An American Committee for the Hebrew Technical Institute of Haifa, composed of leaders in the engineering and architect fields, has been organized for the purpose of acting in a permanent sponsorship capacity, it was announced today.
The Committee, whose activities are being directed by an Executive group of four, will seek to draw into its ranks technical experts from every part of the country. Its function is to help maintain the Haifa Technicum in its present form, and to enlarge its scope when it becomes feasible. The institution is at present the only engineering and architect school in Palestine.
The Executive Committee directing the work is comprised of M. H. Sugarman, chairman, leading New York architect ; B. M. Halpern, mechanical engineer ; R. Elyachar, civil engineer ; and Lawrence Levine, engineer and constructor.
Mr. Sugarman, who has designed leading structures in New York and other cities, returns to communal work in the interests of this project after an interim of twenty years.
As he explained to a representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Mr. Sugarman has consented to head this undertaking because it appeals to his imagination and because he sees in the expansion of the Haifa Technicum the key to the industrial future of Palestine and a compelling factor in the industrialization of the Near East.
Pointing out that with the single exception of the technical school in Beirut, the Haifa Technicum stands alone in its field in the Near East, Mr. Sugarman expressed the belief that it is possible for the school in the future to develop as the technical and industrial training school of the Near East.
The Haifa Technicum, Mr. Sugarman explained, is not a new institution. It has a history of two decades, but is only now entering upon its modern phase. Founded before the war, it has only recently emerged as a school offering diplomas in engineering and architecture, whose graduates have the endorsement of the Palestine government.
The Technicum was established before the war by the “Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden” with a gift of Â£10,000 from the Russian Jewish philanthropist, the late Klonymos Wissotzky of Moscow, a gift later doubled by his heirs. This was supplemented by the noted American Jewish philanthropist, the late Jacob H. Schiff of New York, who contributed $100,000. Felix M. Warburg, noted New York Jewish philanthropist, has been a generous donor to the institution.
Through these contributions erection was begun on what remains the principal building of the Institute, workshops and an adjacent secondary school.
In 1925, the school, under new auspices, was formally launched by the late Lord Melchett of Great Britain, who served as a member of the Board of Governors which had functioned for a period of three years in Germany and England to procure the necessary equipment for laboratories and trade schools.
In 1928, the first examinations for diplomas for civil engineers and architects were held at the Institute, the examining Board consisting of representatives of the Government, Departments of Education and Public Works, the Zionist Executive and the Palestine Association of Engineers and Architects. Twenty engineers and seven architects, including one woman, comprised the graduating class.
In 1929 a trade school was attached to the Institute. The courses at the Institute, like those at any other Technical School, either in America or Europe, Mr. Sugarman explains, are for a period of four years plus one year of practical training. The trade school courses are for one year less. Emphasis in the trade schools is placed on mechanical fields because mechanical and electrical industries in Palestine are principally in need of skilled workmen. In addition there are evening courses for workmen.
Beginning with a small select group of students in 1925, the student body has increased five-fold in the seven years that have elapsed. Graduates of the Institute have been absorbed in Palestine and in a number of places outside of Palestine.
The Technicum has received the endorsement of such representative Palestine organizations as the Jewish National Council, the Jewish Agency Executive and the Palestine Society of Engineers and Architects.
Its work is supervised by a board set up by the Jewish Agency in agreement with the Palestine Jewish National Council.
The progress made by the Institute is remarkable when one views the obstacles it has had to face, Mr. Sugarman said. These include not only the obstacles imposed by the lack of sufficient financial funds, but obstacles imposed by the language question. Hebrew is the language of instruction employed in all classes at the Technicum. There are few technical text books in Hebrew, with the result that instructors in the college have had to make up for that deficiency themselves. And yet the faculty has persisted and the school has grown, Mr. Sugarman pointed out.
Today the Technicum is entering upon a new phase of its existence. The small sum which the Jewish Agency undertook to supply to the school will not be forthcoming because the Agency has no funds. The school is thus compelled to fend wholly for itself. Instead of being daunted, its administrators have embarked upon an ambitious program. They must, however, secure support outside the country for maintenance and expansion.
The organization in this country and similar organizations in other countries, will, Mr. Sugarman is confident, assure the needed moral and material support.