ORT in France

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ORT France was established in 1921. In 1933 World ORT Union transferred its headquarters to Paris from Berlin and the two organisations worked side by side over the next decade.

Vocational retraining programmes for Jewish German refugees were created in the 1930s in Paris, Chelles and Montmorency. From 75 students in 1934, the student body increased to 1,428 students by 1939. Agricultural training was provided at La Roche, Combes and Angiroux.

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, ORT relocated to Vichy until mid-January 1940 when it seemed safe to return to Paris. It remained there only until June, when, with the Germans approaching, it returned to Vichy. In November, after Vichy became the capital of the Pétain government, the ORT office moved to Marseilles, where the JDC and other Jewish organisations had already established their bases. During the war ORT France maintained facilities in twenty French cities, including Lyon, Toulouse, Marseilles, Nice, and Montpelier as well as in the internment camps of Gurs, Rivesalte, Recebedoux, Brens, and Septfond. In 1942, some 2,240 individuals, including 730 in camps, were benefiting from ORT’s work in France.

In March 1947, an ORT marine school was opened near Marseilles. The curriculum covered navigation, wireless operation, diving, and carpentry for the ship building trade. ORT France expanded from the mid-1950s and throughout the sixties and seventies, to offer vocational and academic education to newly arrived North African Jews. The schools in Lyon and Marseilles were reorganised and transferred to larger quarters; the schools in Strasbourg and Villiers-Le-Bel helped forge a new sense of community among their young North African boarding students; and in Toulouse, a unique programme called Yeshiva Torah et Technique, offered ORT students a combination of religious and technology training.

From the 1980s ORT France's curriculum and courses underwent fundamental changes providing advanced science and technology courses and university preparation programmes.

Today ORT France teaches more than 4000 students at its centres in Paris, Strasbourg, Lyon, Toulouse and Marseille.