13 May 2009 Past and present presidents of World ORT have marked the official start of the organisations 130th anniversary year with a solemn reaffirmation of its founders aims and values. Current President Dr Jean de Gunzburg a descendent of ORT co-founder Baron Horace de Gunzburg was joined by his predecessors Sir Maurice Hatter and Justice Richard Goldstone (pictured, left, with World ORT Director General Robert Singer, Sir Maurice and Dr de Gunzburg) in the signing of a documents which echoed the letter sent out to potential donors across Russia in 1880 announcing the setting up of a fund to provide training and education that would allow Jews in the Tsarist empire to life themselves out of poverty. The document signed last week states that they came together at ORT House, London to declare our abiding commitment to the aims and values of our predecessors and to urge and encourage like-minded persons to continue to support ORTs vital work throughout the world. Past presidents Lord Young of Graffham and Ephraim Katzir, who was elected eight years after his term as President of Israel concluded, are also due to sign the document. The world has changed greatly since the founding of ORT, but in 2009 the need to deliver essential education and training is no less pressing than it was in 1880, the document states. Individuals and communities across the globe continue to rely on ORT for the skills and knowledge that will enable them to lead independent and purposeful lives. We can do no less than to respond earnestly to their needs. Dr de Gunzburg said that signing the document formally launched a year of celebration with missions, exhibitions, competitions and other events such as sending copies of the declaration to heads of state planned in all 63 countries in which ORT has a presence. Already a special anniversary logo has been designed by an ORT Mexico student which is now featured on all official World ORT communications. We are not sitting down and congratulating ourselves. We are celebrating in the Jewish way: rejoicing in an on-going process, that ORT exists and is getting better all the time, he said. As it says in the declaration which Dr de Gunzburg signed: World ORT has become established as an integral component in the fabric of the Jewish world; building upon the success generated in its first 130 years, we are confident that with the generosity and the backing of our supporters worldwide it will continue to serve the needs of communities for the foreseeable future. Justice Goldstone said he was delighted to have been invited to sign what he described as a highly impressive statement. I hope it will have the effect of giving a much broader profile to World ORT and to the work it is doing in so many part of the world, the renowned jurist and human rights expert said. He bemoaned the relatively little media attention given to what is probably the worlds oldest continuously active international Jewish organisation. World ORTs mission is to make people independent of charity, he said. And the more difficult our world becomes, the more important it is to give people the skills to survive. This is the secret of World ORTs longevity the eternal relevance of its mission. But I think that mission appeals more to the head than to the heart. Its mission is not a simple one to state; it has to be explained to be understood. The mission was described by SS Poliakov, Baron de Gunzburg, AI Zak, M Rosenthal and MP Friedland in the letter they sent from St Petersburg 130 years ago. The need among the masses of our co-religionists is extreme and we are convinced that that need could be alleviated only by the development among that mass of artisanal and agricultural knowledge and trades, they wrote. The fund which they were setting up would, the letter continued, generate income to aid in the further development of already existing trade schools for Jews, for assistance towards the opening of new trade school, for facilitating the movement of artisans from one place to another, and for assistance to Jewish agricultural colonies, the founding of such colonies, model farms and agricultural schools. Now serving hundreds of thousands of Jews and non-Jews every year in dozens of countries and dealing with the newest technologies, World ORT is a very different organisation from the one its founders envisaged. But Dr de Gunzburg felt his ancestor would be pleased with the way it has developed. When you start an enterprise like this you think it will fulfil a goal within a few years. You dont think it will expand the way ORT has expanded, Dr de Gunzburg said. Now the world is very different from the one he knew and yet the organisation he helped to create not only exists it fulfils a real need. Its quite amazing. Very few organisations have been able to accomplish the kind of success which ORT has. I think he would be extremely happy to see what he contributed to.