World ORT and Kiryat Yam launch $18m science city project


On schedule and on budget, World ORT’s redevelopment of the heart of Kiryat Yam into a magnificent education and sports campus was formally opened yesterday (Wednesday) in the presence of the Schoenbaum family whose $5.3 million investment made it possible.

Hundreds of local people gave an ecstatic welcome to Betty Schoenbaum, the nonagenarian heiress to the Shoney’s restaurant and motel chain in the United States, as she and her four children “モ Ray, Jeff, Emily and Joann “モ toured the three-acre site adjacent to the Rodman High School, which was refurbished as part of the project. “I am just amazed, overwhelmed, awed and thrilled. The campus is very much more than I had imagined it would be “モ thanks to ORT,” Mrs Schoenbaum said following her first look at the site, which is already being well used by students at Rodman High School, one of more than 30 across Israel supported by World ORT’s programmatic arm in the country, Kadima Mada.
Having spent the morning visiting the campus’s D. Dan and Betty Kahn Science Centre, the library and performing arts auditorium, the science park, the planetarium, the Yamda Marine Observatory, the Ethiopian Heritage Centre, and the Aquatic Centre “モ where they were joined by Israel’s first Olympic Gold Medal-winner Gal Friedman “モ Mrs Schoenbaum declared her family foundation’s money well spent.
“I got more bang for my buck than I have had at any other time in helping people. I am just thrilled with it. It’s an absolutely astounding complex that’s going to help people for many, many years God willing,” she said. “And the reception I have received has been overwhelming. I’ve had so much beauty today “モ enough for the rest of my life!”
The glittering, high-tech Alex and Betty Schoenbaum Science, Educational, Cultural and Sports Campus is the result of an $18 million campaign launched as part of Kadima Mada in October 2007. The campaign has also attracted funding from ORT America’s Dan Kahn, Israel’s Ministry of Education and the Kiryat Yam municipality.
The campus forms the hub of an urban educational system for the use of everyone from elementary school pupils to senior citizens in and around the coastal city
Yesterday’s launch, which coincided with UNESCO’s World Teachers’ Day, heralds a new dawn for Kiryat Yam, a largely blue-collar community of 45,000 “モ including many Russian and Ethiopian immigrants “モ where the average income is about 25 per cent lower than the national average.
Kiryat Yam Mayor Shmuel Sisso told a dedication ceremony at the high school: “This campus integrates values, culture, science and knowledge in a unique way and also combines and showcases the characters of its initiators. On one hand the honoured Schoenbaum Foundation and family, who recognised the potential we have here, on the other hand Kadima Mada who knew how to take the potential and turn it into something productive, and lastly us “モ each and every one of us “モ doing all that we can to justify your hopes and investment in us.”
Yesterday morning’s ceremonies, in the presence of Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, climaxed with the unveiling of the campus’s name emblazoned on the side of the Rodman High School, which now looks a fraction of its 40 years, and the release of doves.
In the evening, VIPs including Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, former Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, Knesset member Shlomo Mula, and the Mayors of Kiryat Bialik, Nesher, Sha’ar HaNegev, and Lower Galilee, together with ORT America’s President, Shelley Fagel, and Past President, Doreen Hermelin, and World ORT President Dr Jean de Gunzburg attended a celebratory event with music, dance and lasers at the Kiryat Yam stadium.
Dr de Gunzburg said: “This has been a fantastic partnership between the Kiryat Yam municipality under Mayor Sisso, World ORT and the Schoenbaums. These elements combined to make this project work. All the facilities are great and the students, who have already been using them, think the campus is incredible. It’s just a complete transformation of the area. If my kids could go to a campus like this it would be wonderful; it’s simply amazing.”
Mayor Sisso gave an audio-visual presentation showing the development of the site over the past two years, how Kiryat Yam and World ORT “took a straw and turned it into pure gold; how we took a prophecy and changed it into reality”.
Mrs Schoenbaum’s children expressed their delight at seeing what had been accomplished.
Emily Schoenbaum said: “It’s absolutely astounding. I can’t believe that they pulled all this together so rapidly. This couldn’t have happened in America with such expediency. It has exceeded my expectations. It’s really a dream come true.”
Her sister, Joann Miller, admitted to becoming tearful during the day’s events.
“I didn’t think I would have that kind of reaction,” she said. “I got really emotional, especially when I came out and there were five smiling schoolgirls there and they asked me if I was with the family and they all started saying ‘thank you’. The smiles on their faces could have launched ships! To see the opportunities that these beautiful children have been given is unbelievable.”
Ms Miller added: “ORT is a major force for making wonderful things happen in this country and all over the world”ᆭ May ORT have many more donors like my mom so that this continues around the world.”
Ray Schoenbaum, who was particularly impressed by the marine observatory, the only one of its kind in Israel, said: “It’s an inspiration to see that the children of Kiryat Yam are getting the facilities they need to be educated properly and to further themselves in Israeli society.”
His brother, Jeff, noted the enthusiasm of the teachers who had demonstrated the campus’s facilities.
“They are as excited as the kids and as happy,” he said. “I feel confident that the enthusiasm I saw in the teachers today will continue. This is the most important thing because a building is just a building; it’s the teachers who are going to make it happen.”
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said it was most appropriate that the campus was being officially opened on World Teachers’ Day.
“UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova and others have called on interested parties to honour teachers by giving them decent working conditions. Well, I think we are all agreed that this campus far exceeds that. Teachers are agents of change and all of us at World ORT feel privileged to work with such generous people as Betty Schoenbaum and her family, and such dedicated communal leaders as Mayor Sisso to support the professionals who play such a critical role in Israel’s development.”