For over 130 years ORT has been focused on improving people’s lives around the world through education.
ORT began in Russia in 1880 to help impoverished Jews to acquire skills that would enable them to become self-sufficient.
During the course of a remarkable 130 years and more, spanning revolutions and wars, ORT has endured and grown through its ability to adapt to change.
ORT today provides skills-training and self-help projects throughout the world, using funds raised by its supporters, and matched by development agencies and national governments, to put people on the path to economic independence.
In the closing years of the 19th Century, rapid advances in industrial and agricultural techniques meant that the ability to find work increasingly depended on having the right skills – again, not so different to today. And when discrimination and violent pogroms resulted in mass emigration from the towns and villages of the Pale of Settlement to Western Europe, the Americas and South Africa, it compounded the need for new immigrants to be able to provide for themselves and their families in new and challenging surroundings.
1930’s, ORT keeps growing.
Soon ORT training institutions, and organizations raising funds to support them, began to appear across Europe, in Berlin, Paris, London and in New York, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires. In 1930, such was ORT’s reputation, British ORT’s fundraising dinner at the world famous savoy Hotel was addressed by none other than Albert Einstein.
The 1930s also saw ORT expelled by Stalin from the Soviet Union and the decent into World War II, with ORT maintaining its activities in ghettoes under Nazi occupation; helping those for whom having some kind of useful skill was a literally a matter of life or death. ORT also followed refugees to as far away as Shanghai where, under Japanese occupation, those fleeing oppression were provided with work and training in a variety of disciplines. These activities continued after liberation in the Displaced Persons Camps, helping those who had lost everything to try to start again.
1940’s, Expansion to Israel, Arab and Muslim World and Asia.
With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, ORT became an integral part of the country as it sought to integrate new immigrants and to train a workforce skilled in all of the areas necessary to build up a new country. Starting in 1943 in Algeria, ORT activities also spread to parts of the Arab and Muslim world, with schools and activities established in Tunisia, Morocco and Iran during the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1962 ORT extended its reach to Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where it still operates.
ORT’s obvious proficiency providing training and expertise came to the attention of the United States government which, through its Agency for International Development, approached ORT to work in the developing world. Since 1960, ORT has worked beyond the sphere of Jewish communities, operating in dozens of countries to train local people in a wide range of skills including agriculture, engineering, IT and infrastructure development.
1991, Back to Russia after an absence of 53 years.
ORT finally returned to Russia, the country of its birth, in 1991 after an enforced absence of 53 years. The ORT Technology School in Moscow inaugurated in 1995 was quickly followed by other schools and centers in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Odessa, Ekaterinburg, Samara, Kazan, Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk, with a network that includes some of the finest educational establishments in the region.
ORT today provides formal education, skills-training and self-help projects for needy 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. We build and equip schools, develop curricula and educational systems, train teachers and produce teaching aids. Our global network means that we also share innovative ideas, resources and best practice across boundaries, in a world where physical borders have less and less meaning.
To our hundreds of thousands of students and alumni, being part of the World ORT family has never been more meaningful.