New president, new constitution for World ORT


06 June 2008 New president, new constitution for World ORT An exciting new chapter in the history of World ORT has opened at this weeks General Assembly in Warsaw with the election of a new president and adoption of a new constitution. London-based scientist and businessman Dr Jean de Gunzburg (pictured, left) was the unanimous choice to succeed Sir Maurice Hatter, for whom he deputised during his four-year term. Sir Maurice (pictured, right) received a standing ovation for his enormous contribution to what he described as one of the most remarkable organisations in the Jewish world. Delegates also overwhelmingly approved a new constitution 164 for and only two against with one abstention which will streamline World ORTs governance while enhancing accountability, transparency and efficiency. The new governance structure and comprehensive strategic plan, which was also overwhelmingly adopted by delegates, underpin Dr de Gunzburgs vision of making World ORT the household name of Jewish education. The next step will be to put the strategic plan to music, to put it into being, Dr de Gunzburg, a descendant of World ORT co-founder Baron Horace de Gunzburg, told the Gala Dinner. We have lay leaders but we need even more and even better; staff we have but we need more and better. And to do that we need more funding; to have more funding we need to get out the message of World ORT. Dr de Gunzburg paid tribute to his predecessor for his heart, his generosity, his sense of whats right and of leadership that comes from deep within. Speaking in advance of the General Assembly, Dr de Gunzburg said the radical reforms initiated under Sir Maurices presidency which were approved at the General Assembly meant World ORT was in a strong position to attract more support. World ORT needs to raise more money, he said. But while our programmes are very good the image of our programmes isnt in line with what they are. We need to move the perception to where the reality is. Dr de Gunzburg, whose late mother was sister to Charles and Edgar Bronfman, said that one way to put World ORTs image on a par with its performance in the field was to recruit more people worthy of the organisation. One example of the new talent drawn to World ORT is the appointment at the General Assembly of Professor Victor Halberstadt to chair the reinvigorated Academic Advisory Committee, which advises World ORT on how to develop its educational provision to keep pace with socio-economic trends. In addition to being Professor of Public Economics at Leiden University, Professor Halberstadt has held senior positions with a wide range of high profile companies and institutions, including President of the International Institute of Public Finance, Chairman of the international advisory board of DaimlerChrysler, Director of the International Advisors Group of Goldman Sachs, and Advisor to the Secretary-General of the OECD. Another example is the election of Gene Ribakoff as Deputy President of World ORT. Mr Ribakoff became Chairman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in 2004 and has served as a board member of the organisations which merged to form Americas United Jewish Communities. In his valedictory address to the General Assembly, Sir Maurice reflected on his determination to make World ORT more attractive to donors. Its not enough that our cause is worthwhile, he said. Donors need to know that their investment is safe, that the funds they give us will go where they are supposed to go, that they will not be diverted and that they will not be swallowed up by excessive overheads I believe that we have succeeded in this mission. We have full transparency in place and the proof is that our donor income has increased in both quantity and quality. Sir Maurice characterised his term as a period of transition for World ORT in its adoption of new financial methods as well as new educational methods as evidenced by the supply of high-tech smart classes and intelligent laboratories to Israeli schools as part of the Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme. The third element of the modernisation programme, the adoption of new governance structures, will ensure that World ORT in the 21st century is truly fit for purpose and ready to move ever upwards, fulfilling an ancient vision in a modern setting. Before the General Assembly, Dr de Gunzburg said that the reforms meant World ORTs governance was replacing its traditional reliance on geographical representation to become a skills driven organisation. Representation is still important but the people at World ORT should not be sitting behind a flag of their national organisation. There remain geographical checks and balances but people should be there to work for the whole, not just the parts. The one constant among all the changes is World ORTs commitment to providing excellence in education to people around the world. The lessons of the past are important in Jewish life, Dr de Gunzburg told the General Assembly. The history of World ORT is the history of the Jewish People. The future comes from continuity with World ORTs traditional value of educating for life. In addition to the general and vocational education and training provided by World ORT institutions and programmes, Dr de Gunzburg stressed the importance of Jewish education. Its something very close to my heart, he said. Its important that every Jew knows who he is and where he comes from because thats part of being a mensch. World ORT Director General Robert Singer said the spirit of the General Assembly had been very constructive. The special events at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial and at Auschwitz-Birkenau were outstanding and the feedback from participants had been superb. This General Assembly marks a very significant change of transmission from one generation of lay leaders to another, Mr Singer said. I believe that Dr de Gunzburg receives a very efficient, excellent organisation and I have no doubt knowing him and working with him over the last four years that he will take it to new heights both as an educational organisation and as a movement of the Jewish People around the world.