World ORT will have a plenary speaker at next week’s General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) in New Orleans, the first time the world’s largest Jewish education and vocational training organisation has had such exposure at the world’s premiere Jewish communal event.
Shelly Yona’s experiences as a physics teacher at the Shifman High School in Tirat HaCarmel will be a window on the extraordinary impact World ORT is making on Israel’s education system and by extension on communities from South America to the Former Soviet Union.
“World ORT’s activities are increasingly relevant in what is a changing philanthropic landscape,”? World ORT’s Chief Development Officer Jeff Kaye said. “We have a singular focus with a measurable impact; donors can see the results of their investment. And now, more than ever, people appreciate that the future can only be guaranteed through education.”? The GA, which is due to be addressed by US Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is the biggest opportunity for World ORT to finally lay to rest the cliché of being the “best kept secret”? of the Federation system, of which it is a major overseas partner.
It will share a session with Sesame Workshop on “Promoting Excellence and Engagement through Interactive Learning”?, exploring how changes in technology can be used to address the diverse and ever-changing needs of youth, instilling key Jewish values and universal life skills.
The spotlight will be on the $25 million Schulich Canada Smart Classroom Initiative through which World ORT’s programmatic arm in Israel, Kadima Mada, is spearheading the provision of innovative teaching and learning technologies in 72 relatively under-resourced schools in the periphery benefiting some 40,000 students a year.
And Ms Yona will also make an appearance at the International Lion of Judah Conference (ILOJC), which brings together many of the world’s top Jewish women philanthropists, together with the Deputy North American Representative of World ORT, Valerie Khaytina . It will be World ORT’s first ever presentation at this prestigious event.
Vilnius-born Ms Yona, who made aliyah with her parents in 1972 aged just two, is unstinting in her praise of World ORT and the impact it has made in the three years that it has been supporting her school.
“ORT makes my dreams come true,”? she said. “Personally and professional my life has got a lot richer.”?
World ORT’s introduction of Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs), the installation of computerised science laboratories and the implementation of the Mabat “ﾓ Learning Science through Technology project, in which students build and programme robots, have been instrumental in swelling the number of science students.
“Before Kadima Mada I never had more than 12 students in a physics class,”? Ms Yona said. “Now I have 18 students. Before, I had to convince them to get into physics and now I have to hold them back a little because they don’t realise how hard it is.”?
In addition, Ms Yona runs Shifman’s contribution to Mada-Na, Kadima Mada’s ring of five interactive exhibitions which travel between host towns in Israel to entice children study science.
“It opens the students’ eyes to physics; it makes them ask questions and gives them an opportunity to try things themselves,”? Ms Yona said. “It makes them more curious about physics. Even children I don’t teach, those who have never even learned physics, they walk around and they start to wonder what physics is and whether it’s something that they should learn.”?
Never has the promotion of the sciences been more important in a country which relies on technological and scientific prowess for economic and military strength: while three of Israel’s nine Nobel Prize winners have been scientists, less than 10 per cent of Israeli children currently study physics and even fewer continue to study it at university.
Ms Yona will share her inspiring story at the GA plenary on Monday, November 8 at 10.45am. Ms Khaytina will represent World ORT at the Promoting Educational Excellence and Engagement through Interactive Learning session on Tuesday, November 9 at 9.45am. Both women will discuss World ORT’s activities at the ILOJC on Wednesday, November 10 at 8.45am and again at 10am.