Historical highlights in the history of ORT from inception to the present.

1880 A small group of prominent Russian Jews petitioned Tzar Alexander II for permission to start a fund to help lift Russia’s five million Jews out of crushing poverty. ORT, Obschestvo Remeslenovo i zemledelcheskovo Trouda (the Society for Trades and Agricultural Labour) is founded.

1881 to 1906 ORT raised over a million rubles and provided trade skills to 25,000 Jews in 350 towns of the Russian Empire.

1914 to 1910 During World War I, ORT’s cooperative workshops, soup kitchens and credit offices saved thousands from starvation. ORT set up a Relief-through-Work project to find employment for displaced Jews.

1921 World ORT Union is established by ORT leaders at a conference in Berlin.

1922 The American ORT Society, forerunner of American ORT, was established.

1930s World ORT starts its operations in Latin America.

1938 Stalin’s purges ended ORT operations in the Soviet Union.

1940 ORT conducted vocational training courses in the Kovno Ghetto until 1942.

1945 ORT began work in the post-war DP (displaced persons) camps.

1949 ORT Israel was established.

1949 The Iron Curtain forced the closing of ORT programmes in Eastern Europe.

1947-1950 ORT began operations in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran.

1959 The Syngalowski Centre was created in Tel Aviv – the first modern vocational education institution in Israel.

1960 ORT International Cooperation activities commenced.

1960s ORT Israel and ORT France met increasing demands for training from the influx of Jews from North Africa and Eastern Europe.

1970s Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay became major centres of operation for ORT in Latin America.

1976 Opening of the ORT School of Engineering on the campus of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

1985 ORT Israel helped to absorb the first large wave of olim from Ethiopia.

1989 Opening of the ORT Braude International Institute of Technology in Karmiel, Israel.

1990 ORT returned to Russia after a 52-year absence with the signing of an agreement with the Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Education.

1995 ORT schools opened in Moscow and St Petersburg.

1996 ORT entered the Internet Superhighway, linking its centres around the world through ORTnet.

1999 Agreements were signed with the Russian Government and local education authorities leading to a sixfold increase in ORT student numbers in the Former Soviet Union.

2000 Creation of the Regeneration 2000 Campaign and the establishment of a new network of ORT schools and educational centres in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan, Kiev, Kharkov, Dniepropetrovsk, Minsk, Kishinev, Vilnius and Riga.

2004 Inauguration of the World ORT 1880 Society for ORT’s most inspirational and generous donors.

2004 ORT’s Next Generation Initiative was launched and the first meeting of ORT’s next generation of layleaders was held in Paris.

2006 Merger of American ORT and Women’s American ORT was successfully completed. ORT America was born.

2006 ORT Strasbourg became the first private college in France to offer a three-year bachelor degree course in collaboration with a university with the introduction of its Licence Professionel des Métiers de l’Optique et de la Vision with the Louis Pasteur University.

2007 Establishment of Science Journey / Kadima Mada in Israel – the new World ORT initiative.

2007 ORT Uruguay was ranked among the top 500 tertiary institutions in the world (out of 25,000). It was ranked eighth of the 17 Latin American institutions listed and was the only Uruguayan institution included.

2007 President’s Prize for ORT St Petersburg Russia’s highest award for innovation and excellence in education was presented to the ORT de Gunzburg School in St Petersburg.


ORT - Roots, History and Growth

In 1880 a group of prominent Russian Jews, petitioned Czar Alexander II for permission to start a fund to assist Jewish trade schools and establish new colonies, agricultural schools and model farms in order to help lift Russia’s five million Jews out of lives of crushing poverty. The success of the appeal led Russian authorities to create the “Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor,” for Jews of Russia. It is from this original name – Obschestvo Remeslenovo i. Zemledelcheskovo Trouda – that the word ORT is derived.

Farming, tool and industrial cooperatives were formed. Jews were trained as artisans in sewing, hand weaving, gardening, mechanics, cabinet making, and furniture design. ORT became a pioneer in teaching, using new techniques to raise standards, while always giving attention to those with the greatest need. In its first 25 years, ORT provided training to 25,000 Jews in 350 towns within the Russian Empire, vastly improving their quality of life.

A fundamental principle of ORT, from the beginning, was to train Jews in crafts, factory work, and other productive labor and occupations necessary not only for them to be employed, but for the survival of Russian Jewry. With training came employment, escape from poverty, independence and dignity. The occupations were often determined by the times, geography and social conditions where Jews lived.

ORT’s organizational framework was created in 1906 when the rise of industrialization in Russia created a need for artisans—a gap ORT training filled. In 1909,ORT began providing courses for electricians in Vilna because the city was introducing atomic streetcars. Courses in cat mechanics and driving were offered in St. Petersburg when the automobile was introduced there in 1910. Books were published by ORT on economic self-help, tinsmithing, mathematics for artisans, as well as furniture making and tailoring.

As time marched on, ORT’s training programs evolved to meet the changing needs of Jews as reflected by politics, war and industrialization. After World War I, ORT’s character and focus shifted from Russian Jewry to an organization that linked Jews from across the globe—first in Europe and later on other continents. ORT opened vocational and agricultural schools, encouraged agricultural expansion, provided seeds, tools, and training.

In 1921, the World ORT Union was formally established. The organization continued to offer education and relief throughout Europe during both World Wars.

During World War II, ORT’s center of activity moved from Berlin to France and, in 1943, to Geneva. Local ORT organizations were established in various countries. ORT continued to serve Jewish communities during Nazi occupation as well. In the Warsaw Ghetto, the German authorities gave ORT—and only ORT—permission to open vocational training courses which existed up until the liquidation of the Ghetto. This was also the case in Lodz, Kovna, and several other Jewish centers.

When World War II ended in May 1945 and the extent of the Nazi atrocities became clear, ORT was called into action. Against a background of deep despair, efforts at rehabilitation and redemption began. ORT set up vocational training centers in 78 DP (Displaced Persons) Camps, educating nearly 85,000 people. Refugees acquired professions, adopted new values and rebuilt their pride as human beings and as Jews. A shining period in ORT’s history, this was both a professional and spiritual accomplishment.

A new chapter began with the proclamation of the State of Israel in May 1948. The country’s gates flung open to Jewish refugees, now immigrants. ORT began operations and created workshops in Jaffa and Jerusalem to rehabilitate and train wounded soldiers. It was during this period that ORT’s activities intensified in North and South America, northern and southern Africa, Western Europe, as well as Iran, India, and other countries where Jewish refugees fled or lived in jeopardy.

During the second half of the 20th century, ORT established itself as a leader in education and relief services in Israel, South America and around the world. Today, ORT works to offer skills-training and self-help projects to some of the world’s most impoverished communities. With the assistance of its supporters, ORT helps communities meet the demands of the workplace, now and in the future, through its global network of educational institutions, which deliver state-of-the-art education in technology and science, as well as traditional academic courses.

The World Bank, USAID and other international development agencies work with ORT to create educational programs in developing countries. ORT returned to the former Soviet Union and the Baltic States in the early 1990s, establishing programs that now serve 27,000 students per year in 58 schools and educational institutions.

In addition, ORT has created number of projects focused on improving the quality of life for its students by filling gaps left by economic crises. ORT now offers basic nutrition, clothing, books and school supplies, counseling and services that address the growing emotional needs of students. ORT also offers “values education” projects, such as Sunflowers, which brings students together with young cancer patients at local hospitals to give them access to educational computer programs and the Internet.

ORT Canada was established in 1996 as an affiliate of the World ORT and raises funds for ORT schools and programs in around the world. ORT Canada was created from the merger of the Canadian ORT Organization and Women’s Canadian ORT.