The Society for Handicrafts (ORT). The first 25 years
The founders of the Society for Handicrafts (ORT) soon achieved visible results. Two Jewish vocational schools were opened in Dinaburg and Simferopol as early as seven years after the founding of the Society. Like most charities, ORT operated as a charitable fund. The fixed capital donated in money and securities was deposited with a bank and the interest on it was disbursed. As the Society expanded its activities, more funds were needed. One-time subsidies and capital increase were provided by large donations of individuals, annual membership fees and annual collection of funds among Russian Jews.
The activity of ORT, already in its first decade, was noticeable not only in Jewish circles. Odessa Department of ORT ('Trud' society) took active part in the erection of the monument to A.S. Pushkin. Already in 1880, it was decided to memorize the staying of A.S. Pushkin in Odessa. It was necessary to harden the ground under the basement of the monument, and in 1887, 'Trud' ('Labor') society carried out all the works free of charge and the cups for the fountain to decorate the pedestal were cast in the workshops of the professional school of ORT. The works took 2 years: from April 1887 to April 1889. The monument many generation of Odessa inhabitants pride with was created with the participation of ORT, Jewish organization established shortly before.
As early as the mid-1890s ORT extended its activity to many towns and settlements inside the Pale. It opened vocational classes for boys and girls at Jewish schools, hired teachers, and gave loans to craftsmen for acquiring workshops inside and outside the Pale. Most often, ORT financed private Jewish schools inside the Pale on condition that free education would be provided for a number of children from poor Jewish families.
ORT aimed to provide training for Russian Jews not only in crafts but also in agriculture. An agricultural school with a model farm was established on a plot of land acquired in Minsk in 1903. In the early 20th century ORT's activity was well-known to Jews even in the smallest settlements, to say nothing of large cities. More than a thousand donors contributed funds to ORT every year. In the early 20th century ORT's specialized vocational classes and branches appeared in large cities which lay outside the Pale but had a significant Jewish population - Riga, Yuryev (Tartu), Taganrog.
ORT school workshops in Dinaburg