ORT’s work with Holocaust survivors in Cuba started in 1943 when a school for newly arrived Jewish refugees was opened in Havana. The school offered courses in a variety of subjects: bookbinding, leatherwork, drafting, electro-technology, cutting and sewing. It also trained students in diamond cutting. Over two years the school trained 259 students. Nearly all first-year graduates became self-supporting immediately after graduation. At the end of the war, as many refugees found new homes, the school closed. Two years later, however, a new wave of immigrants of Europe, consisting mainly of young people, reached Cuba. The ORT Union reported at a time: ‘The need for vocational  training became acute again with the influx of new immigrants to Cuba from Europe. Following the visit of Philip Block, a former American ORT Federation Executive Director, and on his recommendation, a new ORT vocational training centre was opened in July, 1947. About sixty students enrolled in the following courses: watch making, manufacturing of fancy leather goods, cutting, dressmaking and dress cutting. The number of students at Havana varied with the arrival of new refugees from Europe and the emigration from Cuba to the United States. The average, however, was always about 60 students.’[1] The school employed one supervisor and four instructors. Two-thirds of the students were men, one-third of them were over twenty-five years of age. The courses were given mainly in the evenings.

This successful programme continued until 1959, when the majority of the Jewish community left the country.



[1] World ORT Archive: d05a019: Three Years of ORT Activities. Report for the period August 1946- June 1949. Submitted to the Congress of the World ORT Union Paris, July 10th- 15th 1949 (Geneva: ORT Union, July 1949) p.152