The first screening of a new film celebrating ORT’s transformative work has attracted hundreds of viewers from around the world.
The ORT Story – produced to mark the 140th anniversary of our global education network’s foundation in 1880 – was streamed online to a live audience on Sunday.
Participants joined the event from countries including the United States, Israel, the UK, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, France, Uruguay, Singapore, Mexico, Canada, and India.
The 40-minute documentary followed the stories of five current and former ORT students from schools and programs around the world.
Among them was Marc Hamon, who described how, in the 1950s and 1960s, he grew up in Morocco before moving to France, where he studied electronics at an ORT school and then moved on to the organization’s prestigious Anières Institute near Geneva. There he received a degree in electrical engineering and eventually moved to the United States where he developed his own networking solutions business and became a leading businessman and philanthropist.
Hamon describes in the film how he became a financial supporter of ORT’s work and helped to re-establish the Anières program in Israel over the past decade.
“I was inspired to give back to ORT because it gave me these wonderful gifts and opportunities. The most valuable lesson I learned from ORT is to be a good person. Without ORT I don’t know what I would have done,” he says.
Mikhail Libkin, who grew up in post-Soviet Russia, is shown describing how he didn’t know he was Jewish until the age of seven.
“ORT gives you a very unique type of Jewish identity through its teaching of Jewish history, Hebrew and culture,” Libkin says. “It brings Jews back to the community. ORT was extremely important for the building of my Jewish identity, linking me with Jewish culture – which is now a big part of my life and a big part of my personality and my soul.”
After graduating, Libkin began working for ORT in Russia and is currently the Director of ORT Russia.
The film also tells the story of Tair, an Israeli girl who now studies at the Technion University after developing her skills at an ORT-backed robotics program in Dimona, and of Maria, a teacher who was supported by ORT South Africa to learn computer skills and in turn now assists with computer programs at more than 150 township schools across Johannesburg.
Ilai, an ORT Argentina graduate, describes how his teachers and friends helped him through the ‘pivotal moment’ of his parents’ divorce and set him on the road to becoming a globe-trotting entrepreneur and dance choreographer.
The documentary chronicles ORT’s 140-year history from its foundation, to providing skills to impoverished Jews in Tsarist Russia, through to its position today as the leading global Jewish education network, working in more than 30 countries and benefitting more than 300,000 people a year.
Dr Conrad Giles, World ORT President, said: “ORT has existed largely due to our continuing ability to respond and adapt to the changing world around us. When kids go to an ORT school today, they don’t just get an education or a vocation, but they also learn about who they are through the Jewish education they receive.
“It gives a sense of confidence to understand who you are and what you can do and what you can be successful at.”
Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said the premiere of the film was “a fantastic opportunity to celebrate ORT’s work with friends and supporters around the world. The stories were a fascinating insight into the ways in which ORT gave each individual an opportunity to dream – and then to reach their potential.
“For 140 years, ORT has been at the heart of education around the world. Our mission and values have never changed and we have transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
“As we enter the new Jewish year, we can look forward to meeting the challenges posed by the global pandemic and giving our students a great understanding of their role in the world.”