30 May 2008 ORT Toulouse inaugurates new building The Chief Rabbi of France, Joseph Sitruk, joined more than 300 dignitaries and other guests in the formal opening of a huge new building at the ORT Toulouse high school. The beautiful 3,000-square-metre building, designed by award-winning Israeli architect David Knafo, is the culmination of years of careful planning to replace prefabricated buildings which have been used for classrooms since 1962. This magnificent expansion of the campus will enable us to increase our student roll from the 415 at present to more than 500, said ORT France President Marcel Benichou. And the new facilities mean that we can offer post-high school vocational courses that will be attractive to Jewish students. This is a wonderful chapter in the history of ORT France. The two-storey building will cater to senior students studying for their Baccalaurea high school graduation certificate. ORT Toulouse has an excellent record with more than 95 per cent of students graduating. However, it has been difficult to increase the proportion of Jewish students from the current 50 per cent because of its old campus and location in Colomiers, on the outskirts of town. Now we have an impressive environment which is attractive and practical with four ICT laboratories and state-of-the-art physics and chemistry laboratories as well as ordinary classrooms, Mr Benichou said. Together with the new rail link between Colomiers and Toulouse city centre we are optimistic that more Jewish students will join us. The school has already introduced a vocational course in banking, the first of three BTS diplomas two-year vocational courses for post-high school students that are planned. The BTS doptique (Opticians Technical Diploma), which qualifies graduates to open their own business, is due to start next year. Graduates of this course will be eligible to study a further year at ORT Strasbourg to earn a degree-level qualification. A BTS diploma in international business studies is due to be introduced in 2010. School principal Rene Bendavid, who graduated in nuclear physics from ORTs Central Training Institute in Switzerland in 1974, said: These are all courses that we know are in high demand in the Jewish community. The school is taking a big step forward that would not have been possible without the new building. World ORT Representative in France Guy Seniak noted that ORT Toulouse is the latest ORT France school to enjoy large-scale refurbishment and modernisation a process that was initiated during his time as the organisations National Director. The biggest work done was at Montreuil, Mr Seniak said. But major works have also been completed at Strasbourg, Villiers-le-Bel and Lyons. Only the school at Marseilles remains to be modernised. Before I joined ORT I was Director General of an organisation providing affordable housing for working people so I was very conscious of the need to maintain buildings. I am proud and happy that ORT France has made so much progress in this area. I was very lucky that I happened to be at ORT France at the time I was and to be working with such excellent professionals who have made such impressive progress. Among those professionals was Marc Timsit, who went on to succeed him as National Director. This is the conclusion of a project which started in 1963 with the construction of prefabricated classrooms that were meant to last 15 years but ended up being used for 45 years, Mr Timsit said. I congratulate the architects, the Principal, Rene Bendavid, and his team. In keeping with ORT Frances strict financial policy, no debts were incurred in executing the $7 million project at Toulouse thanks largely to government funds. Mr Seniak and Mr Benichou were joined at the ceremony this week by dignitaries including the local mayor, Mr Sicard, the President of the mid-Pyrenees region, Martin Malvy and the President of the local ORT France chapter, Thierry Gauthier. World ORT Board member Dr Gideon Meyer conveyed the congratulations of the ORT family around the world to the school for this landmark development. The Chief Rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, addressed the crowd saying that ORT Toulouse was a truly Jewish school. ORT is a Jewish school, not just because it follows the Jewish calendar or because it provides kosher food, Chief Rabbi Sitruk said. It is a Jewish school because of its spirit and its values. And the welcome it provides non-Jewish students is in this spirit of Judaism. Each year ORT France, which was founded in 1921, educates and trains more than 6,700 students at its institutions in Paris, Strasbourg, Lyons, Toulouse and Marseilles.