Report on the ORT Activities in France January-May 1946

The attached report was presented to the members of the Executive Committee of the ORT Union in Paris in June 1946.The conference was called to discuss the work of ORT's institutions during and immediately after the war. 

ORT’s report from France covers an early period of work in the spring of 1946. A few years later, at an ORT conference, this year was remembered as 'one of organisation, of the procurement of all that was necessary for vocational training needs, and of fight against the feeling of uncertainty prevailing amongst thousands of youths and adults, survivors of the terrible persecution.'

The main project discussed in the report is the large ORT trade school in Strasbourg . The school in Strasbourg was an example of  a large, historically established, traditional Jewish trade school for youth. Its premises were taken by ORT in the beginning of the period discussed in the report. The first step undertaken by the organization was the opening of boarding facilities, allowing young boys and girls from smaller towns to get their education in Strasbourg.

A large part of the report is devoted to the creation of the ORT marine school in Marseille, where young people aged 14 to 22 were to learn the professions of seamen, fishermen, ship-carpenter and diver. The report also describes farming training conducted in France, both for young people preparing for Aliyah and for children.

The report clearly shows that aside from working with old Jewish French communities,  where pre-war educational establishments were expanded and ameliorated, ORT expanded its work to places where new communities were being established by newly arrived immigrants from eastern and Central Europe.

At the same time, as we can see from the report, training in traditional vocations was being replaced in French ORT schools by a  broad range of modern trades - the report describes advanced courses in haute-couture created in Paris, publicity-drawing in Nice and typewriter repair in Toulouse. Some of those courses were organised especially for groups of refugees.  In Aix-le Bains, for example, a sewing workshop was opened for a group of young repatriated women. 

An important topic when discussing the issue of vocational training organised in refugee communities was that of material help for students, especially children, who without it would not be able to continue their education. These took mainly the form of scholarships and free meals but also afternoon clubs which filled their free time, and evening courses provided them with instruction in general knowledge subjects.

The  final issue to be discussed is the French ORT’s growing involvement in North Africa and the opening of much needed vocational schools for the Jewish communities of Algiers and Casablanca.