Guest Column by Jay Tenenbaum
It’s an honor to be a part of this Rosh Hashanah issue of the Atlanta Jewish Times, as it affords us an opportunity not just to wish everyone a shana tova, but to share with the readers how they can help make it a shana tova for those less fortunate
Who are we?
ORT is the Jewish organization meeting the world’s educational needs since 1880. We are the largest nongovernmental educational network in the world. And just as we did at our establishment, we are still identifying the most pressing needs of our Jewish youth, and, yes, we are meeting them.
Take our Atlanta-adopted project in the Galilee, the Hodayot youth village. What a difference this year has made in the lives of so many youths at risk.
Hodayot is home to more than 250 teens in seventh to 12th grade. Almost all are new immigrants, 60 percent Ethiopian and 30 percent from the former Soviet Union. The great majority are from dysfunctional, problematic families ranked “very low” on the socio-economic scale.
Many just couldn’t fit in at standard schools and might have become street kids were it not for the dedication of ORT supporters and the magnificent and caring staff at the school.
To date, we’ve raised more than $500,000 to renovate the dining hall, the kitchen, the student lounge and three smart classrooms; a special needs facility, a state-of-the-art science lab and a dozen mezuzot have been dedicated throughout the campus. All of these projects were dedicated in the donor’s name or in memory of loved ones. But there’s so much more to do.
In the year to come, we intend to fund four additional smart classrooms, create a welcoming foyer for students and visitors alike, and complete a desperately needed renovation of the auditorium, which is in serious disrepair.
Together with our board, our president, Harvey Spiegel, our national board member, Hilly Panovka, and the rest of our growing cadre of ORT advocates, we continue to share the Hodayot story — helping prospects and donors understand that they have a unique opportunity to directly change lives, now and for the future.
I’m also so proud to say that when our supporters make significant contributions for a project, the work gets done. The funds do not go to some nebulous work somewhere that one can neither see nor touch. If you fund it, we build it.
In the coming year, as we reflect and ask ourselves how we can change the world, think of the Israeli kids you can help to benefit from a high-quality Jewish education, just as you or your children experienced at Epstein, Davis, TDSA, AJA, Weber or Temima.
Join in our efforts, and 5777 will truly be a shana tova for all of us.
Jay Tenenbaum is the regional director of ORT America in Atlanta.