The governments of France, Russia, and the United Kingdom have awarded top level honours to senior ORT figures.
In recognition of their major contributions to French national education, ORT Strasbourg’s Director, Claude Sabbah, has been promoted to Commandeur of the Ordre des Palmes Academiques “ﾓ the country’s highest distinction in the field of education “ﾓ while ORT Strasbourg’s Senior Advisor for Education, Joseph Bismuth, has been made a Chevalier in the order, founded by Emperor Napoleon some 200 years ago.
Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has conferred the Order of Friendship on ORT Russia President Alexander Asmolov for his exceptional contributions to the development of the country’s education sector.
And Robert Bieber, a former British ORT Chairman and currently a Vice-President of the organisation and a member of its Legacy Committee, has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s New Year Honours.
For Mr Bismuth, who attended the ORT Ariana school in Tunis before continuing his education at ORT Strasbourg in 1969, being elevated to the Ordre des Palmes Academiques is the culmination of his integration into French society as well as recognition of the impressive developments he has helped to engineer at ORT Strasbourg.
“I am very proud to see the same school where I studied being transformed over the years to become acknowledged by academics, government and our many partners,” he said. “These have been years of steady and rigorous work and continuous friendship with Claude Sabbah. Thanks to him ORT Strasbourg is what it is today, that is a school of success and of demanding standards.”
Mr Sabbah said that being promoted to the highest rank in the order was a great honour for him and for ORT Strasbourg but it did not mark the end of the story.
“After 40 years with ORT, in France, Switzerland and Iran, and more than 30 years spent in Strasbourg, I know that there is still a great deal to achieve,” he said. “Teaching methods have evolved, technological tools change and young people’s interest are different. Consequently we have to adapt constantly; the job is a never-ending one.”
Awarding him the medal, Academic Inspector Valerie Debuchy paid tribute to Mr Sabbah’s exemplary work and in particular for his dynamism, thanks to which he had made ORT Strasbourg a unique, high quality and innovative school.
In Moscow, ORT Russia National Director Dr Sergey Gorinskiy explained the wider significance of the honour bestowed on Professor Asmolov, who is also a member of World ORT’s Board of Trustees and Acting Chairman of its Academic Advisory Council.
“He was one of the first people to begin the transformation of Russian education into a modern, democratic system,” Dr Gorinskiy said. “He was the first person who stressed the importance of teaching tolerance in schools. It’s very important that he receives this honour now as it shows that there is support for the teaching of tolerance and of the Shoah as part of the national curriculum.”
As Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Education, Professor Asmolov was instrumental in the return of ORT to its birthplace.
“This honour can also be seen as an appreciation by Russia’s education authorities of ORT’s contribution to the development of the country’s education system.”
In London, Mr Bieber, who has chaired World ORT’s Control Committee and been a member of its International Cooperation Standing Committee, said that receiving the MBE had been a humbling experience.
“I am really representing other, very worthy people,”? he said. “I am surrounded by people in ORT who devote so much time and effort that I feel quite humble that I have received [the MBE]. I am one of hundreds of people but am the lucky one to have been nominated.”?
However, British ORT’s Director of Fundraising, Dr Noga Zivan, said that “the honour could not have been more highly deserved.”?
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer congratulated all four men and thanked them for their contribution to ORT.
“ORT’s development over 130 years has depended on the quality of its leadership,” Mr Singer said. “In the space of just a few weeks three countries have recognised this quality at the highest level. It is a privilege and a pleasure to be able to count them among my colleagues who, together with devoted ORTists around the world, make our organisation such a success.”?