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What is the organization World ORT? They are behind the website bible.ort.org, which provides text, translations, and audio recordings of the Torah and Haftarah readings, and is cited in many Jewish (mostly, but exclusively non-Orthodox) wiki entries I've come across on the net, but I've never heard of them other than that.

I finally decided to look them up online, and they have a website that makes some impressive claims:

"ORT was founded in Tsarist Russia in 1880";

"The name 'ORT' was coined from the acronym of the Russian words Obshestvo Remeslenofo zemledelcheskofo Truda, meaning The Society for Trades and Agricultural Labour";

they are "the world's largest Jewish education and vocational training non-governmental organisation";

they "work for the advancement of Jewish and other people through training and education";

they "provide communities wherever they are, with the skills and knowledge necessary to cope with the complexities and uncertainties of their environment"; "foster economic self-sufficiency, mobility and a sense of identity through use of state-of-the-art technology"; and "support non-sectarian economic and social development through International Cooperation programs in under-developed parts of the world, with vocational training and the provision of technical assistance."

But I've never actually seen any evidence of this or heard anyone speak of them, whether as a donor, recipient, or observer - nothing. I'm wondering if this is because they are an obscure organization with a skilled writer creating the content on their website, or if they are a worldwide Jewish powerhouse that assumes the U.S. Jewish community is self-sustaining enough that they don't bother advertising or fundraising here.

What do they actually do; are they as big as they claim; are they supported by major elements of the broader Jewish community worldwide; and do they have any presence in the United States?

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I think this is a fascinating question, but is it in scope? –  Charles Koppelman Jul 15 '13 at 15:12
    
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_ORT Most of the references on the WP page are to the organization's own website, but at least one links to JTA. –  Daniel Jul 15 '13 at 15:27
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@CharlesKoppelman, that may depend on the answer! –  Seth J Jul 15 '13 at 15:31
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@CharlesKoppelman, I vote yes, as World ORT claims to be a "Jewish education" organization. –  msh210 Jul 16 '13 at 23:29
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2 Answers 2

What is World ORT? World ORT is as much a 'movement' as an organisation. Yes, we were founded in St Petersburg in 1880 and, since then, we have become the world's largest Jewish education and vocational training NGO. The acronym ‘ORT’ comes from its original Russian name; ‘Organization for Rehabilitation and Training’ is a later innovation.
But if we’re so big how come so little is known about us?! One reason may be the federal structure of the organisation: each country runs schools and programmes autonomously and over the years many people have grown up not realising that 'ORT' exists globally as well as locally.
Another reason may be that, generally speaking, World ORT and its constituent national organisations have traditionally been more interested in ‘walking the walk’ than ‘talking the talk’. We are proud of the fact that only 6% of our income goes on administration because that means when people entrust their money to us they know that it will be used to give children (and adults) the opportunity to forge a better future for themselves. But it also means that precious little is left over for marketing and public relations budgets. We are addressing the situation but we have a lot of catching up to do in what is a very competitive philanthropic environment. We would love you to get to know us better: please visit our website, http://www.ort.org, and like our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/WorldORT. You’ll be surprised by what you find there! And feel free to send me, Stefan Bialoguski, a friendship request on Facebook.

In terms of our current activities, “standing on one foot” we have a university in Uruguay (listed among the top 500 in the world), very highly regarded high schools in Buenos Aires, Mexico City and other cities in Latin America, a network of 17 Jewish day schools in the former Soviet Union, more than 30 affiliated schools in Israel (as well as a range of high-impact programmes such as the provision of Smart classes to schools in disadvantaged communities, teacher training, the redevelopment of the centre of Kiryat Yam into a science, sports and cultural hub for neighbouring schools and the wider community, the revitalisation of education provision for children in public hospitals etc.), schools in Italy and France, colleges in the USA (e.g. Bramson ORT in New York), and highly regarded projects helping non-Jews in the developing world acquire the skills they need for self-sufficiency. Details of all these – and MUCH more! – can be found at our website and you can keep updated via Facebook. We are partners with the Jewish Federations of North America alongside the JDC and JAFI and count Jewish philanthropists and philanthropic funds among our supporters. But we also partner companies such as Hewlett-Packard and organisations such as USAID in various programmes. (I am the public relations officer for World ORT.)

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Can you please indicate your association with ORT? Additionally, can you address the questions, namely what specifically does the organization do, is it supported by Jewish community, and does it function in the US? –  Aryeh Jul 17 '13 at 11:39
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Stefan, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for giving us an authoritative answer, straight from the source! I hope you'll look around the site and discover other material here of interest to you, perhaps starting with our 19 other communities questions. –  Isaac Moses Jul 17 '13 at 14:00
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I believe ORT is an acronym for Organization for Rehabilitation and Training that was active doing just that for Holocaust survivors after WW2.

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Thank you for your answer! Anything you can edit in as to why you think so would improve your answer's believability. Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  msh210 Jul 16 '13 at 23:30
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