The story of ORT is one of the most remarkable in modern Jewish life, for it was an organisation born of necessity that endured and flourished because of its ability to adapt to change. The history of ORT began officially in 1880 and continues to grow in strength into the present day.
In 1880, the name 'ORT' was coined from the acronym of the Russian words Obshestvo Remeslenofo zemledelcheskofo Truda, meaning The Society for Trades and Agricultural Labour.
The world has changed somewhat since the days when handicrafts and agriculture were very employable skills, but the basic principles of ORT have remained unchanged for 130 years. Today, ORT programmes are geared to the demands of countries and to the demands of the workplace now and in the future.
ORT today provides skills-training and self-help projects for some of the world’s most impoverished communities, using funds raised by its supporters, and added to by development agencies and national governments, to put people on the path to economic independence.
ORT builds schools, develops curricula, sets up laboratories, develops high-tech educational systems, produces hardware, software and courseware and other teaching aids and publications. It conducts its own educational research and acts as consultant to many other institutions, including government bodies. ORT co-operates with industry and is supported by an international membership in excess of a quarter of a million people.
ORT has consultative status for information and education purposes with UNESCO, and observer status at the ILO (International Labor Organization). ORT is a founding member of ICVA (International Council of Voluntary Agencies).
The aim of ORT's educational programmes, throughout the world, is to give its students the best possible preparation for their future. This preparation includes education to help them become citizens who will make a positive contribution to their society, focused training to enable them to undertake worthwhile and fulfilling careers, and for its Jewish students the knowledge that will give them an understanding and appreciation of their heritage.
ORT finally returned to Russia, the country of its birth, in 1991 after an enforced absence of 53 years. Today, the ORT network in the Newly Independent States (the NIS) is considered by local authorities to include the finest establishments available in the region. The ORT Technology School in Moscow inaugurated in 1995 was quickly followed by other schools and centres in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Odessa, Ekaterinburg, Samara, Kazan, Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk.
ORT is proud of its long history and we have archived many documents and photos. The World ORT Archive (WOA) was established in London in 1999. It exists to preserve the historical record of ORT’s activities and to place these activities into the context of contemporary Jewish history.