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ORT Returning to Cuba After 40 Years

ORT and the Cuban Jewish community have concluded an agreement that will bring the Jewish high technology leader back into Cuba for the first time in 40 years. Robert Singer, Director General of the World ORT Union, visited Cuba in late June at the invitation of the Cuban Jewish community. He was accompanied by Dr. Gaby Meyassed, Director of ORT Mexico and Dr. Miguel Jusidman, who heads the Cuban Jewish lobby in the Mexican Jewish community. Following their meetings with leaders of the Jewish community of Cuba including its President, Dr. Jose Miller Fredman, ORT agreed to provide a fully-equipped computer lab and set up a computer training program for children, teens and adults. The objective of the adult program is to improve employment opportunities and salaries for Cuban Jews. In addition, a CD-ROM library of Hebrew language instruction and Judaica will be available at the computer lab to encourage young Cuban Jews to study Hebrew and Judaism.

ORT's Cuban history goes back to 1935 when an ORT committee was established there. An ORT school was opened in 1943 to help meet the needs of recently-arrived refugees from Europe. It closed in 1945 when the war ended and many of the refugees went to new homes. In 1947, following a visit by former American ORT Executive Director Philip
Block, an ORT Vocational Center was founded in Havana to teach watchmaking, dressmaking, and leather work. Although the program proved popular, political changes and a dwindling Jewish population led to its closure in 1959. ORT's new Cuban program will be funded by ORT Mexico. The World ORT Union will also explore the establishment of ORT International Cooperation projects in the country to assist other segments of the population.