The vision of ORT Argentinas new President


27 May 2009 The vision of ORT Argentinas new President Having given his two sons an ORT education, and with four grandchildren currently studying at ORT, Hector Rosenzvit has seen up close the benefits such schooling brings. And his doctorate in chemistry and decades spent building one of Argentinas most successful companies give him an appreciation for the relevance of ORTs mission to provide children with the skills they need for a productive life. In short, Dr Rosenzvit knows ORT inside and out. Coupled with a personal charm that would ensure the smooth running of any great enterprise, it is not surprising that ORT Argentina has elected him as its new President; only that it has not done so until now. When my children were at school I was very busy at work. Now I am retired I have the time to repair what I missed with my children with what I am doing with my grandchildren, he said. Although my association with ORT goes back some 30 years I have been on the Board only five years. It is only now that I can work full time for ORT. Not that ORT Argentina has been short of talent to fill its top lay leadership role. Indeed, Dr Rosenzvit has high praise for his predecessor, Guillermo Feldberg. He did an excellent job, he said before detailing some of what he considered to be his greatest achievements. One was the creation of a consultative council where educators and administrators of ORT Argentinas two high schools and two polytechnics can brainstorm practical matters independently of the Board. Another of Mr Feldbergs major initiatives was instituting closer ties with other Jewish schools in Argentina to allow a cross fertilisation which would raise standards across the board. And yet another was the collaboration with World ORT to build the exciting new science and technology centre adjacent to the campus of ORT Argentinas Almagro High School. The four-storey state-of-the-art centre was designed free of charge by renowned architect Dario Jaraj, who went from Secretary of the ORT Argentina Board of Directors to First Vice-President in the recent elections. Design is becoming very important in Argentina so it is important to create not only a teaching centre but a centre which people in the design field can use for conferences and seminars, Dr Rosenzvit said. The new facility is being built on a 1,330 square-metre plot with each of the four levels boasting a covered area of 870 square metres and its completion will free up space at Almagro which allow the school to raise its enrolment in response to the huge demand for places. Last year ORT Argentina celebrated its largest graduation class 802 students and that looks set to grow as the schools reputation, combined with the difficult job market, serve to enhance the attractiveness of an ORT education to parents and children alike. But the recession and government restrictions present the new President with tremendous challenges. We receive public funds but because of the economic crisis that income will not increase, so creating a deficit. Also, government rules dictate the amount which parents can pay towards their childrens schooling. For example, last year teachers salaries increased by 20 per cent but the parents contribution may rise only 10 per cent. So there is a need for efficiencies and new sources of income, Dr Rosenzvit said. Wisely, ORT Argentina has built up some cash reserves which it can now draw on but they can not last for ever. So the plan is to professionalise the organisations fundraising and options include the sponsorship of buildings, classrooms and other facilities through the use of naming rights. Many parents currently find it difficult to pay for their childrens education. Using our reserves and by increased fundraising we want to ensure that no Jewish child will be denied the opportunity to study in ORT because of economic or financial reasons, Dr Rosenzvit said. The building of the new design centre and the maintenance of scholarships for needy students are essential components of another challenge which Dr Rosenzvit anticipates during his two-year term: expansion of ORT activities. The best solution to the economic problems will be to expand the schools, he said. With more children we will be better able to use our facilities and will have a larger income from the parents. However, the expansion strategy is not limited to the schools and colleges ORT Argentina runs. Dr Rosenzvit also wants to increase the interaction between the scores of national ORT organisations, building on the successful work which World ORT does in this regard with, for example, the Wingate and Hatter Seminars and summer schools in London and Israel. I think much more can be done, he said, going on to outline his vision of reaching out primarily to fellow ORT organisations in Latin America and in particular to help the creation of an ORT school in neighbouring Chile. Dr Rosenzvits articulation of strategy and energetic purpose would be admirable in a man half his 76 years and are qualities which no doubt helped him build Impresora Internacional de Valores into Argentinas main printer of banknotes with some 800 employees. But when expressed by the President of ORT Argentina they emanate from a passionate belief in the benefits ORT brings to individuals and communities. It is a passion expressed by his predecessor in a farewell message to World ORTs top professional and lay leaders in which he thanked them for sharing with him the noble task of furthering ORTs work. ORT Argentina, he wrote, was a jewel of the community created by immigrants 73 years ago to offer a massive, pluralistic education, well integrated within Argentine society. My dear friends, today I am satisfied because I feel I have accomplished my goals, he concluded. But at the same time I know I will long for countless moments I lived in the school. They now form part of a mystique that words cannot convey. For Dr Rosenzvit it is an intimate bond forged by his own familys experience. When my children went to the ORT school technical education was seen as inferior because the humanistic approach prevailed, he said. But we found that ORT was able to give a high quality mixture of technical and humanistic education, so my children were very happy and I was happy, too. It still provides a very good mixture of technical, humanistic and Jewish values and my grandchildren are very happy. Further evidence of the quality of ORTs education came when his sons decided to attend Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was hard to enter because there was a tough exam and strong competition from students around the world. But my sons were successful and not just my children but others from ORT have also been successful which shows they have been well prepared, he said. Dr Rosenzvits three daughters did not attend ORT, a technical education seen in those days as being the preserve of boys. However, times have changed and now more than half of ORT Argentinas 7000 students are female. Its a very important change; a huge change for the good, he said. And ORT has been at the forefront of this change in society. This is also reflected among the teachers with, for example, three of our four institutions directors being women. The Chair of World ORTs Board of Trustees, Mauricio Merikanskas, welcomed Dr Rosenzvits election as the latest example of a long line of ORT Argentina presidents who have taken the organisation from strength to strength. The presidents of ORT Argentina have always been very prominent leaders within the Jewish community, devoted ORTists who have helped us carry the ORT flag with pride and honour, Mr Merikanskas said. I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr Rosenzvit on various occasions and I believe he will make a wonderful contribution to ORT Argentina in his new capacity. We in World ORT are very proud of ORT Argentina and we offer our full support to Dr Rosenzvit and wish him every success.