ORT created in Russia in 1880 as Obshestvo Remeslenofo zemledelcheskofo Truda (the Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor) was designed to help lift Russia’s 5 million Jews out of crushing poverty. Today, the international group runs a network of schools, colleges, centers, and institutes that reach about ‘75,000 students all over the world.
Women’s American ORT, founded in 19’7, calls itself the largest contributor to the worldwide ORT program. According to the group’s Website, the organization has maintained its "tradition that handouts don’t work. Teaching a skill, on the other hand, is a positive step toward improving one’s chance for success."
While the skills needed for survival have changed, ORT continues to "provide the skills and knowledge necessary for Jewish communities to cope with the complexities and uncertainties of their environment, to foster economic self-sufficiency, mobility, and a sense of identity through use of state-of-the-art technology." In addition, through its international cooperation program, ORT supports nonsectarian economic and social development in underdeveloped parts of the world, offering both vocational training and technical assistance.
Reviewing a timeline of ORT’s achievements reveals a long, proud history. Within ‘0 years of its founding, the organization had provided manual training to ‘5,000 Jews in the Russian Empire. During World War I, ORT established cooperative workshops, soup kitchens, and credit offices, which it says saved thousands from starvation, as well as a relief-through-work project for displaced Jews. Forced out of Russia by Stalinist purges in 1938, the group returned in 1990 and now boasts major educational centers there. And not only did ORT conduct training in post-WW II displaced person camps, but it established the first modern vocational education institute in the new state of Israel and has worked actively to absorb the large waves of immigrants to that country from Ethiopia. In addition, a large network of ORT schools exists in Latin America.