ORT in Belarus

View Gallery of Photos and Document Collection

ORT’s activities in what is today Belarus began soon after the organisation was founded and was providing financial support to artisans, agricultural settlements, and vocational training for Jewish youths. Between 1880 and 1882 funds were disbursed among vocational schools or vocational departments in Jewish elementary schools in Minsk, Mir and Orsha. Later, support was extended to Babruysk [Bobruisk], Barysaw [Borisov], Brest [Brest-Litovsk], Hrodna [Grodno], Mahilyow [Mogilev], Maladzyechna [Molodechna] and Shklow.

During WWI ORT’s Relief-Through-Work Department extended substantial credits and organisational assistance to cooperative purchasing projects for shoemakers in Babruysk and Minsk. It also provided financial aid to artisans' shops in Minsk. ORT labour bureaus, which surveyed the labour market and found jobs for Jewish refugees operated in Minsk, Smarhon [Smorgon] and Vitsyebsk [Vitebsk].

After WWI ORT groups were formally established in Minsk and Hrodna in 1919. Rehabilitating Jewish agriculture in small towns was a priority and projects, which also involved gardening, were developed in Babruysk, Barysaw, Slutsk and Minsk. By 1926 ORT was extending loans for the development of poultry farms in the areas of Minsk, Babruysk, and Mahilyow. ORT also supported vocational schools, training courses, shops, and apprenticeship schemes in Brest and Hrodna. ORT trade schools were organised in these two cities. Instruction was in Yiddish and subjects taught included metal work, machining, cabinet-making, garment skills, the electrical field and radio.

During the 1930s, in cooperation with Soviet institutions and government authorities, ORT was financing wholly or partially the establishment of factories in Belarus. The programme ended, along with all of ORT’s work in the Soviet Union, in 1938.

ORT returned to Belarus in 2001. Its wide range of computer training courses in Gomel and Polatsk provide support to unemployed women, disabled people and the elderly, as well as to younger students.