New President for ORT Italy


20 May 2009 New President for ORT Italy The renaissance of ORT Italy is set to continue under the leadership of Roberto Jarach. The son of the national organisations co-founder has taken over from Professor Giacomo Saban, who is joining the World ORT Audit and Risk Committee. Mr Jarach has already been presiding over a revitalisation of ORTs role in the education of Jewish children in his hometown Milan where he has been flying the ORT flag since the 1970s often alone. After the ORT school merged with the community school in 1987 there was a gradual dissipation of the ORT presence in Milan, Mr Jarach said. But recently the situation has changed with the installation of a new IT laboratory in the Jewish Community School of Milan-ORT together with Interactive White Boards. And, with World ORTs support, we are ready to implement a programme of upgrading teachers skills in the use of technology in the classroom. Staff members and students have been won over by the opportunities afforded by closer ties with ORT such as participation in international programmes including the Wingate and Hatter Seminars in London and the Raya Cowan World ORT International Summer School at the Weizmann Institute, Israel. We have had some teachers and teenagers take part in these already and their response has been very enthusiastic, Mr Jarach said. Milans path of restoring ties between the local community and the ORT family mirrors the experience of Professor Sabans hometown Rome, where the ORT Renzo Levi High School has enjoyed increasing enrolment in the wake of greater ORT investment resulting in better facilities and higher standards. The characters of the two communities are quite different, however. In Rome, the 14,000-strong community comprises Roman Jews and Libyan Jews whereas Milans community, while only half the size, has far more cultural diversity with each of the approximately 20 synagogues holding to the traditions of its members from different countries. Mr Jarach is in a unique position to be able to empathise with both indigenous and immigrant Jews, being able to trace his familys presence in Italy back some 500 years while himself having been born in Switzerland, where his parents had fled to escape the Holocaust. You could say that the ORT mission runs in Mr Jarachs blood. His late father, Guido, co-founded ORT Italy after the war with Renzo Levi and his mother chaired ORT Italys womens division in Milan. When I was in university I started to help my mother organise events and later joined the Board of ORT Italy. The first international ORT meeting in which I took part was the World ORT General Assembly in Rome in 1972. I dont think there are so many people around the world who have such a long history in ORT, he said. A businessman, Mr Jarachs electronics company has been hit by the deteriorating economy and structural changes in the marketplace. His experiences have reaffirmed his support for the ORT approach of preparing children with skills that will enable them to adapt to a rapidly changing socio-economic landscape. But there are challenges to realising that vision and creating schools which are in step with contemporary reality. The education system in Italy is very static; everything has to go through the Ministry so it is difficult to innovate, he said. So we will not be seeking changes to the curriculum. We will concentrate on changing the way we teach and the way our children learn and in this way we can change the mentality and broaden the skills of staff and students. But he sees ORT fulfilling a critical role in the Italian Jewish community. In Rome, ORT Renzo Levi is the only Jewish day school while in Milan it provides a centrist alternative to the two other Jewish schools which are Hareidi influenced. Assimilation is still a great danger for the Jewish community in Italy, he said. ORT can be a vital help for schools serving the traditional members of the community in preparing to keep them as up to date as possible and prepare their youngsters for the modern world in a Jewish environment. We can do a good job for the community. Describing Mr Jarach as one of the veterans of the ORT movement, World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer wished him every success in his new role. I have great admiration for the many generations of ORT lay leaders and professionals in Italy, Mr Singer said. Michele Di Veroli and Mauricio Tagliacozzo, both of whom graduated from the ORT Renzo Levi School in Rome, are today members of World ORTs Board of Trustees and Board of Representatives respectively. I am sure that together with Roberto Jarach they will contribute the continuing success of the organisation. I also hope that ORT Italys womens chapter will be revived and the countrys smaller communities will also benefit from ORTs know-how.