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British ORT has reacted with delight to news that the Jewish Agency will provide the organization with $1 million over the coming year to support the Heftsiba program that operates in 15 ORT schools in the former Soviet Union.
The announcement made on Monday followed reports that the Jewish Agency intended to cut budgets to Jewish schools in the former Soviet Union.
ORT said the funding would alleviate fears that six of the 15 ORT schools would be turned into regular public schools as early as September, including the British ORT-supported school in Zaporojie, Ukraine.
Under the Heftsiba program, the Education Ministry and the Jewish Agency help ORT provide formal Jewish education in Jewish schools in the former Soviet republics in partnership with local governments and Jewish communities. The funds pay the salaries of Israeli teachers in many of the schools as well as providing school buses, meals and financial incentives for teachers.
The additional funding from the Jewish Agency not only reverses an expected $350,000 budget cut but adds a further $650,000.
"We are delighted that the Jewish Agency has increased its commitment to ORT schools in the former Soviet Union, and it demonstrates the value of these schools, which offer Jewish students the opportunity to study in a pluralistic Jewish environment," said Ivor Levene, OBE, executive-director of British ORT.
"ORT is committed to providing a high level of education and many communities in this region are requesting our assistance. We are thrilled that the negotiations with the Jewish Agency have resulted in enabling ORT to reach even more students from Jewish communities in Eastern Europe," he said.
Avi Ganon, World ORT's representative in Russia, Belarus and Central Asia expressed gratitude following the announcement. "Thanks to the Jewish Agency's support, our schools will be able to provide better Jewish, scientific and technological education. With this very significant amount of money, we will be able to improve our schools and attract more children by providing transport for Jewish children who live far away from our schools," he said.