A major renovation project will transform the Kfar Silver Youth Village in Israel after World ORT secured substantial investment from one of British Jewry’s leading philanthropic foundations.
The Gerald and Gail Ronson Family Foundation has made a very significant anchor donation to the $11 million four-year project – the largest at an ORT school worldwide in living memory.
In recognition, the campus – while continuing to bear its commonly used name of the Kfar Silver Youth Village – will be named the Gerald and Gail Ronson Family Foundation Campus.
Close to Ashkelon and the Gaza border, Kfar Silver was bought by World ORT in 2016. It includes a high school, a boarding school and an agricultural farm – making the campus unique in its provision for youngsters. The village has around 740 students, with one-third living on site as boarders.
Many youngsters in the community come from broken homes and families with substantial financial struggles. With a large number of orphans and children from immigrant families, there are significant emotional and academic support needs within the village.
Starved of government investment since its creation in the 1950s, the village is badly run-down and requires substantial infrastructure development, repair and modernization. The project announced today includes significant improvements to Kfar Silver’s kitchen and dining hall complex, and the Senior High and Junior High school buildings.
Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “Kfar Silver is a jewel in the crown of the ORT network. The village has a fascinating history and has the potential to change the lives of its young residents. Signing this multi-million dollar, four-year renovation plan is the first step in making those changes a reality.
“We are determined to transform the village into a location in which hundreds of young people who have not had the best start to life can thrive and realize their dreams.
“At a time when good news is scarce, this agreement is a hugely positive development and shows the continued strength of British Jewish philanthropy alongside a forward-thinking, long-term commitment from the ORT network.”
Gerald Ronson CBE added: “During my visit to Kfar Silver a year ago I saw in person the real need for its renovation and revitalization. These students need to be able to eat, study and sleep safely, without the roof over their heads leaking. When they are in their classrooms they need proper facilities to learn and develop in surroundings that are as nurturing, safe and healthy for them as possible.
“That’s why our Foundation is happy to support this project to provide hundreds of young Israeli students with the environment they need to achieve their potential. And with ORT, we have partners with a long track-record of doing exactly that.”
Support for the project comes from across ORT’s global network, with donors and supporters of ORT America and ORT UK raising additional funds. Further contributions have come from ORT Suisse, ORT Canada and ORT Belgium.
The renovations include $5m of work on the kitchen and dining hall – one of the most important areas of the village as the provider of sustenance for all students and staff. Emergency works in the kitchen began last year after Israel’s Ministries of Health and Education threatened to close parts of the site.
The Senior High School will see widescale modernization of its classrooms and offices, the transformation of its shared spaces to encourage group study, new wi-fi systems and repaired plumbing. This section of the work will be completed with the support of a further substantial donation from the Maurice Hatter Foundation in recognition of the long-standing devotion to ORT of its former President, the late Sir Maurice Hatter, his wife Lady Irene and the Foundation.
Although World ORT has renovated the Junior High School’s classrooms in recent years, areas including roofing, corridors and the electricity system are in urgent need of repair and will be fixed thanks to the Ronson investment.
Simon Alberga, Deputy President of World ORT and former Chairman of ORT UK, said: “I am delighted ORT UK has played a leading role in helping the Gerald and Gail Ronson Family Foundation to support this vital facility in Israel’s periphery.
“We should all be very proud that the foundations of this wide-scale renovation have been set in Britain’s Jewish community. It is also a fantastic indicator of the continued relevance of our work as we celebrate the centenary of ORT UK in 2021.”
Mark Mishon, ORT UK trustee, added: “It is fitting that the Ronsons are leading from the front in supporting the crucial redevelopment of Kfar Silver – for years their Foundation has been a powerhouse in backing educational projects throughout Israel. Now, with this investment, together with ORT, they will help to put the future in the hands of a new generation of Israeli children.”
Amos Gofer, CEO of Kfar Silver, said: “The Ronson Family’s contribution, combined with the work detailed in this project, will position Kfar Silver as one of the most advanced youth villages in the country and without doubt it will be one of the leading schools in the entire southern region.
“On behalf of the entire village staff, student body and myself, I wholeheartedly thank the Ronson family, all the donors and all those who have been working tirelessly on this project from World ORT and Kadima Mada.”