ORT Basle to support Jewish school in Bulgaria


18 September 2008 ORT Basle to support Jewish school in Bulgaria ORT supporters from Switzerland have visited the only Jewish school in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, to see how they can best help contribute to its continued success. ORT Basle stalwart, Judith Anschwaden, flew to Sofia with her aunt, Eva Abesch, another long standing supporter of ORT, to see the Dimcho Debeljanov High School first hand. ‘We had heard that the school needed money and ORT Basle has some funds available so we thought it would be nice to establish a personal connection and see how the money could best be used,’ Ms Anschwaden said. It was the first time that Ms Anschwaden had made such a trip to an ORT school in her decades of commitment to the organisation and she was very glad that she had done it. ‘I now know the people who work there in Sofia and it makes me feel much better,’ she said. ‘I can now talk to the people in Basle and tell them exactly what’s needed and where exactly the money goes. It was a good idea to go there in person.’ In Sofia, Ms Anschwaden and Ms Abesch met ORT Bulgaria Chairman Dr Emil Kalo, and the Director of the school’s Lauder-ORT Science and Technology Centre, Plamen Petrov. ‘We had an excellent time together,’ said Dr Kalo, who is also a member of World ORT’s Board of Trustees. ‘We showed them the school and told them what the school needs to progress. I hope they will help us to realise our dream of creating a media centre in the school; it would raise the level of the school so much. ORT schools in Moscow and Buenos Aires already have such centres, which students use to learn the latest video and audio techniques. Were we to set up such a centre in our school it would be the only one of its kinds in the Balkans. It would give our students a huge advantage in preparing for the future, particularly now that Bulgaria is part of the European Union. Because such technology is not available locally the advertising and other industries that require material created with it have to go abroad. There are clear opportunities for local people with these skills to create such material domestically as well as to pursue careers internationally.’ The school recently celebrated the successful transition from primary to high school with its first batch of matriculation graduates. The students scored well above the national average in the exams, results which augured well for the future. However, the school faces other pressing needs even as it strives to improve its already high standards. Higher oil prices are making it increasingly difficult for Jewish students, who comprise about 30 per cent of the school’s 800 students, to afford the fare for the specially contracted school buses. This is forcing some parents to send their children to non-Jewish schools closer to home – a potentially huge blow to this relatively small Jewish community’s struggle for continuity. Ms Anschwaden said that ORT Basle was considering its options on how to support the school and that the media centre and transport subsidies were both possibilities. ‘We were impressed by the school and its ethos,’ she said. ‘And we are looking forward to helping it.’