ORT leaders from around the world have come together in person for the first time since the onset of the pandemic to discuss the leading issues in global education.
The gathering – for World ORT’s General Assembly – featured an opening session in Tel Aviv on Sunday which heard from teachers, students and educational leaders about their experiences and aspirations.
President of Israel Isaac Herzog welcomed the group via video message. He said ORT’s work to prepare young people to participate in society both as Jews and global citizens is “critical to the resilience of the Jewish people”.
He also spoke of his family’s historic involvement with ORT; his father, Chaim Herzog, was President of the World ORT Union from 1980 to 1983.
President Herzog said: “I vividly recall joining my father, as child, as he launched new ORT projects in Israel and met ORT representatives from around the world. I recall his excitement, his determination, and his deep commitment to the ideas in which he believed and promoted in his lifetime.
“It was his belief that education must be the engine of human progress and that scientific and technological excellence must be a cornerstone of education in our times. ORT has since prospered and grown – I can only imagine how pleased my father would have been to know that in 2022, ORT reaches more than 200,000 people a year in education establishments in countless communities around the world.”
In his opening address, Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, spoke of his pride at how the network had responded to the challenges of recent years.
He told the gathering that the organization’s focus on three key areas – Global Citizenship, Jewish Experience and Education for Life – had provided direction and definition. Students had enjoyed new opportunities to put into practice the values they have been learning, he said, adding that ORT schools and affiliate establishments have benefitted from the shared knowledge of peers worldwide.
“Let us come together to celebrate what we have achieved, and to face the future with confidence, secure in the knowledge that ORT’s value proposition is clear and strong,” said Mr Green.
“Together we can provide solutions for success, united to make the world a better place through education. Our network has overcome so much since we were last together in person, but we know we face some dark days ahead, especially given the circumstances faced by our friends and colleagues in Ukraine and Russia.”
Keynote speaker Nachman Shai, Israel’s Minister of the Diaspora, described the country’s attempts to challenge global antisemitism, the security situation in Israel and Israel’s changing relations with the Arab world.
Updates from around ORT’s global network included the latest news from across Latin America, panel discussions on Israeli students’ hopes for the future, and an in-depth discussion on the impact of Covid on the mental health of teachers and their students.
Delegates welcomed Costa Rica’s only Jewish school to the network. The affiliation with Instituto Dr Jaim Weizman will expand ORT’s footprint in Latin America and ensure the school has the opportunity to participate in ORT’s global teacher training programs and international projects for students.
The conflict in Ukraine cast a shadow over proceedings, with delegates hearing of the impact the violence in the region will continue to have over the organization’s operations.
The event is being attended by lay and professional leaders from more than a dozen countries, as well as educators, donors, supporters and guests from partner organizations.
The trip continues with visits to key ORT projects in the coastal town of Kiryat Yam, and a day at Kfar Silver Youth Village near Ashkelon.