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World ORT is a non-profit non-governmental organization whose mission is the advancement of Jewish and other people through training and education, with past and present activities in over 100 countries.

World ORT is the coordinating body of separate ORT national organisations and has current activities in over 61 countries. ORT works in collaboration with governments and agencies around the world. In 2005 ORT's global budget exceeded US$250 million annually.

ORT's current operations are in Africa, Asia–Pacific, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Baltic States, Israelmarker, Latin America, North America and Western Europe. ORT also runs International Cooperation programmes and supports non-sectarian economic and social development in under-developed parts of the world, with vocational training and the provision of technical assistance.

In 2003 Israel was the area of ORT's largest operation, with 90,000 students educated or trained at ORT’s 159 schools, colleges and institutions, educating 25% of Israel’s hi-tech workforce. However in 2006 ORT Israel withdrew from World ORT. World ORT continues to work in Israel under the name of Kadima Mada or World ORT in Israel, working with regional councils and hospitals providing increased resources and improved facilities and schools equipment. ORT Israel now raises funds in the United States through Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools. World ORT raises funds through its membership organisations and through the United Jewish Congress (UJC).

World ORT is legally constituted in Switzerlandmarker, but operates from offices in Londonmarker. It has consultative status for information and education purposes with UNESCOmarker, and observer status at the International Labour Organization.ORT is a founding member of ICVA (International Council of Voluntary Agencies).

Origins of World ORT

The origins of what later became World ORT can be found by examining the conditions for the Jewish population of Russiamarker at the end of the 18th century.

The annexation of Polandmarker had resulted in a sharp increase in the number of Jews in Russia and in 1794, it was decreed that the majority of them would henceforth be restricted to living and working in the Pale of Settlement. The Jews were not allowed to leave the Pale or own land outside it. They were removed from their homes and villages and once resettled, barred from all but a handful of professions. The crowded conditions and legal barriers to self-sufficiency led to deepening poverty for the Pale's four million inhabitants.

After the reforms of Tsar Alexander II, the situation improved for some Jews but those in the Pale remained trapped by economic hardship and dismal conditions. Leading members of Jewish society knew that something had to be done and in 1880, three of them - Samuel Polyakov, Horace de Gunzburg and Nikolai Bakst - petitioned Tsar Alexander II for permission to start an assistance fund which would improve the lives of the millions of Russian Jews then living in poverty. The fund would provide education and training in practical occupations like handicrafts and agricultural skills and would help people to help themselves - providing in that way, not only a livelihood, dignity as well.

Permission was granted and the appeal was sent out, signed by Poliakov and de Gunzburg as well as Abram Zak, Leon Rosenthal and Meer Fridland and was an immediate success. That success led the Russian authorities to create the Общество ремесленного и земледельческого труда среди евреев в России (Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor among the Jews in Russia). Though over the decades it has stood for many things, it is from this original name that the term "ORT" is derived.

In its first 25 years, ORT had raised educational standards and provided training to 25,000 Jews across the Russian Empiremarker. People trained as artisans in glass-blowing, learned sewing and gardening, trained as mechanics, cabinetmakers, and furniture designers. [488329]

History of World ORT

The first programs created by ORT - and the organizational framework that continues to this day - were dictated by the demand of the market. In 1909, the industrialization in Russia created a need for artisans - so that is what ORT trained people to do. They developed courses for electricians in Vilnamarker where electric streetcars were being introduced. They offered automotive courses in St. Petersburgmarker when the automobile began taking root there in 1910. ORT’s training programs varied to meet the needs of Jews depending on where they lived and what the gaps in the workforce were. That flexibility and diversity meant that ORT became as established educational leader in many fields within only its first few decades of existence.

After World War I, ORT’s focus went global. Beginning in Europe, they opened vocational and agricultural schools, providing the tools, training - even the seeds - to encourage agricultural expansion. The organization itself was expanding as well. The headquarters moved - first to Berlinmarker, then to Francemarker and finally to Genevamarker. Local groups - such as American ORT and Women's American ORT, ORT Canada and British ORT - were formed to support the growing network of programs and the ORT family grew. In 1938 however, Stalinist purges forced the closure of ORT programs in the Soviet Unionmarker. It would be almost 60 years before the organization was able to return.

During World War II, ORT continued to serve Jewish communities - including those under Nazi occupation as well. In the Warsaw Ghetto, the German authorities gave ORT permission to open vocational training courses. Those courses continued throughout the war and until the liquidation of the Ghetto. They served as a template for similar ORT programs in other Jewish centers like Lodzmarker and Kovna.

After the end of World War II, the extent of the Nazi atrocities became clear and again, ORT adapted to meet the needs of its community. Rehabilitation programs were established for the survivors, vocational training centers were set up in 78 DP (Displaced Persons) Camps and nearly 85,000 people acquired professions and the tools they would need to rebuild their lives.

When the State of Israelmarker was established in May 1948, ORT operations were started in Jaffamarker and Jerusalemmarker and though the Iron Curtain had resulted in the closure of ORT’s activities in Eastern Europe, around the rest of the world - including Western Europe, Algeriamarker, Moroccomarker, Tunisiamarker, Iranmarker and Indiamarker - ORT's activities intensified.

During the second half of the 20th century, ORT continued to provide education and relief services to Jewish communities in Israelmarker, Africa and Asia while at the same time opening new programs to serve the Latin American Jewish communities in Argentina, Brazilmarker and Uruguaymarker. ORT students in all these places were trained to meet the demands of the modern workplace with a state-of-the-art education in technology and academics. In the early 1990s, ORT returned to the former Soviet Union and the Baltic States and now serves 27,000 students in 58 schools and educational institutions every year.

In 2000, World ORT celebrated its 120th anniversary. The educational services provided through their network continues and has now been supplemented by programs intended to deliver basic nutrition, clothing, books and school supplies, counseling and other services designed to meet the growing emotional needs of students as well.

Current and Ongoing Programs

In addition to providing ongoing technical and financial support for its network of schools and programs in 60 countries around the world, World ORT's has developed additional campaigns intended to respond to some areas in greatest need. These projects include (but are not limited to):
  • The Latin America Campaign: In 2006-7, ORT began a major program of new projects intended to create a sense of unity and connection throughout the region and meeting the highly individual and specific needs of each community. This campaign is active in small Jewish communities as well as larger ones. For example, the two ORT Argentina high schools in Buenos Aires are overcrowded and a new high school is being planned to accommodate the students there. At the same time, the Jewish community in Montevideo (where ORT operates a four year university), is getting much needed scholarship funds and while the community in Mexico city will soon benefit from the new new digital media center being built.
  • Science Journey in Israel: Science Journey is a new $7.4 million program that delivers electronic, science and computer labs as well as technology education to students in more than 30 schools throughout Israel, most of which are in northern Israel, and suffered the brunt of last summer’s war with Hezbollah, and in those in areas which are prone to rocket attack from Gaza. The new computer labs and whiteboard technology provide a new opportunity for students. The program works with local authorities, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, and marks a new phase in ORT’s 59-year-long commitment to bring the best practical education available to the Jewish State.
  • Regeneration CIS: This aims to bring quality Judaic and general high school education to Jewish communities throughout the independent sovereign states of the region that was formerly the Soviet Union. ORT plans to include in the new program 18 schools and centers in Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Belarus and Kyrgistan. In order to complete its mission for the renewed program, ORT will ensure that equipment and services in existing centers are maintained and fully operational, to upgrade systems to enable them to deliver enhanced options, to provide school-wide training to ensure that all staff is able to deliver the new materials, and to provide ongoing staffing and resources. In the new centers, ORT will carry out necessary refurbishments, plan and install new systems and services, train staff, and provide ongoing staffing and support.


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