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Dear Friends,

As we all adjust our daily lives to protect ourselves and our families, we have never been so aware of our global connectivity. What one person does today impacts so many others near and far. I write to you today out of concern for our global community and with a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to ORT’s mission. As we unavoidably think of what we are not able to do right now – go to our offices, attend events, visit with family and friends – I hope we can also focus on the positive steps we CAN and must take, to support the worldwide community ORT serves during one of the most significant shared challenges of our time.

For 140 years, ORT has provided education and training to respond to the most pressing needs at key moments in our history: teaching essential job skills in post-WW II displaced persons camps; training a new workforce in the early years of Israel’s statehood; and rebuilding Jewish identity after the fall of the USSR. We have shown our flexibility over decades of change, and we are in the best possible position to do the same again right now. Read more on ORT’s adaptability over 140 years in this inspiring Jerusalem Post interview with World ORT President, Conrad Giles.

ORT schools are working to adapt to this new reality – how to offer distance learning, often in communities where students lack computers at home, and where many families are not able to provide the requisite emotional, social and economic resources that students need to thrive.

During this time, we want to keep you informed of how ORT is responding to today’s unique challenges around the world.

In keeping with health authorities’ advice and government guidelines, most of our schools, universities and other activities have temporarily closed and events such as our General Assembly, the Hatter Technology Seminar, and future planned activities for the 2020 Taub Young Entrepreneur Program have been postponed.

World ORT leaders are in constant contact with the network, monitoring the needs of staff and students on the ground and building a support program which will launch shortly. We have been gathering content from schools around the network of students and teachers taking part in a variety of online activities together, including yoga classes and regular studies. More detailed country by country updates and other information will continue to be posted here.

For a few personal reflections on the experience of ORT schools in Israel and Italy, I share the following links:

element bullet image Amos Gopher, director of Kfar Silver, recorded this message describing the impact COVID-19 has had on the school, the village, and on students generally.

Amos interview

element bullet image Dany Maknouz from the Della Comunita Ebraica school in Milan describes life under quarantine in this article.

World ORT’s Education Department is actively working on more tools and resources to share with the ORT network. Many fantastic resources that usually require subscriptions have already been made freely available for the duration of the school closures. They are also developing offline projects and some special awards and competitions with prizes to motivate students of all ages.

Despite the challenges posed by coronavirus, students across our network came together to celebrate ORT Day 2020 on Wednesday and to acknowledge our global connection, shared history and vision for the future. Take a few minutes to enjoy these inspiring images of our students around the world.

We are so grateful for the generosity of our community. Your continued support now, perhaps for use in different ways than we had planned, will support our consistent mission – to support students and their families, many of whom come from under-resourced communities.

We will share more on the acute needs of our communities over the coming days and weeks. Those who are able, we thank you in advance for continuing to make your contributions to ORT, and for expediting your 2020 contributions if possible.

It is our singular mission to expand access to education globally, especially in difficult times. Now is a time for ORT to double down in this work when we are needed most.

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom, good health and peace as we go through this time together.

Barbara Birch Signature
Barbara Birch
President & CEO, ORT America

Bridging the gap between aptitude and opportunity
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