ORT Switzerland raises money for St Petersburg


21 October 2009 ORT Switzerland raises money for St Petersburg Despite the recession, ORT Switzerland has managed to coax nearly 300 people many of them high flyers in the world of banking and finance to its gala dinner in Geneva to raise money for the award-winning ORT de Gunzburg School in St Petersburg. Among the guests were descendants of World ORT co-founder Baron Horace de Gunzburg, including World ORT President Dr Jean de Gunzburg who, with his wife Terry, is a major supporter of the high school which bears his familys name. The theme of the event held at the historic Hotel Le Richemond by Lake Geneva was Bolshoi on the Rocks, a reference to the Russian love for dancing and drinking. Ironically, on the rocks also hints at the crisis World ORTs schools network in the Former Soviet Union faces as a result of the Jewish Agency for Israels massive cuts to the Heftsiba programme. For more than 20 years Heftsiba has provided for Jewish Studies, the bolstering of teachers wages and for security. Heftsiba also provides hot lunches and school buses critical services for schools serving Jewish communities scattered across large urban sprawls and teaching a curriculum that demands long days. Baron Marc de Gunzburg and Baron Jean de Gunzburg. However, the theme could just as easily have taken on the theme Dynasty for, in addition to representatives of the de Gunzburg family, the event attracted Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, whose grandfather ( ) was at a British ORT dinner in 1930 to hear guest speakers George Bernard Shaw and Albert Einstein, and members of the extended family of past president of ORT Switzerland, Jacqueline Maus. Loyalty is a rare quality these days, ORT Switzerland President Robert Equey told guests, but it is much in evidence here tonight. It is a loyalty that passes the test of time by being passed down through the generations as can be seen by the de Gunzburg, Rothschild, Maus, Nordmann and Rondeau families who honour us with their presence. Mr Equey reminded guests of ORTs mission, the continued relevance of which 130 years after the organisation was founded, commands such loyalty. We have a responsibility to our students to raise them to a level of excellence that will enable them to realise not only their academic and professional abilities but also their humanity, he said. ORT refuses to confine itself to sectarian interests and withdraw into its own community. We want to participate in the world, living, breathing and dreaming its realities. So our schools welcome people from different social, cultural and philosophical backgrounds. Preliminary results showed the evening raised approximately 190,000 Swiss Francs more than enough to meet the target of funding 30 scholarships at the de Gunzburg School. The money is needed more than ever as the effects of the Heftsiba crisis are compounded by the effects of the recession on ordinary families. And yet ORT de Gunzburg School is faring relatively well thanks to extra government and other funds which have come its way because of its extraordinary educational achievements. In June, for example, it was one of three ORT Russia schools to win a Hewlett-Packard innovation grant worth some $100,000. The school plans to use the grant to help it to introduce students to the basics of atomic and molecular literacy and its application in biotechnology and engineering. A month earlier, two members of its staff, history teacher Nadezhda Belova and biology teacher Vera Egorova, won the Russian Federations highest award for excellence in the field of education, the Presidents Prize two years after the school itself won the prize for innovation and excellence. And last year, the school, which caters for 420 students aged between six and 17, received a $1 million injection of public funds to renovate its historic fa ade as well as to modernise its internal fabric. That money was taken as recognition by the authorities of the schools achievements and was the icing on the cake of millions of dollars invested in it by World ORT over the past 17 years, largely due to the generosity of major donors such as Dr and Mrs de Gunzburg.