The ORT network was saddened to learn of the death of Samuel Bern, founder and board member of the Colegio Isaac Rabin School in Panama.
Mr Bern (pictured on far left of image) was a highly influential figure in developing connections with ORT in Panama and in overseeing the school’s affiliation agreement with World ORT in 2012.
He was also the driving force behind the World ORT Ecology Summer School which runs annually in Panama for students from our schools across Latin America and Spain.
Mr Bern’s first involvement with ORT came in 2006 and he played a key role in the creation of an ORT committee in Panama the following year.
Daniel Tysman, Head of World ORT’s Education Department, said: “I first met Samuel when he was in London to attend the Educators’ Forum in 2014, presenting his vision for connecting ORT schools through online learning.
“The following year we began thinking about the possibility of a new summer school for Latin America that would bring students to the rainforest and ocean ecosystems of Panama to work together on academic research projects while learning more about biodiversity and conservation.
“With Samuel’s help, we found an ideal partner to work with who could provide everything we were looking for, including generous access to world-class experts from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.”
Educated in Israel, the United States and Mexico, Mr Bern enjoyed success in business in Panama. He felt a sense of duty to the local and international Jewish community, and after becoming involved with the school he also dedicated himself to educational issues.
He invested his time in ensuring ORT students travelling to Panama could learn more about the country’s Jewish community, and regularly visited the summer school to offer his unconditional support and check on the students’ welfare.
Daniel added: “Samuel made a huge impression on me. He was a quiet and gentle man who clearly had a passion for education, and was forward-thinking, particularly in his belief in the potential of online learning to connect ORT students around the world. He was actively committed to the Isaac Rabin School and to ORT worldwide.
“Through our work together it was also very clear that conservation, particularly of the tropical rainforests, was another issue that was close to his heart and that he felt was vital for ORT students to learn about and to experience so that they could be vocal advocates on environmental issues in the future.”
Amelie Esquenazi, World ORT Networking Coordinator for Latin America, said: “Samuel was a nature lover and was very concerned with teaching students about the importance of conservation.
“He was always there for us during our visits to the Summer School in Panama and was crucial to the development of that project. He was a very kind and well-educated man – it was an honor to meet and work with him.”
Mr Bern’s loss will be felt across Latin America’s education establishments and throughout the ORT network. We send our condolences to his family, school and many friends as they come to terms with his sad loss.