ORT after the revolution
The fact that ORT still operated during the first years of Soviet State not only in Petrograd but also in some other cities may be explained by the intentions of the Bolsheviks to use that organization to influence the Jewish masses, since ORT was one of the most respectable, popular, and numerous Jewish organizations. The Bolsheviks believed that it would be correct to save ORT for a while; although it was a bourgeois organization, it was intended to settle Jews in the countries they already inhabited by teaching them workers' professions; moreover, it assigned funds for that. However, the Jewish Department of Narkomnats took ORT under its monitoring and appointed a person responsible for its operations - in fact, a commissar. That was a certain Ofman, whose virtues were his membership in the RKP(B) and his worker's profession (a watchmaker); in the "social origin" column of his file, however, "son of a melamed (teacher)" was written.
In early 1920's ORT became an international organization with the headquarters in Berlin. The Board of Russia's ORT moved to Moscow. According to Soviet authorities' demand ORT began to involve the Jewry to agricultural labour and developed its activity in Ukraine. The majority of ORT members did not agree with the new priorities. They used to deal with handicraftsmen and workers' unions. Veterans of ORT founded co-operative association "Trud" ("Labour") as a Jewish craftsmen's venture. In the late 1920s the venture united thousands of members. There were only two VKP(B) members and they had no influence among their colleagues.
Leningrad Jewish Section decided to change the situation and concentrate communists on the leading positions. That time NEP had been already completed and "Trud" venture with its new leaders had to cut down its activity.
In early 1920s two ORT schools had been established in Petrograd: a plumber and mechanic one for boys (on the 10th Line of Vasilievsky Island) and a waterworks one for girls (at Troitskaya Street, 34). In 1923, both schools were united and located at the latter address. The teaching programs included all general subjects according to the program of the Unified Labor School combined with the teaching of manufacturing. In the program of a school event, we find performances by students with songs in Yiddish and a gymnastic pyramid. A Komsomol organization operated at the school.
ORT teaching and manufacturing workshops were fully equipped for studying crafts, but the instructors appointed by Narkompros were not properly qualified. Besides, as their salary was low, they used the studying rooms and the equipment more to supplement their own earnings than to teach children. This resulted in a scandal. At the Komsomol meeting with the agenda "Criticizing the Teachers", objections to the quality of teaching were expressed. Some instructors were changed. After 1926, Russian students were sent to Jewish trade schools.
Gradually, the ethnic character of those schools was lost.
In accordance with ORT regulations adopted in 1929, "lishentsy" were no longer accepted in ORT. In the same year, more Communists were introduced into the management of ORT. The functionaries of Jewish Sections believed that with the closure of other Jewish organizations, the role of ORT would be increased. However, the government's policy of industrialization and attracting manpower to big factories made ORT unnecessary for the authorities. In 1930, the decision was made to unite ORT and OZET - the only legal Jewish voluntary organization which would remain until the late 1930s. Thereafter, OZET organized the recruitment of young Jews for trade education. ORT structures did not take part in that process.
The headquarters of ORT. Znamenskaya, 24. Photo