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World ORT ‘more important than ever’ as it turns 140

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“Celebrating 140 years of one of the largest global educational nongovernmental organisations is a significant milestone, especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Ariellah Rosenberg, the chief executive of ORT South Africa.
by OWN CORRESPONDENT | Jun 04, 2020

Rosenberg commented as World ORT marked its 140th anniversary with a general assembly and the election of lay leadership for the next four years.

The organisation, which transforms lives through education, now reaches 300 000 people in more than 30 countries every year. ORT combines high-level science and technology education with strengthened Jewish identity, bridging the gap between ability and opportunity.

Rosenberg said ORT SA was proud to be part of an organisation that had evolved and endured for more than a century, and continued to have an impact on people’s lives.

The organisation planned to hold a series of celebrations in Jerusalem this week to commemorate its special anniversary, but they were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 300 people from dozens of countries including the United States, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, South Africa, and across Europe joined the online session.

Keynote speaker, William Daroff, the chief executive of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the assembly that COVID-19 had placed global Jewry in unchartered and unpredictable territory.

But, “We are adapting,” Daroff said. “The ORT network knows this well, as you successfully meet the challenge of providing outstanding education and supporting vulnerable young people, teachers, and families as they grapple with the devastating impact of the virus and beyond.

“You are incredibly well-situated to help lead our community as it grapples with providing new remote learning opportunities.”

Dr Conrad Giles, who was re-elected World ORT president for a second four-year term, said the years since 2016 had contained “many challenges – and we have met them”. Giles, a prominent paediatric ophthalmologist based in Michigan in the US, said, “Our mission has never changed. For 140 years ORT has been at the heart of education around the world.”

Dan Green, World ORT acting director general and chief executive, said, “Providing quality education for our students is great, but it means little if we aren’t also moulding them into good people with strong collective values and enthusiasm to use their education for the greater good. The current crisis has only highlighted how important this is and therefore how crucial our role is.”

Participants watched a trailer for a film in production to celebrate ORT’s 140th anniversary that will chronicle 140 years of the power of education across the globe.

Three new officers were elected to the top team. Robert Singer, who was World ORT director general and chief executive for 14 years prior to his most recent role as chief executive of the World Jewish Congress, returns to ORT as chairperson of the board of trustees.

“There are few Jewish organisations that have existed for so long, survived two world wars, and achieved so much,” Singer said. “We live in a world with a fast-changing job market, and this is why ORT is more relevant than ever, because we are a hub of new ideas, innovation, and adaptability, preparing young people for the world of work.”

Alon Schuster, who was appointed Israel’s new agriculture minister last week, stepped down as a trustee.

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