ORT’s work in Romania started in the early 1920s. In 1936 the organization was training over 1600 students in trade schools, workshops and training centres.
In November 1940 Romania joined the Axis powers. Despite harsh wartime conditions and mounting anti-Jewish legislations and pogroms, ORTs activities in Romania did not stop during the war. The main school in Bucharest remained in operation and the organization maintained projects in Ordea Mare, Cluj and Jassy. Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. Over half of the country’s population however managed to survive and with a post war population of 400,000 Jews, Romania became one of the most important fields of ORT’s activities in Europe. Romanian ORT started its work by initiating reconstruction of pre-war schools and establishing new ones. In the end of 1946 schools were opened in Bucharest and Jassy, in 1947 in Galatz and Botosani and in 1948 in Cluj, Oradea, Arad and Timisoara.
Altogether as of April 1948, ORT had 2,417 students in Romania - 1,179 in Bucharest, 393 in Jassy, 370 in Botosani, 169 in Galatz, 156 in Oradea and 150 in Cluj. The schools employed 122 members of teaching staff.
In 1948 the large ORT school in Bucharest conducted courses in dressmaking, men’s tailoring, underwear garment making, leather work, shoe making, cardboard-work, book-binding, garment cutting, shoe uppers making, tin-ware, toy making, masonry, armatures for reinforced concrete, weaving, mechanical knitting, mechanics, radio technology, electricity. There was also training in tractor driving. The majority of courses were full time and were attended by young people. The schools also ran additional workshops for students of the Jewish secondary schools in Bucharest. Besides offering vocational training, ORT school in Bucharest became the centre of Jewish communal life. Every Saturday the school organized public lectures on Jewish history and culture as well as performances and concerts.
The situation of Romanian ORT was very difficult not only because of the acute shortage of materials and premises but especially due to the difficult social situation of many students. A great percentage of the youth was orphaned, and many of them had to support younger siblings. Several hundred orphans attended specially constructed ORT courses in Bucharest which consisted of pre-apprenticeship instruction as well as schooling in general subjects. Special care was paid to the school for Jassy, where almost half of the surviving community comprised of orphans, many of whom returned from concentration camps. In Jassy trade school, ORT courses in metal work, electrical technology, tailoring, dressmaking, underwear garment making were directed almost exclusively to students under eighteen years of age. The student body of the school in Galatz was also comprised almost exclusively of young people.
Similarly to the situation in Poland, ORT's work with Holocaust survivors in Romania ended in 1949, when its schools were taken over by the Jewish Democratic Committee established by the Communist government. The ORT Bulletin reported on the event: ‘In an apparently concentrated campaign against all Jewish organizations in Romania, the Cabinet, on March 8, published a decree dissolving the offices of the Joint Distribution Committee and ORT…In a special dispatch from Bucharest, it is reported that ‘The Minister of the Interior, who is actually the head of the police, ordered the offices of ORT and OSE closed because both organizations are agencies of the American Jewish bourgeoisie serving the anti-Soviet Marshall Plan.’
World ORT Archive: ORT Bulletin vol II no.8 (April 1949) p.3