Early Activities of The World ORT Union

With the World ORT Union established, funding for the organisation’s activities became the focus of its leadership. Soon after the conclusion of the first ORT Union Congress, Bramson and Syngalowski went to the United States to fundraise. For Bramson, with his vast management experience in both Jewish and Russian affairs, this was a natural role. Syngalowski, a renowned Yiddish orator, was able to evoke an enthusiastic response from the Jewish masses in the United States. They remained in the United States from April to October 1922 and succeeded in obtaining substantial financial support from and through various Jewish organisations. As the volume of work increased, so did the amounts raised and disbursed. Overall, between 1920 and 1923, ORT expenditure for all activities (vocational education, assistance to artisans, and agricultural projects) amounted to $396,965.

In June 1923, the ORT Union held its second Congress in the free city of Danzig. Twenty-six local ORT committees were represented. The Congress made a number of major decisions. It enlarged its governing bodies, electing Bramson, Lvovitch, Syngalowski, Frankfurt, Zylberfarb, Tsegelnitski, and Tiomkin to its executive body, the Central Board and expanding its Central Council.

Significantly, the Congress made a start in the direction of establishing a permanent financial structure, with a decision to establish a Jewish Reconstruction Fund and a Cooperative Tool Supply Corporation. The Jewish Reconstruction Fund was registered in London the following year as an independent stockholders’ corporation with a capitalisation of $1,000,000. The value of a share of stock was fixed at $10, or £2 (at the prevailing exchange rate), with stock to be issued in blocks of 10,000 shares. ORT Reconstruction Funds were established simultaneously in the United States, France, and Germany for the purpose of raising capital. By 1929 the resources of the Fund amounted to $602,000.

The Cooperative Tool Supply Corporation, was also organised in London in 1924. It aimed to facilitate acquisition, on credit, of machinery, equipment, and raw materials needed by Jewish artisans and farmers – a continuation of the work of the Purchase Bureau that had functioned between 1920 and 1923. Capitalisation was set at $10,000, with 51 per cent of the stock to be held by ORT. Later, a corporation of the same name was created in Berlin which took over the day-to-day tasks, with London remaining its financial and administrative centre. Instead of distributing machinery to artisans in need, as done previously, it sold machinery and raw materials to its beneficiaries on credit, at below-market prices. Artisans and farmers receiving machinery through the Corporation executed notes which were held by various local Jewish cooperative banks for collection. The Corporation was able to procure the necessary articles on nine to twelve months' credit. Beneficiaries were given up to eighteen months for repayment at an annual rate of 12 percent, or about half the 2 to 2.5 percent monthly interest rate offered by Jewish cooperative banks at the time.

ORT’s was now working in several Eastern European countries, as well as within the Soviet Union. More details on these activities can be found under the relevant countries (see Eastern Europe).