The contribution of two of ORT’s most highly respected figures has been marked at a gala dinner in London.
Sir Maurice and Lady Irene Hatter were acknowledged for their years of service, dedication and philanthropy at the special event on Sunday.
One of ORT’s most involved lay leaders, Sir Maurice was president of the organization for four years from 2004 – but his influence has spread over decades of dedication and the couple are renowned across ORT’s global network for their efforts.
Conrad Giles, current ORT President, paid tribute to his predecessor, saying the organization had “grown through your leadership” and that the Hatters’ influence had inspired him to become more involved in ORT 12 years ago.
“Thank you for all that you have given to World ORT,” Dr Giles said.
Avi Ganon, World ORT Director General and CEO, said it was difficult to do justice to the contribution made by the Hatters.
“Everyone in this room has been touched by your dedication to this organization,” he said. “Students across the world have benefited from your generosity; professionals work in buildings established by you. Your advice and support has helped me, going all the way back to the 1990s and through to my role today.”
He described the couple as being ORT’s “moral compass”.
Mark Mishon, ORT UK trustee, said the Hatter family’s ‘mantra’, “it has to be done”, had guided ORT for many years.
A tribute video to the Hatters featured contributions from speakers including Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the UK; former World ORT presidents Judge Richard Goldstone, Jean de Gunzburg, and Mauricio Merikanskas; former Director General and CEO Robert Singer; as well as impressionist Rory Bremner with a hilarious tribute from ‘Donald Trump’.
Following the moving film, which charts the achievements of the Hatters throughout the years, the Hatter family received a standing ovation from the dinner guests.
Speaking in response, Lady Irene said she was “really quite gobsmacked by the whole thing” and said both she and Sir Maurice were “humbled and deeply moved” to have had their efforts acknowledged in such a way.
“We are completely dedicated to the work of ORT,” she added. “I tried to relax, but education always drew me back in.”
Among the initiatives the Hatters were most proud of, Lady Irene said, were the schools in the former Soviet Union, including in Samara, Russia; Kiev, Ukraine; Minsk, Belarus; and Warsaw, Poland. The ORT campus in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was another highlight.
“To all those places, ORT brought the gift of education,” she said. “Thank you all for sharing our dream.”
Richard Hatter, trustee of his father’s Hatter Foundation, praised Sir Maurice’s “passion, conviction and consideration for the wellbeing of others”. He said the foundation would continue to support ORT in its work.
Sharon Bar-Li, Israel’s deputy ambassador to Britain, reflected on ORT’s work in Israel.
She said: “There are so many achievements you can be proud of in the past 139 years. You are giving thousands the education skills they need to succeed in life. You are continuing to build a Jewish future in the Jewish homeland. These are accomplishments made thanks in no small part to the vision of two people – Sir Maurice and Lady Irene Hatter. On behalf of the State of Israel, toda rabah.”
The gala dinner was a highlight of the 2019 World ORT Board of Representatives meeting.