ORT students from Moscow visit Washington


November 12, 2007 ORT students from Moscow visit Washington A group of nine students from the ORT Lipman School in Moscow have spent a week in the US capital as part of an exchange programme funded by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The Muscovites spent their time with students at the Charles E Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS), eight of whom had visited ORT Lipman earlier in the year in the first phase of the Federations Washington-Moscow School Exchange programme. The programme is intended to raise awareness among the students, give them the opportunity to build and sustain meaningful relationships, so that they understand that were two different Diaspora communities but were ultimately one people and we share a lot of things, said the Federations Senior Development Officer, Shai Lamdan. At a reception held in the Muscovites honour, ORT Lipman student Inna Menkina shared how the school had helped her to connect with her Jewish identity. My experience at the school helped me to learn what it means about being Jewish. My family knew nothing about Judaism or about being Jewish and neither did their parents, Inna said. Her comment echoed that of CESJDS student Sara Marcus when she visited ORT Lipman in April. The kids are the ones going to Jewish day school and teaching the parents, she told her classmates on returning to Washington. Sara was also at the reception, where she told everyone how happy she was to be part of the programme. ORT Lipman student Inna Menkina addresses the reception. During their week in Washington, the ORT Lipman students attended classes at CESJDS and went on tours of local landmarks such as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Capitol, the African-American Civil War Memorial Museum and the International Spy Museum. As part of their exposure to our community they visited an old peoples home. Some of the residents are Russian speakers so it was a very interesting experience for both young and old, said Mr Lamdan. The reception was held at the home of Allen Kronstadt, who has been instrumental in instigating and developing the links between the Washington and Moscow schools in his capacity as Co-chair of the Federations Moscow Communication Committee. Mr Kronstadt who has held senior lay positions in American ORT and currently sits on the Board of ORT Americas Greater Washington Region has been able to derive extra pleasure from a project which combines his commitments to ORT and the Federation. I first visited the ORT Lipman school on an ORT mission to Moscow and I got the rare opportunity to visit it again on a mission with the Federation. I feel a special connection tot eh school for dual reasons, he said. World ORTs North American Representative, Harry Nadler, said it had been very exciting to see how ORT had made such a difference in the lives of the students. When we realise that the Russian students are four generations removed from the opportunity to study and experience Jewish heritage and traditions, we see how very important ORT is for them. These students did not have parents and grandparents who could provide the link to our identity that Jews in Washington and other parts of the world have enjoyed, Mr Nadler said. In addition to further exchanges of students and staff, there are plans to strengthen links between the communities, said World ORTs Representative in Russia, Belarus and Central Asia, Avi Ganon. Programmes like this are very important and provide extraordinary opportunities for all involved, Mr Ganon said. I am sure the benefits will only increase when we start videoconferencing between the schools so that we can celebrate holidays together and develop other joint activities. By using technology, ORT is creating a bridge between Jews on different continents. An ORT Technology Centre was inaugurated at the Lipman School in 2002. Since then, the school has flourished and now caters to 345 students aged between seven and 17. The school attracts secular Jews by providing a high standard Jewish alternative to other top schools in Moscow. After an enforced absence, World ORT returned to Russia in 1991. It now coordinates operations in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan 53 projects in 32 locations serving more than 30,000 people. World ORT is the worlds largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organisation and has benefited more than 3 million people Jewish and non-Jewish in 100 countries since its foundation in 1880. This experience of going to Moscow and making friends there has been a life changing experience for me, she said.