Speaking at the end of World ORT’s Board of Representatives meeting in London, Dr Conrad Giles said there had been sufficient improvement in the economy for his fellow Americans to live up to their responsibilities.
“If you want a reason not to give you can always find it,” Dr Giles said. “But I no longer believe that American Jewry can hide behind a recession to suggest that their giving has to be modified. As a result of a resoundingly vibrant market and a marked recovery in so many sectors of our economy, there’s no reason that we cannot achieve increased amounts of giving; we have the dollars, we have now got to understand that is our responsibility.”
Dr Giles’s long and illustrious record of commitment to the American Jewish community includes being national vice-chairman of the United Jewish Appeal and president of the Council of Jewish Federations; he was also part of the team that put them together to form United Jewish Communities, forerunner of today’s Jewish Federations of North America. In addition, he was chairman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and has sat at the top tables of the JDC and JAFI.
His relationship with ORT stretches back to his presidency of Detroit’s Men’s ORT chapter in the late 1970s. Since 2007 he has been assisting World ORT’s fundraising team in the United States by acting as a liaison with the Federation system. He was confirmed as the organisation’s Deputy President at this week’s meeting of the Board of Representatives, an annual gathering of top lay leaders which provides a forum for the discussion of major policy items.
“Given the centrality of ORT backers in America, [World ORT President Dr] Jean [de Gunzburg] thought it advisable to have sitting with the Officers’ group a deputy president from the USA, one who has a long time association with the Federation movement, which is the single largest donors to the budget of World ORT through the JFNA and through the Federation system in general,” Dr Giles said.
His appointment comes as World ORT enters an exciting period of potentially far-reaching review dubbed Vision 2020.
“Organisations look at themselves once in a while and try to redefine themselves – not to re-invent themselves but to redefine themselves,” said Dr de Gunzburg at the start of the Board meeting, adding that World ORT hadn’t done that for a decade. “So I think it’s a good idea to tackle this.” In the months preceding this week’s gathering at ORT House, a consultation had been carried out across the organisation the results of which formed the themes for three structured round table discussions. These examined what impact World ORT should make and the aspirations of its supporters.