ORT pupils receive recognition for social action projects


A teenager who created a volunteer group to rebuild an earthquake-damaged school and a pupil who has designed an app which could save the lives of crash victims are among the winners of a prestigious social action award.

From Mexico to Russia via Argentina and Israel – World ORT students have showcased their efforts to contribute to their communities as part of the annual competition.

ORT is a global education network driven by Jewish values which uses innovation and education to unlock the potential of young people.

More than a dozen pupils from four countries have been named as winners of World ORT’s Gina and Joseph Harmatz Award after distinguishing themselves in their conduct towards others.

The youngsters’ projects are recognised for their contribution to ORT’s dedication to Tikkun Olam – our shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world.

Avi Ganon, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “The Gina and Joseph Harmatz Award is a great showcase of what ORT does best.

“Our students around the world are demonstrating not only their ability to put their technological education to practical use, but also the strong Jewish values which they have developed.

“They are ORT’s mission in action: using the tools they have been given to help themselves and others.”

Entries for this year’s competition included students who used their education in ORT’s specialist STEM programmes to put technology into action to help others.

Also among the winners were pupils who volunteered in special education schools, raised funds for those in need, and increased awareness of the challenges of living with impairments.

Nicolás Bilinkis, a student at the ORT school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, developed a web platform to tackle social inequality using digital technology. His programme links charity projects with donors and volunteers who want to contribute their time and money to help others.

Estonia Uljana Andrianova, Georgiy Goldberg and Eduard Avetjan organised a project in Tallinn, Estonia

In Tallinn, Estonia, three pupils devised a project to visit elderly Jewish community residents in their homes. Uljana Andrianova, Georgiy Goldberg and Eduard Avetjan took a menorah to celebrate Chanukah in the home of one woman in the city and engaged in a conversation about her life and experiences during the Second World War.

In Moscow, Saveliy Shamilov, Gleb Khokhlov and Arkady Fradin, organised a ‘good deeds’ project based on the motto: “Everyone can change someone’s life by filling a day of that person with joy.”

They invited elderly Jewish residents in Russia’s capital to community members’ homes for festival meals. They later expanded their programme to include volunteering at a palliative care centre in the city.

An ORT spokesman said: “ORT works globally to place the future in the hands of the next generation, and these awards show how our students are unleashing their potential for the benefit of others in their communities.

“Globally these projects have made a fantastic contribution and the winners are proving that educational excellence has the power to change lives. What better way to start the new year than by celebrating their achievements?”

Prizes are awarded in memory of the late Gina and Joseph Harmatz, who played pivotal roles in ORT’s history.

Joseph Harmatz was Director General and CEO of World ORT in the 1980s-1990s and was a partisan who was regarded as a hero of Lithuania’s resistance movement against the Nazis.

Gina Harmatz escaped Nazi persecution in western Europe in the 1930s and 1940s before settling in Israel. She was renowned for her graciousness and the importance she placed on family relationships and concern for the welfare of others.

Lucas Adlerstein, stunned by the hundreds of road traffic accidents in his home city of Buenos Aires every day, set about developing an app which could help save lives.

Working in the specialist technology labs at his ORT Argentina school, the 17-year-old is creating a system based on the use of fingerprints to quickly access an injured victim’s medical records and family details. Using Argentina’s national fingerprint database, the app would only require users to sign up and register in order for their medical records to become available to healthcare professionals.

Information immediately available for paramedics at crash sites would include the person’s blood type, availability of blood at a blood bank, allergies, and a next of kin to contact.

Lucas estimates the project could reach 70 per cent of Buenos Aires-based hospitals initially, with more than 10,000 people signed up to the system within months.

Baruch Matatov has spoken to hundreds of students across Israel

Baruch Matatov, a 17-year-old from Ashkelon, Israel, suffered a dramatic loss of vision three years ago due to a rare genetic disease.

After coming to terms with his sight loss, Baruch decided to do something to help the 23,000 people in Israel who suffer from similar difficulties.

Through setting up local meetings and getting-to-know you sessions, the teenager has spoken to hundreds of people about visual impairment and related difficulties in the classroom, discrimination in the work place, and even how to find love.

He now hopes to develop a conference to establish guidelines for helping those with sight problems.

Baruch said: “I have lectured in front of hundreds of students in different grades and schools. I do this on a volunteer basis.

“To be someone with a visual impairment in Israel is not an easy feat – that is why I have chosen to take charge and change this ‘sick’ reality. I have accomplished more than expected in my quest to change the system. But it takes more of an effort and investment.”

Alejandro Lew, a CIM-ORT student in Mexico City, put together a team of volunteers to help rebuild a school (pictured above) damaged by an earthquake in the metropolis.

After collecting sponsorships, donations and materials including paint, brushes and cement, Alejandro and his group set about repairing the damage.

“At the end of the project, we had very good results,” Alejandro said. “We finished refilling and painting all the walls, stairs and the basketball court and all the handles and doors.

“Kids painted little ceramic butterflies and pasted them on the wall of the plaza in the school and spent some more quality time together getting to know each other.

“This project is going to be bigger in the long term – we will keep helping damaged schools who have experienced some form of catastrophe or some low income school that needs support with donations to help them.”

Full list of winners of the 2018 Gina and Joseph Harmatz Awards:

Students School
Rona Nachum Yitzchak Rabin High School, Israel
Baruch Matatov Kfar Silver High School, Israel
Arkady Fradin, Gleb Khokhlov and Saveliy Shamilov ORT Tekhiya, Center of Education # 1311, Russia
Alejandro Lew CIM-ORT, Mexico
Artemyi Saenko and Yulia Afanasyenva Samara ORT Secondary School # 42, “Gesher”, Russia
Lior Swisa, Linoy Malka & Eliran Maman Rodman Junior High School, Israel
Lucas Tomás Adlerstein Escuela Tecnica ORT, Argentina
Nicolas Bilinkis Escuela Tecnica ORT, Argentina


The Harmatz Awards were featured in the Jewish Chronicle; read the article here.