Resurgent ORT Zurich looks to the future


A mid-summer concert hosted by ORT Zurich is being seen as a prelude to a more active fundraising role.

The concert, held last week amid the 18th century splendour of the lakeside Erlengut estate just south of Zurich, was a rare opportunity for ORT Zurich’s small-but-steady band of supporters to socialise and to learn about ORT’s work around the world.

Following a predictably superb performance by the youthful Kallisto Quartet, the 80 guests had the opportunity to discuss ORT’s mission with World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer, Chief Operating Officer Sonia Gomes de Mesquita and the Head of World ORT’s International Cooperation office in Geneva, Daniel Kahn. Jacqueline Rothschild, who co-chairs ORT Zurich’s Executive Committee with Dr Michael Kuenzer, said: “It went very well. The weather was dreadful but the sun was shining in people’s hearts; it was a very nice atmosphere. We had hoped to do an event last year but it was cancelled because of the economic crisis. But I hope that we can now do something every year.”?
Dr Kuenzer added: “It was a perfect evening, everyone was extremely satisfied. It was important for our members to be able to speak to Robert and Sonia, who are really familiar with all ORT’s projects. I am positive that we achieved our goal which was not primarily to raise money from the event but to raise awareness of what ORT is and who is behind it.”?
He was confident that the insight and intimacy generated by the event will translate into donations when ORT Zurich sends out its newsletter and calendar in coming months.
Until now, the organisation has relied on its mail outs to raise funds, a strategy which, Ms Gomes de Mesquita said, has not been unsuccessful.
“The people at ORT Zurich are totally committed. You always know that, at the end of the year, the money will come as promised for their adopted projects,”? she said.
These projects have included Disability to Ability, which provides distance learning for Jewish physically disabled children; supporting subsidies which ensure that no Jewish child is turned away from an ORT Argentina school due to lack of funds; and helping to fund the provision of vouchers for classroom necessities such as text books and calculators to needy children in Israel so that they are in a material position to benefit from the new facilities at school’s benefiting from Kadima Mada.
“It was amazing to meet them,”? Ms Gomes de Mesquita added. “They have origins in so many different countries but they all share this same goal of supporting ORT’s mission. Some of them come from families whose commitment to ORT goes back generations.”?
Among them is Michael Shilling, who is in proud possession of a silver plate presented to his grandfather, Hugo Schmuklerski, for his work for ORT.
“It was very useful to hear Robert and Sonia speak about what ORT is doing around the world,”? Mr Shilling said. “Some people think it’s only helping Jews but it also works for non-Jews and that’s important for supporters and potential supporters here.”?
He said that there was grass roots demand for similar events to be held on a regular basis “οΎ“ ORT Zurich’s Executive Committee, which also counts Denise Neuberger, Juliette Davis, Thomas Merzbacher, Jan Gregor and Albert Herz as members, was not alone in wanting to increase fundraising.
“This event has left us with a strong sense of optimism. It has been a long time since we had an event like this and it has gone some way to breaking down the isolation of our group. To raise larger amounts of money we need events like this,”? Mr Shilling said.
Ms Rothschild agreed, saying, “It’s very important to get out to the public so that we can create a sense of identification and people can get a feeling of common cause.”?
Dr Kuenzer said he was confident that, with the same enthusiastic lay team which put together last week’s event, ORT Zurich could claim a place in the city’s increasingly competitive philanthropic calendar.
“Ideally we would have something like this on an annual basis,”? he said.
Mr Singer said last week’s event had been excellent, the result of outstanding work done by a team of skilled and committed volunteers.
“One could feel the warmth in the room as well as the great appreciation for Michael [Kuenzer] and Jacqueline personally and for ORT as an organisation,”? he said. “The significant funds raised by ORT Zurich over the years have had such a positive impact on the lives of thousands of children in Israel, Argentina, Russia and other countries. It is exciting to imagine how much more good will be accomplished as ORT Zurich realises its fundraising potential. World ORT looks forward to working with our friends in Zurich to achieve our common goals.”?