ORT in Tunisia

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ORT programmes in Tunisia began in 1950. A boys’ school opened in a temporary location and offered courses in mechanics and electricity. Building work on new premises in Ariana was soon under way, and an agreement was signed between ORT and Alliance Israélite Universelle for collaboration in the running of the school. The new school in Ariana opened in late 1951 and offered courses in mechanics, plumbing, electricity, auto-mechanics, and carpentry. Later, courses in refrigeration were added to the curriculum. Jewish history and Hebrew lessons were also provided. The temporary premises were then converted into a girls’ school, offering courses in dressmaking, children’s clothing and ready-made clothing. Later on, ORT arranged for training for girls as lab assistants at an external location.

In 1952 an apprenticeship service was begun, which trained around 300-800 apprentices annually in a variety of trades. Some of the apprenticeship programme’s alumni later opened shops themselves and took in apprentices to be trained in their turn. From 1955 adult courses were also provided, teaching welding, electrical installation, hairdressing, trouser making, carpentry and turning.  

Social assistance was an integral part of ORT’s work in Tunisia. This included assistance with school expenses, canteen meals, distribution of clothes and work clothes, scholarships, etc. Women’s American ORT were instrumental in supporting these enterprises.

After Tunisia’s independence from France in 1956, life became more difficult for the Jewish community. Many emigrated to Israel or France, greatly impacting upon the Tunisian ORT programme. By the late 1960s Tunisian ORT was under financial strain and struggled to recruit teachers. With dwindling enrolment, in 1972 the decision was taken to close ORT’s programme in Tunisia.