20 May 2009 ORT America launches New York activities The first step towards the reinvigoration of ORTs historic presence in New York has taken place in Manhattans opulent Upper East Side. The intimate musical evening the first event in ORT Americas New York Metropolitan initiative attracted a quality-over-quantity crowd of new faces to a private apartment where they learned about ORTs activities worldwide. The feedback has been very, very good, said Shelby Tauber (pictured, right, with Judy Menikoff), who hosted the event and invited a select few of her many friends. I think they were all surprised by the extent of ORTs work. I received one email in which a friend said she now understood my level of commitment to ORT its a wonderful organisation doing wonderful work. Guests heard from Daniel Afrahim, a Jewish immigrant from Iran who gained graphic design skills from New Yorks Bramson ORT College; they watched an emotional video made by an ORT Mexico graduate detailing how ORT had given him the opportunity of turning his life around; and they listened to clarinettist Avigail Malachi who not only performed a duet but also described the positive effect World ORTs Kadima Mada programme had had on her home town of Kiryat Yam, Israel. In the last century, American ORT established peer groups of professionals while Womens American ORT focused more on residents in the suburbs. Now, thanks to the merger of the two organisations to create ORT America, there is an opportunity to broaden the support base in the metropolitan area which comprises the largest Jewish community outside Israel. Now were able to attract people the way they live today, said ORT America Board member Judy Menikoff, who is the lay leader heading the initiative. We want to build a broader base in the New York metropolitan area now that were one organisation. And New York is the place for it; it has a very diverse Jewish population with people drawn there from all over the world. And ORTs character matches the environment: it is an international organisation for an international city. Ms Menikoff outlined the strategy as building a platform from which ORTs mission and activities could be shared with a wider range of potential supporters. Ours is an old fashioned grass roots strategy, she said. Its not going to be a quick process. Were telling the ORT story to small groups and as the word spreads we will have a larger event. We want to meet individuals and make that personal connection between them and the ORT mission. One of our short term goals is to find the right individuals to sit on a steering committee which can then develop the next stage of the initiative. ORT America President Doreen Hermelin, a close friend of Mrs Tauber, said the importance of the initiative could not be overestimated. Theres a huge population in New York who care about ORT and who know about us and we need to reinvigorate that relationship. And theres a whole new population who need to hear about us. This is a tremendous opportunity to inform them about the amazing things ORT is doing around the world. Susie Baumohl, ORT Americas Associate Director Metro New York Region and Next Generation, is the leading professional in the activities. She said she was impressed by the enthusiasm of the guests at last weeks event and felt it was indicative of the welcome people would give ORT once they were exposed to its story. There is so much potential in this initiative, Ms Baumohl said. To be able to harness that potential and develop it is a very exciting prospect. She said that ORTs focus on one thing, education, gave it an advantage in getting its message across compared with those other organisations which spread themselves thinly across a range of issues. People want to know where their money goes; they want to know they are helping people with x, y or z, she said. And another advantage is that ORT is more intimate than some other organisations. Supporters have greater access. In some organisations they dont know your name unless you give a large amount of money. But ORT really appreciates all its supporters.