ORT Vancouver will honour Rabbi Dr. Yosef Wosk and Shelley Lederman on Oct. 18 at Congregation Schara Tzedeck. (photos from ORT)
For nearly 140 years, ORT has been equipping people around the world with skills to succeed. The history of the organization in Canada is being celebrated at a gala luncheon next month honouring Rabbi Dr. Yosef Wosk and Shelley Lederman.
The Vancouver region of ORT began in the 1970s and was led by Lederman, who served successive terms as president of the local region and later became co-president of ORT Canada. Carrie Katz, who was Lederman’s co-president, will be the keynote speaker at the event on Wednesday, Oct. 18.
ORT (a Russian-language acronym sometimes translated as the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training) is the world’s largest Jewish education and vocational training nongovernmental organization. Beginning in Russia in 1880, World ORT now operates in 37 countries and engages 300,000 students per year. Originally focused on developing skilled trades among the people, the organization now focuses on high-tech education.
It is ORT’s origin and history – and his own family’s roots – that attracted Wosk to support the organization.
“My father’s family is from Odessa, so I felt a personal connection to the history of the organization and the people they help,” Wosk told the Independent. “Also, the appreciation for the memory of the Jewish community who would not abandon others who needed assistance.”
ORT is founded on the axiom that if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day but if you teach him how to fish he will eat for a lifetime. This is another factor that appealed to Wosk.
“What I was impressed with historically was that it’s not just giving funds,” he said. “It was also educating the people, whether in agriculture or trades and other skills, so that they would be able to eventually help take care of themselves and sustain themselves.”
Local regions, like Vancouver’s, raise funds for ORT educational initiatives in Metro Vancouver, in Israel and around the world.
When Lederman was founding president of the region, there were actually three local branches created, including a Hebrew-speaking group and a Spanish-speaking cohort.
“We created a very strong organization here in Vancouver,” said Lederman, adding that local regions support vital initiatives worldwide, projects that change according to needs over time.
“When people were under duress in Europe during the war and they couldn’t sustain themselves, ORT teachers taught them how to survive as tailors, electricians, as plumbers,” Lederman told the Independent. “And then, in Israel, ORT schools continue to do the same thing. They are teaching those who weren’t going to university but who wanted to come out of high school and be able to support themselves and their families. ORT schools provide education plus trade teachings.”
While she herself did not go to an ORT school, she saw the good works the organization does while growing up in Israel. Being honoured by the organization now means a lot, she said.
“It means a lot because being recognized by your friends and fellow members is really a recognition of all of us,” she said. “By recognizing one person, it’s recognizing the many people who contributed to the success of ORT in Vancouver.”
The theme of the gala is Building Minds Through Inspiration. While ORT began as an educational body teaching skilled trades and crafts, it is now a leader in high-technological training and education. Keeping with this commitment, a percentage of the revenue from the gala will support an ongoing Smart Classrooms initiative at Richmond Jewish Day School (RJDS), as well as provide scholarships for students at the Technological College of Beersheva, in Israel.
Smart Classrooms integrate learning technologies that allow increased interactivity. “The investment by ORT is about allowing Jewish day schools and Jewish schools in Israel to keep pace with technology,” said Abba Brodt, principal of RJDS. “It allows us to marry the best of educational practice with the best of technology for the best possible outcome for students.”
Without the Smart Classrooms funded by ORT, he said, “our students will get a great education but would not be as technologically literate as they should or could be, and they would not be keeping up with changes.”
The gala luncheon takes place at on Oct. 18, 11 a.m., at Congregation Schara Tzedeck. Honourary chair is Dr. Saul Isserow. Master of ceremonies will be Howard Jampolsky. Tickets are available from 604-276-9282 or [email protected].
Pat Johnson is on the organizing committee for the ORT gala.