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ORT! - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
November 26th, 2001
10:53 am


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Any Israeli knows the ORT schools -- vocational high-schools often foregoing full matriculations, offering instead some training in trades ranging from secretarial skills to electronics and economy.

When I was very young, I thought it had something to do with a famous British commando who trained Jewish resistance fighters in the late 1930s, called Orde Charles Wingate. When I learned that his name was in fact Orde and not "Ort" as it was commonly mispronounced (at my elementary school, anyway), I shrugged and never bothered to seek the meaning of the name "Ort" (Hebrew does not provide one with the visual cue of all-capital acronyms).

So last night, in casual conversation, veryty reveals that ORT, in fact, stands for (brace yourselves!) --

Obshchestvo Rasprostraneniya Truda sredi Yevreyev


So it turns out ORT was founded in 1880 in St. Peterburg by a group of wealthy and influential Jews, to promote craftsmen and farmers in their business and technical know-how. They became an international organization in 1921, helping a lot of Jews to start leading productive (i.e. non-"luft-geschäft") lives -- a touchy topic with Jews to this day -- and when the State of Israel was founded (1948), ORT begun operating here as well.

All this was available at ORT's Web site all along, of course, but I never bothered to look it up.

I realize you may ask yourselves "Um, so what?" The reason I write all this is to document my surprise and the funny way old "household" terms suddenly spring up and gather new meaning and associations. Neat.

Current Mood: coffee-starved
Current Music: Gan Chayot - Bat Shloshim

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:November 26th, 2001 01:09 am (UTC)
Obshchestvo Rasprostraneniya Truda sredi Yevreyev

Hey, I didn't know that!

[User Picture]
Date:December 1st, 2001 05:43 am (UTC)
Dear Avva-whom-I-(can)-only-read-in-English*,

At last, an opportunity and a forum to air my thought/feelings engendered by this little jaunt into Russian!

The version of ORT's name I gave to Ijon, I'd gotten from the Encyclopaedia Judaica (in English). I'm not always keen on their _Hebrew_ transliterations (and don't always adopt them, but rather, adapt them), and as I know neither the Russian language nor the Cyrillic alphabet, can myself not follow through on any suspicions I might have as to authenticity.

It does indeed differ from what's given in the World ORT Web site's FAQs:
"In 1880, the name 'ORT' was coined from the acronym of the Russian words Obschestvo Remeslenovo i zemledelcheskovo Trouda, meaning The Society for Trades and Agricultural Labour."

This, as I understand it, quite literally relates to the three letter acronym ORT, where the name given by EJ may well have been the full name of the organization, which after all was by, for and of Jews (hence 'Yevreyev').

Being a dedicated, albeit undertrained and undereducated archivist (on the staff of the Ghetto Fighters House, nominally as He>En translator for the Computerization project funded mainly by the Claims Conference), I've taken this as far as is appropriate for now, but noting for myself in the process:

When ORT initially came up in "casual conversation" between Ijon and me (in an SF context, BTW, and I blush to confess I had subsequently forgotten and had to look this up :-) was at home and away from my material. At that point, having the ORT Web site version but not the EJ, I recalled the discrepancies from memory, and was extremely gratified the next day at the office to confirm that I was right on all counts (about the discrepancies, that is, without being able to resolve them).

I will interject here, my satisfaction at this case of an organization breaking the hegemony of English-language names. Though my husband associates ORT with American Hadassah and presumes the acronym is for "Occupational Rehabilitation and Training" (and there may be something to that, a New World offshoot like so much else?), I prefer the image of late 19th C industrialists getting together to fund the training of a vast corps of skilled workers among Jewish youth. And casting a longing glance, and a sigh, at my missed calling in the textile trade -- my parents' horror at my interest in a vocational track rather than academic (when I was already at UCLA, but that's another story).

Most significant (and gratifying), though, was the fact that I now had proof: I had troubled (which I rarely do) to sound out the Russian words -- thinking, as I did so, what a fabulous sound this language has! -- and that was enough for me to accurately transcribe the transliteration from memory hours later.

There was a time that I thought, living here, I "ought" to learn Russian -- and Amharic; and of course, Arabic first. So much for good intentions. Meanwhile, I'm not studying Yiddish as I'd intended, am still too inhibited to even attempt to pronounce Polish, still slacking off on mastering Dutch orthography, and am astonished to be picking up, of all things, German. All of which means, I must give more thought to what's happening to me and "my" languages.

I'll close this comment with a verbatim quote of my feelings at the time of the conversation -- e-documented, handily enough, by having taken place on AIM and the text saved:

"... I am totally blown away by the thought that, just a few generations ago, bunches of my blood relatives actually spoke that language, but not English. And here I am, the reverse. Somehow doesn't seem, I don't know, fair or something..."
[User Picture]
Date:February 5th, 2002 11:58 am (UTC)
I wasn't aware of that.
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