ORT America fetes major supporters


26 September 2008 ORT America fetes major supporters Some of ORT’s biggest supporters attended glittering ORT America functions in New York last week. American members of World ORT’s elite group of donors, The 1880 Society, gathered together for an exclusive tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art followed by a reception at the trendy Bruno Jamais restaurant. Three days later members of ORT America’s Diamond Ladder and Major Gift groups came together at the Capsouto Freres restaurant, where they enjoyed a gourmet, four-course, French dinner coupled with a tasting of exceptional Israeli wines under the guidance of sommelier and restaurateur Jacques Capsouto, a graduate of ORT Lyons. Pictured are, back row standing, from Left: Caryl and Herbert W. Ackerman, Chair of the 1880 Society Event and member of the Executive Committee of the National Board of Directors of ORT America; The Honorable Moti Dotan, Member of the Board of Trustees of World ORT and Mayor of the Lower Galilee Regional Council, Israel; Judy Menikoff, Co-Chair of the 1880 Society and Executive Committee member of ORT America; Phyllis and Joe Cohen, Co-Chair of the 1880 Society and Executive Committee Member of World ORT. Front row seated, from left: ORT America National President Doreen Hermelin; Grace Mendelson, Treasurer and member of the Executive Committee of the National Board of ORT America; and Shelley B. Fagel, Chair of the Executive Committee of ORT America. Herb Ackerman, who co-chaired The 1880 Society event with his wife Caryl, said it was an opportunity for ORT’s most valued philanthropists to forge stronger relationships with each other and with ORT. ‘As members of The 1880 Society,’ he told the dinner guests, ‘you are devoted to the highest degree of charity and represent an elite, international group of men and women whose generosity ensures that ORT remains at the forefront of Jewish education around the world.’ Mr Ackerman said much of the event’s success was thanks to the tour of the Met led by Dr Oscar White Muscarella, Senior Research Fellow in ancient Near Eastern Art at the museum and an outspoken critic of the antiquities trade and the plunder of artifacts. During the dinner, Judy Menikoff presented Joe Cohen with a silver coin specially minted by the Israeli Government in commemoration of the country’s 60th anniversary. ‘As your co-chair of The 1880 Society and a founding member, it’s my pleasure to say how much we value your commitment to the global ORT programme,’ Ms Menikoff said. ‘ORT America draws its strength from your extraordinary hard work, dedication and support. Thanks to your leadership we can boast a combined total of 32 active 1880 Society members from ORT America. This year alone we acquired eight new members, representing donations worth $800,000. Since the 1880 Society was founded in 2004, gifts and pledges from our members in the US have totaled over $10 million.’ To join The 1880 Society at a bronze medal level, donors must commit themselves to giving at least $100,000 to ORT over three consecutive years. Those donating $250,000 receive a silver medal while $500,000 gets the donor a solid gold medal and life membership. Life membership and a platinum medal is awarded to those who invest $1 million or more over three years. At the function were World ORT’s President, Dr Jean de Gunzburg, Deputy President Gene Ribakoff, Director General Robert Singer, Head of the International Liaison Department Sonia Gomes de Mesquita and Board of Trustees member Moti Dotan, who is also the Mayor of the Lower Galilee Regional Council. Dr de Gunzburg and Mr Singer, together with some 1880 Society members and members of World ORT’s Board of Trustees, also attended the Diamond Ladder and Major Gift event later in the week. The event brought together ORT America supporters who have invested at least $5,000 in ORT in the past year. The event’s chair, Patti Aaron, continues a family tradition in supporting ORT: her father is a major backer of the D Dan and Betty Kahn Science Centre, a prominent educational feature of World ORT’s revitalisation of Kiryat Yam’s city centre. Addressing the event, Ms Aaron emphasised ORT’s international character. ‘Events like this exemplify World ORT’s global reach,’ she said. ‘The presence of our worldwide partners is a reaffirmation of their commitment and cooperation in developing World ORT’s educational initiatives.’ ORT supporters from 12 countries were at the event and representatives of each country handed out fact cards on ORT activities in their homelands. In addition, Jacques Capsouto recounted his experience of attending the ORT school in Lyon, following his and his family’s expulsion from Egypt in 1957. And new members of The 1880 Society, Linda and Howard Kirschbaum and Gail and Howard Lanznar were presented with their medals, specially minted by the Israel Government Coins and Medals Authority. Towards the end of the evening, the Chairman of ORT America’s Executive Committee, Shelley Fagel, told guests of the Urgency Campaign launched to close the budget gap caused by the fall in the dollar. ‘ORT schools and programmes around the world are in serious jeopardy of cutbacks, and even closures, due to the decline of the US dollar. The weakness of the dollar when converted to the currency in the ORT operating country has reduced buying power by up to 30 per cent,’ Ms Fagel said. ‘Consequently, an additional $1.2 million must be raised immediately.’ Mr Singer paid tribute to ORT America as an outstanding organisation which had been the main supporter of ORT’s worldwide activities for many years. ‘It is at a critical juncture,’ he said. ‘It is planning to take a new direction and to strengthen its presence in various cities, building on the success of previous generations and a very positive response from many members of Jewish communities nationwide. Both the events last week showed the very positive development and unlimited devotion of the lay leadership of the organisation.’ ORT America National President Doreen Hermelin said: ‘The resounding success of our two exclusive and unique events for major donors is a tribute to the enduring dedication and steadfast, generous support by the elite members of The 1880 Society and the Diamond Ladder society. ‘I express my sincere gratitude to all the ORT America leaders and benefactors, and the World ORT trustees who travelled far distances to attend, for their ongoing commitment to ORT’s global educational initiatives, which empower students to learn and succeed in the 21st century. They all share my belief in the power of education; that it can change lives and strengthen entire communities. Together, we are creating an international network of support and friendship.’