Praise for ORT’s work in Belarus


24 January 2005 Members of a top level delegation representing North American Jewish communities have praised ORTs work in Belarus after visiting the ORT Bialik school in the capital, Minsk, last week. The work of World ORT is truly making a difference in the Jewish world, as it has for so many years, said Howard Rieger, President and CEO of the United Jewish Communities (UJC). Visiting the Bialik school in Belarus demonstrated that what has been true in the past is still true that ORT is working creatively and effectively in distant parts of the world. The fact that the Bialik school is a partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel makes the impact even more significant. My first visit to an ORT school was in Iran in 1977. The significant and impactful work goes on. Mr Rieger joined a group of executive directors of North American Jewish federations on their fact finding mission to gain insight into the development, and needs, of Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union. World ORT Director General Robert Singer and World ORT Representative in Russia, Belarus and Central Asia Avi Ganon were at ORT Bialik to meet the delegation, which also included American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Executive Vice-President Steve Schwager and Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) Chairman Sallai Meridor. This was the first time that ORTs activities have featured on a mission like this, Mr Singer said. Were proud to be partners with the UJC and the federation system in our work. And were grateful that they have visited our school in Minsk. We received very positive feedback from everyone we spoke to. World ORT coordinates operations in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan: 58 projects in 33 locations serving more than 25,000 people. The delegation was shown around ORT Bialik, which is one of four schools that came under ORT management last year as part of the Heftsibah programme and introduced to teachers and some of the 235 Jewish students. Mr Ganon explained the working of the Heftsibah programme, which is a partnership of ORT, Israels Ministry of Education and JAFI through which formal Jewish education is provided in the former Soviet republics. I explained some of the difficulties we have had in running the programme over the past two years, Mr Ganon said. I told them that we need another $500,000 to run the system to its full potential. The delegation was also introduced to some students from the ORT Information and Communications Technology (ICT) centre in the Chagall Institute at the State University, and was shown a film detailing the improvements ORT has made at the Lipman School in Moscow. ORTs operations in Belarus stand to benefit from the Regeneration 2004 campaign which, like the Regeneration 2000 campaign before it, aims to bring quality Judaic and general high school education to Jewish communities throughout the countries and independent states of the region. Regeneration 2004 will ensure that equipment and services in existing ORT centres are maintained and fully operational, that systems are upgraded and staff are provided with extra training. The latest campaign will include seven more centres than in 2000. These new centres will benefit from necessary refurbishments, the installation of new systems and services, and the introduction of ongoing staffing and staff training.