UK businessman champions videoconferencing for ORT Argentina


December 19, 2005 British businessman supports videoconferencing technology for ORT Argentina ORT Argentina can look forward to the support of a leading British businessman as it introduces videoconferencing technology to its schools in Buenos Aires. David Gradel, the owner and chairman of London-based property investment and development company UK Estates, visited ORTs school number two in the Argentine capital with his wife Susan and they were impressed by what they saw. Its a really brilliant school, Mr Gradel said. The kids that showed us around spoke very good English and also had a much higher competence in Hebrew than their peers in England. The way things were organised there was absolutely splendid. The highpoint of Mr and Mrs Gradels visit was their attendance at a videoconference class featuring a Spanish-speaking lecturer at Bar Ilan Universitys Lookstein Centre in Israel. Last month, Mr Gradel sponsored the first educational videoconference between the Lookstein Centre and ORT Argentina. Some 50 teenage students participated in the 45-minute class led by Bar Ilans Professor Meir Ben Yitzchak, who spoke in Spanish on the topic of Jewish identity. David and Susan Gradel attend a videoconference lecture at ORT Argentina. The teenagers teacher, Ruthi Tujschnaider, said the experience had made a tremendous impact on the students. They were so engaged by Professor Ben Yitzchaks comments that afterwards you could see them walking around and discussing them among themselves, Ms Tujschnaider said. It was astonishing to see how much interest and involvement the professor generated. The distance meant no obstacle at all. Mr Gradel was similarly impressed by the videoconference he and his wife sat in on, said ORT Argentina National Director Baruj Zaidenknop. He remarked on the students enthusiastic participation and earnest commitment and he highlighted the relevant intervention of the classroom teacher who acted as a useful facilitator between the students and the lecturer at Bar Ilan, Mr Zaidenknop said. After the lesson, a group of senior students accompanied Mr and Mrs Gradel around the school during which time the visitors were able to meet students of Mass Media, ICT, Robotics and English. Mr Gradel, who also sponsored the first educational videoconference between the Lookstein Centre and ORT teachers in Russia earlier this year, said the potential of such technology was immense. Being in South America youre a long way away from the main centres of Judaism and this medium encourages the feeling of being part of a whole rather than being out by yourself, he said. ORT needs to consider with Bar Ilan how they would like to develop videoconferencing. If ORT Argentina needs to upgrade its equipment then I would be supportive. The organiser of Mr and Mrs Gradels visit to ORT Argentina, World ORTs Head of Jewish Education, Judah Harstein, said the beauty of videoconferencing was that it was interactive. Videoconferencing gives us a chance to bring the best people in the world to ORT classrooms in a very cost effective way, he said.