Thousands of young people in Israel and the former Soviet Union stand to benefit thanks to the generosity and commitment of ORT supporters in London and Geneva. British ORT and ORT Switzerland have held their annual gala dinners raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for programmes helping Arabs and Jews, the healthy and the hospitalised to develop their innate skills for a productive and prosperous adulthood.
ORT Switzerland President Robert Equey expressed his thanks to the more than 200 people enjoying a magical evening amid the glamour of Ferraris and Porsches in Geneva’s Modena Cars showroom.
“Your trust in ORT bears witness to the need for our courage, rigor and will to realize the vision we have of man and the world. Because ORT stands at the centre of this vision; its essential goal of teaching, of educating and training, not only elevates this generation but enables the transmission of knowledge and skills to future generations, for the good of humanity,”? Mr Equey said.
It is a vision which places ORT on the side of progress and peace. As British ORT’s keynote speaker, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub, explained the momentous changes in the Middle East could be boiled down to a battle between “yesterday and tomorrow, between those who want to take their people forward into a productive future and those who are dedicated to pulling them back into a primitive and destructive past”?.
“ORT is investing, committing itself to that future,”? he said.
While Mr Taub lauded ORT’s “incredible work”? in his home country he reserved special praise for the “moving and inspiring”? work it does in the former Soviet Union. Remembering the passion and determination of refuseniks he met in the Soviet era and how they organised secretly to study Hebrew, the ambassador noted that the “flame of Jewish survival in the region is a miracle but the wick of that flame is Jewish education”?.
Money raised at the gala dinner in London will go to ORT’s work in some of the smaller Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union, communities whose existence relies heavily on the good Jewish and skills-based education which ORT provides.
“These people would remain forgotten were it not for ORT’s work,”? said British ORT Chairman Simon Alberga. “In these communities we run Jewish day schools, vocational training centres, programmes to help unemployed and under-employed women gain the skills necessary to find work or a promotion. In these towns and cities, many Jews lost their association with their faith under decades of communism, and ORT is supporting their communities to develop a strong Jewish ethos and re-build themselves to become proud, self-sufficient Jews.”?
In Geneva, the theme of the evening was “From dream to reality”? with the internationally renowned magician Stefan Leyshon providing an entertaining metaphor of how ORT plucks opportunity out of the hat for hundreds of thousands of underprivileged people around the world each year.
This year, ORT Switzerland is raising funds for World ORT’s Centres of Excellence programme in Israel. These are centres of extra-curricular learning established in five towns in Israel’s periphery where students can broaden their knowledge of science and technology while developing skills in problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork.
The result of a unique partnership with the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee and local municipalities, the Centres of Excellence focus on narrowing the gap with the academic achievements of teenagers living in the centre of Israel.
In particular, ORT Switzerland was raising money for the centres set up in the historic towns of Tsfat and Nazareth. Tsfat, famous for its kabbalists and artists, has a young population which means it has great potential for future growth and success “ﾓ but it currently is at the low end of Israel’s scale of social and economic well-being with an average monthly salary of just NIS 4,400 compared with the national average of more than NIS 8,100.
“This Centre of Excellence fills an educational void for middle and high school students, offering them opportunities for study and academic growth that simply has not existed for them until now,”? said ORT Switzerland Director Linor Vassault.
Nazareth is Israel’s largest Arab city: the average salary is a little higher than in Tsfat but less than half its high school students matriculate.
“This is a crucial development because it shows that the Israeli state is committed to investing in its Arab citizens and in providing them with the skills, knowledge and qualifications to compete equally with other Israelis in the job market,”? Ms Vassault said.
Money has also been earmarked for World ORT’s SASA Setton Kav Or programme which provides education for hospitalised children, in particular a “medical clowns”? project, which has been set up with the involvement of ORT Switzerland Vice President Philippe Nordmann.
“Recent studies have shown that laughter really can be the best medicine,”? Ms Vassault said. “We see this as a vital contribution to the SASA Setton Kav Or programme by ensuring that young people in hospital are helped over the anxiety caused by illness and separation from family and friends.”?
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer paid tribute to British ORT and ORT Switzerland for their on-going contributions to the ORT family.
“For decades, no matter how challenging the circumstances, they have shown skill and imagination in raising the money we need to deliver the services which only ORT can provide to those who need us most. Once again ORT lay leaders, staff and supporters in Britain and Switzerland have shown their dedication to our collective goal of making the world a better place through education,”? Mr Singer said.