Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein invited World ORT’s Board of Trustees to join him in raising $200,000 for ORT’s school network in the former Soviet Union at a dinner in his honour.
The founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews spontaneously challenged World ORT’s top lay body and others at the dinner, including the ORT America Board and senior management, to match his spontaneous $100,000 pledge.
The greatest honour for him and his donors, he said, would be to join with him in helping the children of ORT.
“The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has been proud to participate in the efforts of ORT in the former Soviet Union. I hope and pray that you will continue to do all that you can do, and frankly that you will do more, to help the Jews of the former Soviet Union and especially the next generation of children,” he said.
“Thank you for everything that you do in ORT to help the Jews in the former Soviet Union. G-d bless you, and The Fellowship will continue to stand with you in the years ahead.”
Rabbi Eckstein’s pledge is in addition to the $250,000 that the IFCJ has committed to World ORT’s operations in the region for this year – a total of $4 million since 2008.
Their generosity was recognized at the dinner where Rabbi Eckstein and the IFCJ were inducted into The 1880 Society, ORT’s elite donors group.
“We are honoured tonight to pay tribute to someone who has given so much to so many,” said World ORT President Dr Conrad Giles.
“Rabbi Eckstein has benefited institutions throughout the world. His work with aliyah has strengthened the State of Israel just as his contributions to World ORT have permitted us to perpetuate Judaism in Eastern Europe. Thank you, Rabbi, for all that you have done for our children.”
The IFCJ’s support has enabled World ORT to maintain the provision of hot school meals, free school buses and security – all of which are essential to make ORT schools accessible to all in the region’s disparate Jewish communities.
In a video prepared for the occasion, ORT Odessa Principal Svetlana Manchenko illustrated the situation: “In 2008, funding was cut for meals and transportation. We have children who come from across Odessa and the surrounding area so, as a result, that year we lost nearly one-third of our students.”
Dr Giles said in his address that Rabbi Eckstein and his mainly Christian donors have enabled thousands of children to benefit from ORT’s unique combination of an excellent secular and technical education and non-denominational Jewish Studies programme; the former helps individuals and communities to prosper while the latter ensures the very existence of a Jewish community by reversing decades of anti-religious Soviet pressure.
As Mikhail Skablionok, Head of the Jewish community in Kazan, said in the video: “Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – a large circle of people are receiving a Jewish education together with their children.”