14 October 2009 The Muslim majority autonomous Republic of Tatarstan is looking forward to increased cooperation with World ORT in the field of education. At a top level meeting in the capital Kazan, a World ORT delegation headed by Director General and CEO Robert Singer suggested various projects which were warmly greeted by Prime Minister Rustam Nurgalievitch Minnikhanov and Deputy Education Minister Zukhra Nurrulovna Nigmatullina. Meeting of minds: World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer was impressed by the vision of Tatarstan Prime Minister Rustam Nurgalievitch Minnikhanov at the meeting in Kazan. Among the projects discussed was the setting up of seminars to raise the skills of teachers, focusing on the use of technology, and the exchange of experts between the republic and World ORT. They also discussed ways in which World ORT could cooperate in the Governments plan to create an independent body to evaluate the performance of schools in Tatarstan a constituent republic of the Russian Federation. We are ready to adopt the best of the many years of experience of World ORT as well as from the experience of the Israeli education system, said Prime Minister Nurgalievitch. Mr Singer was delighted by the meeting. I was very impressed by the Prime Ministers vision for the future development of the republic, Mr Singer said. He has a deep appreciation of the importance of education in the economic progress of Tatarstan. The warmth of the meeting was, I believe, indicative of the tolerance which characterises Tatarstan. There is a very positive relationship between the large number of ethno-religious communities there and World ORT would be happy and honoured to contribute further to the development of such an inspiring society. The highly successful meeting comes hot on the heels of another one with the outgoing president of Moldova, Vladimir Voronin, which laid the groundwork for a significant expansion of ORT operations in the country. Moldova is one of Europes poorest countries while oil-rich Tatarstan is industrially highly developed. And Kazan University is known as the birthplace of organic chemistry due to the work of some of its more famous alumni, who also include Leo Tolstoy. Another similarity between the two meetings was the presence at each of a dynamic local ORT lay leader. In Moldova it was the President of ORT Moldova, Ilan Shor, and in Kazan it was Michael Skoblionok, who in addition to being president of the local Jewish community is a member of the Board of ORT Russia and of the World ORT General Assembly. Michael Skoblionok is a fine example of the new kind of leadership enjoyed by ORT, Mr Singer said. He is a successful businessman with a chain of hotels who devotes most of his time to the Jewish community. He has stepped in to provide emergency short term funding for the ORT Mishpateinu School in Kazan so that the transportation and hot meals so essential to its students can be maintained despite the budget cuts necessitated by the crisis in the Heftsiba system. Also in the delegation were Senior Advisor to the Director General of World ORT, Avi Ganon, and the Director of the ORT Mishpateinu School in Kazan, Olga Troupp. The school, which attracted the republics President Mintimer Shaimiev to its 10th anniversary celebration last year, has such a good reputation that top families from the wider community are keen for their own children to join its 10 per cent of non-Jewish students. Its popularity means that it has outgrown its present site and the World ORT delegation asked the Prime Minister for help in providing a temporary building until the site earmarked for its permanent new home is developed. ORT Mishpahteinus 431 students learn the State Education Curriculum as well as Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Thanks to ORTs input, the school offers a unique educational programme including ICT-related courses, project-based learning and integration of school disciplines; it has also enabled the training of all the schools teachers in the use of computers as educational tools and introduced distance learning courses provided by the Moscow ORT Technology College.