|Exploring the History of ORT|
A small group of prominent Russian Jews petition Czar Alexander II for permission to start a fund to assist Jewish trade schools and establish new colonies, agricultural schools and model farms in order to help lift Russia's five million Jews out of lives of crushing poverty. The success of the appeal leads Russian authorities to create the "Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor" for Jews of Russia.” It is from this original name, Obschestvo Remeslenovo i. Zemledelcheskovo Trouda that the ORT acronym is derived.
Despite the government's anti-Jewish policy and harassment by local authorities, ORT raises more than one million rubles and provides manual training to 25,000 Jews in 350 towns of the Russian Empire. After receiving its charter in 1906, ORT establishes affiliates in numerous Russian cities, and within several years, is operating in 20 cities.
During World War I, ORT's cooperative workshops, soup kitchens and credit offices save thousands from starvation. ORT sets up a relief-through-work project to find employment for displaced Jews.
The World ORT Union is established.
The American ORT Society, forerunner of American ORT, is formally established in New York City.
A Brooklyn kitchen serves as the site for the establishment of Women's American ORT. Founders include Anna Boudin, Mrs. Jacob Panken and Florence Dolowitz.
ORT provides vocational training to refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. In 1934, German ORT, with the help of the World ORT Union, opens a vocational school in Berlin. Two years later, a representative of British ORT requests that the school, including equipment, be relocated to England. The Nazis refuse permission to remove the equipment. Only days before the outbreak of the War, 100 students and their teachers leave for England, establishing the ORT school in Leeds. Between the Wars, ORT programs serve 500,000 people across Eastern Europe.
During World War II, ORT schools and workshops throughout Europe continue to operate, offering hope in the midst of despair. In 1941, ORT follows European refugees to Shanghai, where 17,000 Jews have fled the Holocaust. The school operates until the Jewish community is dispersed in 1950. In 1942, the Leon Bramson School for training in needle trades opens in New York.
Immediately after the camps are liberated, ORT begins to address the enormous needs of the survivors, establishing the first vocational school for displaced persons in Landsberg, Bavaria. A vocational training unit is established in Bergen-Belsen. Most survivors in the camps are between the ages of 16 and 24. ORT schools are established in Italy, Marseilles and London to train blockade runners. More than 40 trades are taught in ORT schools in Germany, including lingerie, watch-repairing, auto driving and the manufacture of strings for musical instruments.
By 1947, 700 ORT courses are offered in the Displaced Persons (DP) Camps. ORT provides over 80,000 survivors with training to start new lives and prepare them for emigration to the United States or Palestine. One out of every four DPs passes through an ORT center.
Only a few months after the dedication of the State of Israel, ORT begins operations, creating workshops in Jaffa to rehabilitate and train discharged soldiers and war invalids. That same year, ORT opens a vocational training center in Casablanca for abandoned children of the Mellah, the Jewish ghetto.
ORT operates schools and workshops in 14 cities. ORT begins operations in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran.
ORT France meets the needs of hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants from North Africa (Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria). In 1959, Women's American ORT funds the establishment of the Syngalowski Center in Tel Aviv, the first modern vocational institution in Israel.
Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay become major sites of operation for ORT Latin America. In 1976, the ORT School of Engineering on the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University opens to provide training for technical engineers. In 1977, Bramson ORT Technical Institute opens in Forest Hills, N.Y. In 1999, the school becomes accredited as a two-year college, changing its name to Bramson ORT College.
ORT celebrates its 100th anniversary. In 1985, the Los Angeles ORT Technical Institute is established.
ORT returns to Russia after a 52-year absence, opening a school in Moscow. In 1991, the Zarem/Golde ORT Technical Institute in Chicago begins classes. In 1992, an advanced electronics and automation laboratory is opened at ORT India in Bombay. ORT continues to function as the educational and cultural center of the Indian Jewish community.
In 1993, the ORT operation in Israel graduates its 400,000th student, a recent immigrant from the Soviet Union. In 1994, ORT Braude is formally accredited as an academic institution, granting the four-year Bachelor of Technology degree in Engineering and its name is changed to the ORT Braude International College of Technology.
In 1995, ORT Uruguay establishes a private university in Montevideo. The university has an enrollment of 6,000 students and a staff of more than 500 academics in five officially recognized faculties.
The revitalization of Jewish education in the former Soviet Union is launched with the establishment of ORT Technology Centers under the banner of Regeneration 2000. ORT returns to Cuba, establishing the Ana and Ben Dizik ORT Technology Center in Havana. ORT Hermelin College of Engineering in Netanya, Israel is dedicated.
In 2002, an international effort is mounted by ORT to meet the urgent needs of ORT students in Argentina to help pay for additional psychologists and therapists, as well as providing coupons for hot meals, bus rides, medical assistance and added security. In 2003, five students from ORT Kiryat Motzkin School in Haifa are chosen to launch their award winning experiment onboard the NASA STS-107 Space Shuttle, Columbia.
The ORT Lipson International Studies Program, an enrichment program designed to promote cultural exchange and a deeper understanding of the world Jewish community, is launched in Atlanta at the Davis Academy. Students from ORT programs are hosted by American families while they attend classes, participate in special field trips and cultural activities, as well as take part in their host families’ recreational activities. Both American and Israeli students witness and experience first-hand each other’s cultures and lifestyles, as well as how their counterparts live their faith. The program was expanded to three other Atlanta Jewish day schools and to Cleveland.
In 2004, Rome's ORT Renzo Levi High School moves to larger premises. It is officially inaugurated in January 2004. Building upon the success of Regeneration 2000, Regeneration 2004-08, the campaign's sequel, is launched. The project brings quality Judaic and general high school education to Jewish communities throughout the former Soviet Union. There are more than 25,000 students attending 58 institutions in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and Kyrgyzstan.
In 2006, the leadership of both American ORT and Women’s American ORT agree to consolidate the two organizations into ORT America, so they can unite their messages and speak with one more powerful voice on behalf of ORT in the Untied States.
Israel loses 17 former ORT students as part of a war with Hezbollah.
In 2007, ORT America was born, and in March of that year hosted the first ORT America Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, FL. Among the many highlights was the keynote speaker—actor, economist and author Ben Stein, who revealed that his mother had been a member of Women's American ORT.