ORT network provides training around the world

Volunteers/Where good neighbors get together

October 16, 1990|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

THE MEMBERS of the Women's American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training), founded in 1927, provide vocational, education and technical training in schools and classes throughout the world.

Also, its members promote quality public education, literacy campaigns, combat anti-Semitism and champion women's rights and democratic values.

The seven local chapters of the Chesapeake Region of ORT, more than 1,000 women, volunteers and members, are a small but vital part of the national membership of 140,000 women.

Cathy Glassman, eight-year member and president of the Chesapeake Region, says a new chapter is being formed in Owings Mills.

ORT began in Russia in St. Petersburg in 1880 to help the Jewish people overcome poverty by teaching them skills. Training schools and classes spread all over the world and became open to all, but the organization died in the Soviet Union in 1929.

Some 60 years later, ORT was invited to open an office and educational center in Moscow. It opened this month. This resource center for technological and creative education, in agreement with the Soviet Academy of Science, is being run by ORT personnel and Soviet educators who were trained at the World ORT Union Headquarters and Resource Center in London. This pilot project will be repeated in possibly 1,000 Soviet educational institutions.

Worldwide, more than 125,000 students are enrolled in the international scholastic program, the largest non-governmental vocational training network in the world. Schools are located in South America, Israel, France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary and in eastern Europe, Africa and the South Pacific.

Baltimore does not have an ORT school, but three are located in the United States, in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Glassman and her friend Sharan Kushner, a 20-year member and past president, note that everyone is welcome to belong to ORT. ''The activities for the members help raise funds to support the organization. Members have fun while making a difference,'' says Kushner.

Glassman says that each chapter has its own personality. So when a prospective member calls, she is interviewed and information is taken and given which helps place her in an ORT chapter best suited to her. For instance, one chapter may be made up of older women who want to meet during the day for trips while another group may prefer activities geared to evenings. Many have speakers, some put on ''nearly new'' sales. ''All of the events help support ORT,'' Glassman says. Membership dues are $25 annually. Call 653-1430 for details.

Glassman credits her involvement with the organization to past president Leslie Glickman. ''When I met Leslie, she talked about ORT and I became enamored with it and still am,'' she says.

Kushner jokes that 20 years ago someone invited her to a housewares party or an ORT meeting ''and I chose ORT.''

In the ORT schools, training is free for those who cannot pay, and graduated fees are charged to those who can. Kushner recalls an example of ORT's extended help: ''At the time the Shah left Iran, many of the children of Iran were sent to Israel without their families. There they were educated and cared for in ORT schools where life for them was made as warm and family-oriented as possible.''

On Oct. 20, the Chesapeake Region of Women's American ORT will hold a Gala Tribute to Volunteers, says Kushner, who chairs the event. It begins at 5:30 Sunday evening at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and will be followed by dinner and dancing to the music of Michael Dorsey. Tickets are $75 per person with a $100 minimum donation to ORT. For reservations or ORT information, call 922-8191.

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