11 February 2009 New leadership at British ORT British ORT has new leadership with ambitious plans to increase fundraising and lay participation by expanding the organisation’s presence in Jewish communities across the United Kingdom. Simon Alberga, a partner at private equity firm Young Associates, which was founded by former World ORT President Lord Young of Graffham, has succeeded Alan Goldman as Chairman and has a new, young line-up of fellow Trustees to support him: Danny Brower, Paul Bray, Leo Gestetner and Peter Plaut. ‘I am confident that Simon will drive the organisation forward with great vigour and success,’ Mr Goldman said. ‘And with the addition of so many talented and enthusiastic new people to the organisation, and having spent five years in the role, I feel the time is right for a transition in leadership. So, following a brief handover period, I intend to step down as a Trustee of British ORT.’
Mr Alberga (pictured) became a Trustee of British ORT in June last year and has assumed a number of key responsibilities within the organisation.
‘We have a dynamic new team at British ORT,’ Mr Alberga said before leaving London for the World ORT Board of Representatives meeting in Mexico City. ‘We’re energised and enthusiastic. We all believe there’s a big opportunity to expand what the organisation does here in the UK because there’s an opportunity to significantly raise awareness of ORT and we have the team to do that.’
A long-time friend of Mr Goldman and fellow British ORT stalwart Mark Mishon, as well as being a business partner with Lord Young, Mr Alberga has long been familiar with the ORT mission, for which he has a deep-seated empathy. He was born in Jamaica, whose small Jewish community struggled to provide a suitable education for its youngsters.
‘Members of the community got together to start a Jewish school. We didn’t have any assistance from ORT but had anyone been aware of ORT then maybe we would have approached it,’ he said.
Even without the advantages of an ORT education, Mr Alberga did pretty well. His family moved to Canada and he eventually went on to study economics at Harvard before pursuing a career in banking and corporate finance.
Despite his own considerable expertise, he was looking forward to meeting lay and professional leaders from other national ORT organisations in Mexico to see what issues they have been dealing with, and how.
Already leading a full life between family and business, Mr Alberga promises to be a hands-on lay leader.
‘The role of chairman is an active, supervisory one; it’s not honorary,’ he said. ‘I’ve been very involved so far and I’ll continue with that; it’s a responsibility and you have to live up to that. I engage with the office every day.’
The details of running the organisation lie with the new Director of Fundraising, Dr Noga Zivan, supported by her recently appointed Events Manager Muriel Stempel and Office Manager Lauren Derman. Dr Zivan fills the gap left by Ivor Levene OBE, who had to retire due to ill health last year.
Israeli by birth, Dr Zivan grew up in the central English city of Leicester and has experience of several of the smaller Jewish communities which dot the British Isles.
‘At the moment, British ORT is very London-centric,’ she said. ‘One of our goals is to expand out from London – and not just into big Jewish communities like Manchester and Leeds. There’s a lot of energy in other Jewish communities that’s not being harnessed – it’s a matter of if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and there are many people in those communities who don’t get asked. We’re going to expand the number of people we ask, not just in terms of money but in time, personal commitment. This is the future of Friends of ORT. It’s a marvellous group with great potential to grow.’
With an impressive track record of fundraising for the Israel-based charity Save a Child’s Heart and the UK-based YoungMinds (for whom she raised 2.7 million in one year), Dr Zivan was looking forward to meeting her peers at the National Directors Forum in Mexico City – and the Mayor of Sha’ar HaNegev, Alon Schuster.
‘We’re planning to start a new campaign in support of the new campus for Sha’ar HaNegev High School so it’s good to be able to talk to the mayor to get a feel for what they need there,’ Dr Zivan said.
The campaign to help build a new, safer campus for students in this community near Gaza will provide a fundraising focus for British ORT, part of a long term plan to reinvigorate the organisation which is due to be finalised in the summer.
‘We’re putting together a strategy that’s going to have some very concrete steps in terms of marketing, PR and fundraising,’ Mr Alberga said. ‘We’re going to tackle this in a very methodical way. There’s an opportunity to go out to a much broader base of donors, including trusts, and to significantly increase the amount of income we generate. It’s not going to happen overnight; we have targets to build things up over the next three years.’
Dr Zivan added: ‘This is a very exciting time for British ORT. We hope that people get behind what we’re doing and if they want to get involved or know people who they feel would like to, then they should let us know.’
World ORT Director General Robert Singer welcomed the drive and vision of the new line-up at British ORT.
‘ORT has been fortunate to have dedicated and talented lay leaders who make incalculable contributions to the success of our mission; British ORT is no exception,’ Mr Singer said. ‘Alan [Goldman], for example, not only ably chaired British ORT over the past five years he was instrumental in building the new governance structure at World ORT with [World ORT President Dr] Jean [de Gunzburg]. But generational change is inevitable – indeed we have encouraged it through our investment in young ‘Ortists’ – and I welcome it. An increased income from British ORT is much needed for our programmes worldwide and we expect successful results from this energetic group.’