Students’ tikkun olam projects hit the right note


If music be the food of love then Isabel and Raquel Belem must play on! The teenage violinists are among the winners of this year’s World ORT Gina and Joseph Harmatz Award for Social Responsibility for their project providing concerts and friendship at homes for the elderly and disabled.

The heartwarming chessed (lovingkindness) of their Sundays with Violins programme took the Brazilian sisters to the top of the winners’ table together with fellow Instituto de Tecnologia ORT student, Anna Leonidia de Souza Soares Luiz, for her project feeding homeless people.

They shared the top prize with a team of ORT Argentina electronics students, Matias Bergerman, Mazimiliano Drab, Ezequiel Naidich and Agustin Strusberg, for their ingenious machine to help vision impaired people learn braille.

“It may be a cliché to say that it’s hard to choose winners from a strong field of entries but in this instance it is absolutely true,” said World ORT Chief Program Officer Vladimir Dribinskiy. “The students’ initiatives were carefully devised and implemented to bring tangible benefits to those who needed them as well as inspiring others to join in. Kol hakavod to everyone who took part!”

Despite the challenge, the judging panel picked 11 of the 27 video entries from nine countries as prize winners. (Full list below.)

The World ORT Gina and Joseph Harmatz Award for Social Responsibility is an annual recurring award given to students in the ORT network who have distinguished themselves in their conduct towards their fellow human beings; those who have demonstrated neighbourly love and who have behaved with dignity and decency.

The award recognises excellence for projects that have made an outstanding contribution to tikkunolam – our shared responsibility to make the world a better place. This could be through helping the needy, volunteering, a commitment to fostering the values of compassion and dignity and generally contributing morally to the good of humanity.

“Young people are often criticised for being self-centred and superficial. But the responses World ORT’s had to this competition show that our students are deeply committed to their communities and to the environment. They’ve shown that they’re prepared to go the extra mile to look after the needs of others,” said the head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman.

The Award is named after former World ORT Director General Joseph Harmatz a”h and his wife, Gina a”h.

“They were remarkable people whose warmth, intelligence, strength, willpower and courage they devoted to the well-being of those closest to them and to the wider community. Their memory is served well by this competition and I think they would have been very proud of all the students who submitted entries. We are grateful to the Harmatz family for their continued support,” said Mr Dribinskiy.

The full list of winners for the Gina and Joseph Harmatz Award 2017r

Argentina: Matias Bergerman, Maximiliano Drab, Ezequiel Naidich, Agustin Strusberg and Jeronimo Batista Bucher.

Brazil: Isabel and Raquel Belem, and Anna Leonidia de Souza Soares Luiz.

Israel: Dan Yushekovitz.

Italy: Daniel Heller, Angelo Livoli, Sion Guetta, and Alex Pandolfi.

Mexico: Alberto Ruzansky, Yonatan Attie, and Gabriel Salomon.

Panama: Elida Arias.

Russia: Sofia, Kalashnikova, Daniel Semenov, and Tania Shkoda.