- 1924-1995 (Creation)
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Ort-Oze is an association for the vocational guidance for Jews in agriculture and industry.
In late nineteenth century Russia, the majority of the Jews living under Tsarist rule were subjected to a range of political, economic and legal restrictions which contributed to conditions of abject poverty with seemingly no prospect of alleviation. Of the more than five million Russian Jews, all but 200,000 were forced to live in the Pale of Settlement stretching from the Baltic to the Crimea, lands which were primarily agrarian. Jews, however, were forbidden to acquire rural property of any kind and very few actually worked on the lands. The majority of Jews were forced to be itinerant peddlers or were limited to such crafts as shoemaking or tailoring.
In February 1880, a railroad builder named Samuel Poliakov, whose substantial contribution to Russian economic development earned him an ear in Tsarist circles, petitioned Tsar Alexander II asking for authority to create a fund to aid needy Jews. Permission for this was granted a month later and Poliakov’s petition is regarded as the founding document of the “Obschestvo Remeslenovo i zemledelcheskovo Tronda” (translated and alliterated in English as the Organisation for Rehabilitation through Training) or ORT. ORT served to encourage the training of Jews in trades, crafts and agriculture, first in Russia and subsequently throughout the world and by the middle of the twentieth century, it had reputedly become the largest voluntary organisation in the world with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
ORT was supplemented in 1912 by the establishment of the “Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniia Evreev”, or OZE, which translates into English as the "Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews”. OZE was formed with the object of improving the physical fitness of the Jewish people. Inherent in its focus on both curative and preventive efforts in combating sickness, it worked towards the prevention of epidemics and the creation of health-promoting living conditions. Expansion throughout Russia was extensive. After the first World War OZE centres were opened throughout Central and Western Europe and the headquarters were transferred to Berlin. After the second World War, OZE’s activities extended still further into South America, Israel and Africa.
The South African ORT-OZE was established in Johannesburg in 1938 and within six years, Cape Town could boast its own ORT-OZE. There was no machinery at that stage for a national body enterprise and Cape Town ORT-OZE was expected to operate as an autonomous body until such a national body could be formed.
By 1944, SA ORT-OZE (Cape) had set up a Vocational Guidance Bureau in London and Lancashire House at 148 St George’s Street and it was supported in this work by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (Cape Committee) and the Union of Jewish Women (Cape Town Branch).
In the early 1970s, the South African ORT (Cape) divided into five chapters (later branches): Western Cape, ORT Atlantic, Southern, Bramson and Syngalowski whilst retaining a Cape Regional presence overseeing Cape operations. The bulk of the records in this collection emanate from the Western Cape Branch and the SA ORT-OZE (Cape) Region.
Sub-committees developed as needs demanded including the Building Industry Guild, Junior ORT, the Rosecourt Youth Centre, theTechnical Sub-Committee,e the Women's Committee and the Johannesburg Women's ORT.
The mission of SA ORT-OZE, as of ORT internationally, has been to provide a training agency of the Jewish people, providing training in industrial skills and crafts as a means of assuring a life of economic security and dignity.
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