World ORT General Assembly – a Meeting of Minds


Two hundred people from ORT organisations in five continents gathered in Jerusalem to reassert their commitment to World ORT’s mission of Educating for Life.

The ‘parliament’ of the organisation voted in new lay leaders and confirmed its strategic track for the next four years but the meeting was as celebratory as it was business-like.

With 136 years of Educating for Life successfully accomplished – including the first decade of World ORT’s programmatic arm in Israel, Kadima Mada – and a bullish approach to building an even better future there was plenty to celebrate.

The Gala event at Migdal David, Jerusalem.

The Old City’s Migdal David provided a stunning backdrop to a spectacular Gala event featuring dance, song and comedy as well as messages of support and praise from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer.

The Gala was preceded by a private reception of The 1880 Society, World ORT’s major donors grouping, attended by Likud MK Benny Begin.

On the final day of the GA, Labour MK Erel Margalit set out his vision for seven new regions of excellence in Israel – and praised World ORT’s work in his country as “phenomenal”.

The closing plenary also provided delegates with the pleasure of seeing World ORT students display their debating skills, teams from Sofia and Jerusalem pitting their wits against each other in the final of the Debate Mate competition.

Watch the 3 minutes GA official video now and get a glimpse on these fabulous 3 days.

World ORT faces the future with optimism

It was the first GA to be held under Director General and CEO Shmuel Sisso. Delegates voted unanimously for a strong new line-up of lay leaders – including Americans Dr Conrad Giles and Richard Bernstein as President and Deputy President, and ORT stalwart Dario Werthein as Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Noting how the diversity and teamwork evident in World ORT’s lay leadership reflected the values taught in the organisation’s classrooms, Mr Werthein paid tribute to the lay leaders whose terms in office had come to an end.

Dario Werthein, World ORT Chair of Board of Trustees

“Each person who has changed their position today has made a significant contribution just as we who are starting in these positions make a commitment to continue with it. We thank you for devoting your time and passion and for leaving your mark on ORT and, in so doing, on millions of students who don’t know you.”

A strategic plan of ‘enormous value’

Shmuel Sisso, World ORT CEO & Director General.

There was enthusiasm for the strategic plan presented by Mr Sisso which ambitiously but realistically set out how the organisation would strengthen and expand its network over the next four years: accepting elementary schools that will feed students into ORT high schools, expanding regional seminars for educators, increasing fundraising, exploiting ORT international network, improving programme evaluations, and raising and diversifying scholarships and other benefits for the poorest students.

Dr Giles said the Strategic Plan was the result of his predecessor, Dr Jean de Gunzburg’s, foresight in determining that World ORT needed a roadmap.

“As any businessman will tell you, having a business plan is of great importance. And as someone who has been involved in many areas of Jewish communal life I can also tell you that this plan is singular in that it has enormous value; it has had a long process of development and is, I believe, worthy of implementation.” Dr Conrad Giles, World ORT President

Millions raised for new Israel network

The delegates visited World ORT Kadima Mada programmes in Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Negev including Kfar Hasidim and Hodayot, two of the three youth villages catering to 1,000 severely disadvantaged students which constitute World ORT’s new network in Israel.

Student at the Kfar Hasidim Youth Village, a World ORT boarding school.

World ORT Secretary and Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees Judy Menikoff stressed the importance of reaching the $5 million goal for a first stage of much needed support for the schools.

“It’s important because we are changing people’s lives. During our visit we saw what renovations have taken place already and could envision what will be there because of our work. And we met students whose lives are changing for the better because of our fundraising campaign. We’re not allowing these children to be warehoused and forgotten – we are going to do everything in our power to help them turn their lives around.” Mrs Judy Menikoff, World ORT Secretary and Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees