New ORT Archive Offers Access to Trove of Historical Documents and Images


World ORT has launched a digital archive which aims to preserve historical records of the organization’s activities and to place them in the context of contemporary Jewish history.

The new World ORT Archive site provides users with access to thousands of images, documents and other artefacts, giving an insight into ORT’s rich past worldwide. There are also dozens of highlights from the organization’s film collection, and the opportunity to search the archive for the most relevant information about a place or time in our network’s 141-year history.

The creation of the site has been made possible by the generous support of the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, which first backed the project in 2014.

Currently the site holds around 60 percent of the total historical archive material held by World ORT about the organization since its creation in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1880.

It is hoped the digital archive will make the material more accessible to academics and educators, with opportunities for its use across the more than 30 countries in ORT’s network today.

The thousands of digitized images form a rare and unique collection – covering ORT’s involvement in Jewish working life, education and vocational training. In many cases, these photographs are the only remaining record of communities, events and locations in Jewish history.

Many of the documents relate to ORT’s organizational background, including the World ORT Union’s governing bodies, minutes of their meetings, fundraising logs and other records.

Students at a tailoring workshop in Šiauliai in Lithuania in 1939

Rachel Bracha, World ORT Archive Co-ordinator, said: “These documents provide a valuable insight into the organization’s activities and the communities which it served.

“ORT’s work over the past 141 years has been carried out against the backdrop of contemporary Jewish history. The archives include documents, reports, correspondence, films and photographs that provide a valuable insight into so much of our organization’s history, and indeed the history of the Jewish people.”

Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, added: “We know the value people around the world place in being able to access records and information relating to the history of their families, schools and communities.

“We are regularly contacted by alumni, their children and grandchildren who want to know more about the places they grew up in and were educated in. With access to the new digital archive site, I am confident thousands of people around the world will be able to research this history themselves – whether for educational purposes, completing historical family records, or for helping new generations learn about their roots.”

A 1940s document from the archive reveals statistics from ORT Shanghai, in China

Videos on the site feature activities in Jewish communities that have since disappeared from the map, especially in north Africa and parts of the Middle East such as Iran. They give a unique insight into the history of education and learning for Jews in those parts of the world.

It is hoped that further development of the site will make it possible to dig deeper into the stories of individuals who have lived and learnt at ORT schools.

If you have archive material including papers, documents, photographs of former staff or students that could be included in the archive – or information relating to ORT’s history in Canada, Latin America or our brief post-war program in Czechoslovakia, please contact us by emailing: [email protected]

(Image top right shows students at ORT Buenos Aires in Argentina in the 1940s)