Women Proudly Carry the ORT Banner

Anna Boudin

Initially, the American organization was all male, but five years after American ORT’s inception, Women’s American ORT (WAO) was founded in October 1927, primarily by the wives of the organization’s leaders, such as Florence Dolowitz and Anna Boudin. In the beginning, WAO raised money via small events and bazaars, but it changed its strategy and held a major fundraiser to respond to the pressing needs of the Eastern European Jews. The event was a triumphant gala at Carnegie Hall in 1928 featuring Russian-born maestro violinist, Efram Zimbalist. The concert program listed as patrons, prominent Eastern European- and German-Jewish women, as well as the leaders of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

At first, WAO was more of an auxiliary arm of American ORT, but as the role of women, continued to evolve toward self-determination, their participation in and passion for the organization catapult it to enormous heights. By 1933, WAO had so much clout that they put on a pageant called Activities of ORT at a Broadway theater, demonstrating the various skills taught by ORT in different countries. Their purpose was to raise money, including for six hundred workshops in Poland which trained 5,000 workers.

ORT Place

World ORT Ladies renaming a street "ORT Place" for a day in New York, circa mid-1950s. Renaming a street was a regular feature of ORT Day celebrations in the 1950s.

Around that time, WAO had set a goal of raising $50,000 (equivalent to almost $981,000 today) by 1938. However, in December 1936 their prestigious honorary chairwoman, Elsa Einstein (Mrs. Albert Einstein), died, making it challenging to achieve their pledge. Remarkably, they met their goal but didn’t replace the honorary chair until 1950 with Baroness Pierre de Günzburg (the daughter-in-law of ORT founder, Baron Horace de Günzburg), a position she held until her death in 1969.

Chapter 4: Miraculous ORT Work During WWII