The challenge of giving people the skills they need for economic independence has proved too good to ignore for corporate high-flyer Brad Rosmarin, who has started work as ORT South Africa’s National Director.
In taking up the position as the organisation’s top professional, Mr Rosmarin has abandoned the material opportunities proffered to those climbing the corporate ladder “ﾓ but it is a sacrifice which he feels is outweighed by the satisfaction of contributing to South Africa’s development by unlocking the potential of its poorest citizens.
“Call me a crazy idealist but I want to be involved in uplifting South Africa and that’s a very attractive part of what ORT does,”? he said. “The Jewish community here is a long way ahead of other communities so a lot of the fulfilment of being at ORT is that we don’t limit our commitment to our own community; we’re helping the country as a whole to progress.”? Idealist he may be but crazy he most certainly is not. After 15 years building a successful career in property and asset management he knows a good deal when he sees one “ﾓ and to Mr Rosmarin ORT is a prime opportunity for personal fulfilment as well as professional accomplishment.
He likes to quote American motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, who said, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.”?
“I have never seen that put into practice before coming to ORT,”? he said. “But now that I am here I really understand what he meant.”?
Indeed, one week into his new role he is enjoying the culture shock of leaving the cut and thrust of the business world behind him.
“The one word that comes to mind is “ﾘfamily’,”? he said, after being asked for his first impressions.
“People genuinely care about each other and genuinely care about giving. The passion which the people at ORT have for what they do surpasses anything I have ever experienced. Everyone gets excited about a project that can help other people; they have a willingness to sacrifice and work hard for others in a way that I have never experienced before.”?
And there is plenty to be excited about: educator empowerment projects in the townships to raise the level of science and technology education for thousands of children; skills development programmes to help individuals enter the workforce; community development projects to ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups in tackling poverty; and vocational and educational support for the Jewish community.
But Mr Rosmarin admits he knew little of what ORT did before researching the organisation to apply for the role left vacant by Michael Sieff, who left to become CEO of the Johannesburg Jewish community’s welfare organisation after six years in the position.
“I knew about ORT JET,”? he said, referring to ORT South Africa’s pioneering project providing mentoring, networking and other support for Jewish businesses.
The fact that he knew nothing more has convinced him of the need to prioritise the organisation’s marketing and branding.
“I am an active member of the Jewish community so if I didn’t know what ORT did then many others certainly don’t,”? he said. “We need to tell people not about ORT but about what we do; it’s a glaring area of opportunity which ultimately will lead to more funding and so increase our ability to help more people.”?
A critical part of the strategy is to take word of ORT’s mission outside the Jewish community and into the wider community and Mr Rosmarin is excited by the potential he plans to unlock.
“In South Africa, one of the biggest concerns is education,”? he said. “It’s actually the foundation of a developing country because when you educate people you create an economic uplift. African culture is such that when a person does well he shares his success with his family. So when you uplift up an individual you actually uplift the people around him “ﾓ potentially for generations.
“ORT South Africa was founded in 1936 but I believe we’re just getting started.”?
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer welcomed Mr Rosmarin’s appointment.
“Brad takes over a very important member of the World ORT family, one that is in superb shape thanks to the professional leadership of his predecessor, Michael Sieff,”? Mr Singer said. “We all wish Brad every success in this important role.”?