ORT France is celebrating superb academic results as it enters the summer vacation – but that’s not the only reason why its Director General, Thierry Sebagh, has a smile on his face.
Despite social tensions which have helped push aliyah up to record levels, enrolment at ORT France’s seven non-selective high schools has remained steady thanks to the organisation’s adaptability and vision.
It has been building on its excellent academic track record – the ORT school in Montreuil, near Paris, topped the high school rankings published by L’Express and L’Étudiant this year, the tip of an iceberg of achievement by the network – by extending opportunities for students to stay on and gain highly sought after professional qualifications.
The result is that ORT France’s schools now offer as standard, three-year post-matriculation courses for opticians and in dental prosthetics which enable graduates to start practising independently immediately.
“Certainly, aliyah has created a more complicated environment in which to develop these new projects. But we have to adapt. To educate is to bet on the future of our youth. And we are convinced that there will be a reorganisation of Jewish life in France and that it will flourish here,” Mr Sebagh told France’s leading Jewish newspaper, Actualité Juive.
ORT schools which have traditionally catered to 13- to 17-year-olds have, therefore, evolved into a one-stop shop for aspirational Jewish youth keen to make a good living in an increasingly competitive economic environment but who prefer to study in a safe environment, close to friends and family, and where they know their talents will be nurtured.
“Our pedagogy is personalised; tailored to meet each student’s needs. It is also modern and integrates new technologies,” Mr Sebagh said.
It is not only their academic and professional abilities which are nurtured. ORT France’s schools are also places of spiritual development for those who want it. In response to student requests, all the schools now have synagogues. And there are Torah learning programmes such as the Nefesh Yehudi courses held during lunch break at ORT Montreuil.
“At ORT, students do not have to worry about kashrut, having to sit exams during the Chagim, or attending classes on Shabbat. Quite simply, we are Jewish schools,” Mr Sebagh said.
And there’s much more to come from an organisation with nearly a century of experience and a passion to prepare for the future.
“We want to strengthen educational partnerships in Israel and have started negotiations with ORT Braude College of Engineering in Karmiel,” Mr Sebagh said. “ORT has been part of history, with a capital ‘H’. But ORT is also about modernity, new professions, and an openness to the world.”