As the world responds to the spread of Coronavirus, ORT has been reacting by taking the necessary measures to protect our students and staff globally.
In keeping with health authorities’ advice and government guidelines, most of our schools, universities and other activities have temporarily closed, as has our head office, ORT House in London. Other events – such as our General Assembly, the Hatter Technology Seminar, and future planned activities for the 2020 Taub Young Entrepreneur Program – have been postponed.
World ORT leaders are in constant contact with the network, monitoring the needs of staff and students on the ground and building a support program which will be ready to launch shortly.
ORT’s National Directors’ Forum met on Thursday to share information and ideas, and to discuss how the ORT family is dealing with the situation in different countries. The conference call showed real networking and togetherness at a time of global crisis.
ORT has taken care of its students for the past 140 years, whether during times of peace or war and whenever and wherever the need has existed. We have adapted and shown our flexibility over decades of change, and we are in the best possible position to do the same again right now.
Despite the challenges posed by Coronavirus and the closure of so many ORT schools, students across our network came together to celebrate ORT Day 2020 on Wednesday and to acknowledge our global connection, shared history and vision for the future. Activities continued remotely with a great turnout around the world.
World ORT’s education department is working to support schools and teachers across the network and have selected some of the most interesting online resources which can enable distance learning.
The department is also developing a series of special awards and competitions to motivate students of all ages and to ensure offline projects keep running as well. More details will be announced in the coming days.
The latest updates from our network are as follows:
Schools across the Kadima Mada educational network have been closed since Friday March 13, and will not reopen until at least after Pesach. Kfar Silver Youth Village remains partially open, but with only around 90 Naale students – who have moved to Israel without their parents – on the site, along with the village staff who live there. Teachers are focusing on distance learning and online options.
On Monday, Amos Gopher, director of Kfar Silver, recorded this message describing the impact Covid-19 has had on the school, the village, and on students generally.
Meanwhile students and staff have created an uplifting and affirming message of positivity to share with you – “We will pass this and be stronger”.
All informal education courses have been cancelled as of Sunday March 15, and all colleges have switched to distance learning. The Mada Park in Kiryat Yam is closed, and an online workshop will be held to teach instructors how to help students across the Kadima Mada network use online platforms.
Shlabim program – which teaches sick children in their own homes – is on hold and we are waiting for the Israeli Ministry of Education’s approval to extend the distance learning platform.
At the Anieres Elite Academy, around 80 students remain in the boarding school. The plan is for some to travel home to their own countries for Pesach. Online learning is taking place from 10am-3pm daily but some exams have had to be postponed. All Technion courses have switched to online.
The Kadima Mada headquarters are closed and staff are now working from home.
Former Soviet Union
In Russia, many schools across the country remain open and our Moscow 1540 school will be working until Monday. After that, the majority of classes will be by distance learning, but the kindergarten will continue to run. Attendance numbers have dropped significantly as parents keep children at home. It is the same situation at Moscow 1311 school.
In St Petersburg ORT De Gunzburg school, distance learning is taking place although a large proportion of students remain at school. Large gatherings have been cancelled, including an educational forum in St Petersburg at which ORT is traditionally a prominent participant.
In Samara and Kazan, schools are switching to distance learning.
In Ukraine, every school is closed, including all ORT schools, until at least April 3. In Moldova, Kishinev ORT Herzel Technology Lyceum is closed until at least March 23. There is a similar situation in the Baltic States: Vilnius ORT Sholom Aleichem Jewish Gymnasium will be closed until April 17; the ORT school in Estonia has switched to distance learning until the end of next week at least. All schools in Latvia have closed for four weeks until further notice as a national emergency has been declared. All planned events, trips and participation in competitions are cancelled.
Coronavirus has caused further closures across our schools in western and central Europe. All schools and universities in France are now closed, including ORT France establishments.
In Italy, the ORT Renzo Levi in Rome and the affiliated school in Milan have been closed since last week and remain shut. Some classes are taking place remotely. Dany Maknouz, a teacher and ORT ambassador at the Milan school, explains in this Jewish Chronicle article how students and teachers are coping on lockdown.
The Madrid school has closed as the national crisis across Spain escalates. Students are taking online classes and have been set homework, while the school is offering tutorials and counselling with parents and online training for teachers.
Every school in Bulgaria, including our ORT school in Sofia, is closed until the end of the month at least. Online teaching is obligatory and so learning is continuing. In Prague, as in the rest of the Czech Republic, schools are closed, including the ORT-affiliated Lauder school, for the foreseeable future.
Our fundraising countries have also been hit. ORT UK cancelled a business breakfast it was due to hold in central London on March 24. It is hoped the event may take place at a later date. A skiing event organized by ORT Switzerland was also cancelled.
Latin and South America
Coronavirus is now having a greater impact across Latin and South America.
Universidad ORT Uruguay has shut for three weeks, while in Brazil, our school is closed at least until the end of next week in accordance with guidance from the Rio de Janeiro governor to close all schools.
In Mexico City, CIM-ORT has closed until April 20. There will be no classes at our school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before the end of this month, but students are participating in some virtual classes online, which the school had pre-prepared for in recent weeks.
Colegio Colombo Hebreo in Colombia is shut and teachers and staff are working to ‘reinvent’ their education methods in the hope of continuing some learning. Classes are taking place online for students of Panama City’s Colegio Isaac Rabin, with teachers ensuring a well-organized schedule continues despite the school’s closure.
Mexico, Brazil and Spain have held shared discussions on running a Tikkun Olam program for the elderly who are isolated. This will include reading and chatting online with them. Schools discussed sharing material to assist each other.
A program is to be developed – Javer shel ORT – for small groups of students from each country to share their experiences online about daily life in their country during the crisis. They will also share interactive classes and develop academic games.
A celebration of ORT South Africa’s work was postponed due to the spread of Covid-19 in the country. It was due to be attended by more than 100 people. ORT Day celebrations were not able to take place at our affiliated King David Schools, which, like every school in the country, has now closed until April 14 at the earliest. ORT SA Cape has closed its offices and suspended all training until March 30.
Although we do not have educational facilities in North America, the virus has still had an effect there. ORT America has postponed some local events including in Michigan and Atlanta that were due to take place this month.