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Ort Determined to Carry on Despite War, Board Declares

September 22, 1939
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The board of directors of the American ORT Federation through its president, George Backer, today issued the following statement in connection with a meeting called for September 27 for further consideration of the European emergency.

“How ORT or any other organization or enterprise will be finally affected by the present situation in Europe is a matter of speculation dependent on the war’s scope and duration. ORT has been carrying on for the past 60 years in all kinds of going. It will continue to do so. Jacob Lestschinsky, expert on the economy of Poland and Eastern Europe, points out that the last war in Europe was the period of greatest activity on record for the retraining of Jewish small merchants. This era of ORT expansion was of permanent constructive value for the Jewish masses. With the assistance of belligerent governments, particularly that of Czarist Russia, thousands of Jews learned a trade for the first time of their lives and thereafter remained artisans.

“The precise situation in Poland cannot be known for some time to come. The extent to which ORT can continue functioning there obviously depends on how widely normal pursuits will be resumed in the affected areas. Vast numbers of refugees already known to have fled across Polish borders include more Jews than non-Jews. Refugee camps like those where ORT training centers already function in Switzerland, have just been established in Rumania at Hotin and Soroca. Neighboring countries are following suit. ORT, already well established in Lithuania and Latvia, must greatly expand its facilities to provide for this new influx. Obviously such concentrations of directionless emigrants call for vocational guidance. Training remains the principal qualifications for admission to countries of eventual refuge.

“ORT had the foresight to provide $275,000 for work in countries outside Europe, when making up its 1939 budget recommendations. This aspect has been engaging our most serious attention for over eight months. The initiation of several projects affecting the thousands of refugees now domiciled in various countries in the Western Hemisphere will be announced in a statement following next week’s special meeting of this board. Regardless of what the immediate future may have in store for Poland, some 33 million human beings, including most of the 3 million Polish Jews, will continue to live there. ORT will persist with undiminished vigor in its efforts to help them in this, their new hour of catastrophe even in the face of vastly increased responsibilities in other countries.

“The World ORT Union budget of $1,759,000, released early this year, allocated $643,000 to Poland–only about one third of the total recommended for all countries. Work outside Poland was budgeted at $1,116,000. This includes allocations to Germany, Rumania, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria and countries of transit in Western Europe, including England and France. Work in all these countries must be infensified to cope with the new problems of Jewish war refugees.

“Governmental cooperation, including that from England and France, has facilitated the preliminary enlargement of ORT’s program to include refugee retraining in industry and agriculture. With the personal assistance of Lord Rothschild, president of the Joint British Committee of ORT-OZE, and Lord Marley, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, it was possible to transfer 115 students and instructors of the advance classes of the Berlin ORT School to England. They arrived on August 30 and a training center for them is about to be opened at Leeds. An agricultural farm has also just been set up in England and 72 young Jewish refugees are already registered there. Eduard Herriot, former Premier and Francois de Tessan, newspaper publisher and prominent member of the Chamber of Deputies, have represented the ORT in the French Parliament and enabled the organization to get very consideration from the government officials in establishing ORT centers on a much larger scale in numberous localities of France.”

“We consider it a Jewish responsibility to make use of the friendly attitude still shown us by various governments in order to provide as many refugees as possible with the industrial and agricultural aptitudes that will make them of maximum use to the countries that have granted them asylum.”

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