ORT in Iran

View Gallery of Photos and Document Collection

ORT Iran was established in August 1950 when a provisional ORT Committee was established in Teheran under the honorary chairmanship of Moussa Toub. A Women’s ORT Committee was formed in December 1950. The first courses – in masonry and carpentry – were set up that October for Jewish Kurdish and Iraqi refugees who were housed in camps near Teheran. In Teheran, agro-mechanics and joinery training workshops for the local community were set up and construction work on an ORT school was begun. By the end of 1950 student numbers reached 198.

In January 1951 a girls’ dressmaking school opened in Beth ORT in Teheran (formerly Beth Hechalutz). An ORT committee was formed in Isfahan, and courses were established in temporary rented premises while a building was constructed. In Shiraz schools were established in 1952 teaching dressmaking, joinery, marquetry and cabinet making. A course in shoe making was added later. Boarding facilities were added to the Teheran campus in 1953 to allow students from the provinces to attend the school. By 1954 the student body had risen to well over 700.

During the following years ORT ran day schools for boys and girls in Teheran, Isfahan and Shiraz, teaching needle trades, cabinet making, joinery and woodwork, mechanics, agro-mechanics, electrical installation and marquetry and miniatures. Shorter courses and pre-apprenticeship training workshops were run as well. Several buildings were built to house ORT facilities and improve conditions throughout ORT Iran’s operations. The Teheran campus was expanded into a ‘vocational training city’ containing both boys’ and girls’ schools, workshops, conference halls, exhibition hall, library, kitchen, canteen and dispensary, boarding facilities, a yard with sports and games fields and a swimming pool.

By the late 1950s new trades were added to ORT Iran’s curriculum, including refrigeration, auto-mechanics, tailoring, shirt making and making of children’s clothing. In the 1960s electronics, radio and television technology, and air conditioning were replacing some of the more basic trades taught earlier. Girls were taught industrial dressmaking as well as hairdressing and beauty care and secretarial skills. By 1969 student numbers had increased to over 2000.

After the Islamic Revolution in summer 1979, ORT Teheran continued to operate despite an atmosphere of tension and fear. During the summer recess of 1980, representatives of the Ministry of Education arrived at the school and confiscated the building, equipment and furniture. The school was nationalised and reopened as the Palestine Madrasa (the Palestine School) and the organisation was never compensated for its losses.

Video: Mission to Shiraz (1955)