadership skills, the design and construction of school laboratories, training teachers in new methodologies for the teaching of reading and writing, and providing technical support for major educational initiatives in the capital Santiago’s two Jewish schools. Cuba: ORT students from Cuba, together with other Cuban Jewish youth, embarked upon a cultural and fact finding visit to Israel in July, 2004. This was only the second time in the history of Cuba that Jews have been allowed to visit Israel, following the lifting of restrictions in 2003. The group, participating in the Birthright program, spent ten days in Israel accompanied by William Miller, National Director of ORT Cuba. During their time in Israel, the students visited the ORT Moshinsky Pedagogical Centre for Research and Development, where they met key ORT Israel personnel, and learnt about some of the pioneering educational activities that are implemented and developed by ORT Israel for use in its schools and colleges. The Cuban youngsters felt immense pride at being able to represent their country and their Jewish community. One of them reported afterwards, ‘Visiting Israel was an honour for me, like a dream come true. To me, this was a great opportunity to learn about historical Jewish places, Israel’s different regions, the diversity of cultures and religions there are and also to meet young Jewish people.’ The Ana and Ben Dizik ORT Technological Centre of the Cuban Jewish Community was inaugurated in 2000, after an absence of 65 years. Today ORT Cuba continues to provide training in Information and Communications Technology, and to develop academic activities for the study of Hebrew and Judaism. Russia: The world watched in terror as Islamist terrorists took over a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, at the start of the academic year in September. The terrorists’ holding of up to 400 hostages – most of them children -highlighted the need that local schools have for proper security. Avi Ganon, Director of ORT Russia, pointed out that the siege in Beslan affected the whole system of security in Russia’s educational institutions. ORT schools used to have private security guards but these have been lost due to budget cuts in the funding organisations. The loss of Israeli government-funded subsidies for meals, transport and security has long been causing some parents to hesitate in sending their children to ORT schools – the distances involved, the longer days ORT students have in order to take Jewish studies, and the ever present threat of anti-Semitic attacks have all created additional worries for the parents of ORT Russia’s students. In response to this problem, World ORT and the Jewish Agency are working to raise funds for meals, transportation and security at 15 ORT schools in the CIS and Baltic states. The total budget needed for this program is $427,000 per year. In 2004, the ORT-Hewlett Packard Digital Community Centre was opened in Tula, Russia – a 50-computer centre which will provide a higher level of education and employable skills to the disadvantaged members of the community through ICT. ORT is waiting for the final confirmation that a donor from Moscow has donated 80 computers to ORT, which will be allocated to our schools in Russia and Kyrgyzstan. The computers cost some $750 each, making a total donation of $60,000 total. Fifty computers will go to the St. Petersburg Jerusalem School (Russia) and 30 to the ORT Beshkek Jewish School in Kirgizia. Ukraine: In Odessa in September, the Jewish school was named ORT Odessa Technology Lyceum. It is a great achievement to be permitted to name an institution in such a way. In Zaporojie too, it is expected that the Science & Technology Centre being established by British ORT will enable the school to carry the ORT name upon completion.