ORT in Shanghai

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ORT's work in China began in early 1941. Jewish refugees from Europe had been arriving in Shanghai since 1933, with a huge increase during 1938-1939. By the end of 1941 ORT was offering a wide range of education and training courses in several locations in the city.

The fortunes of the community changed in early 1943 when, at the insistence of the Germans, the occupying Japanese authorities restricted its Jewish inhabitants to a ghetto in the Hongkew (now Hongkou) district of the city. Based in Jansen Road, ORT Shanghai continued to run its training courses, providing practical skills and moral encouragement. But by now it was completely cut off from World ORT and had to rely on its own resources. The Japanese surrendered Shanghai in September 1945 and the city was occupied by American troops. Many ORT graduates (and current students) found employment with the US Forces.

World ORT re-established contact with ORT Shanghai and money was sent through in 1946, enabling it to move into a more suitable building in Dalny Road. ORT’s programmes were centralised there, and attention was turned to the needs of those seeking to migrate. ORT’s many courses included building, carpentry, gardening, fashion-design, corset making, millinery, bookkeeping, hairdressing, driving, spray-painting, industrial art, machine knitting, welding and the manufacture of neckties. Students were also offered English language lessons, specifically aimed at craftsmen.

After the war there was a steady migration from Shanghai, with most leaving for Israel, North America or Australasia. ORT began to offer vocational courses at the Shanghai Jewish School (SJS) and the Shanghai Jewish Youth Association School. In addition to its school courses, ORT continued to work with adults and, in late 1948, offered special courses for the elderly and for TB patients.

ORT’s work in Shanghai was closed in early 1949. By then ORT had run nearly 200 courses for about 3,500 refugees - more than one in seven of Shanghai's Jewish refugee population directly benefited from ORT's training.