The Society for Handicrafts (ORT). Results of activity
With its charter registered at last in 1906, ORT achieved the status of a standing organization. The ORT charter was prepared in consultation with Leonty Bramson, a lawyer and social activist who had earlier cooperated with ORT. From this time and until his death the name of Bramson was inseparably linked with ORT. In 1909 he took part in the Jewish Conference as an ORT delegate and from 1911 he occupied the position of its executive director. Under his guidance ORT expanded its activities, counting on the development of production and consumer cooperation among the Jews. In the early 20th century many progressive economists in Russia and abroad based their hopes for a speedy improvement in the public well-being on the cooperative movement.
ORT also paid attention to the need for vocational training for adults and opened specialized courses in professions which were the most prestigious and in demand at that time. Thus, electrical engineering courses were opened in Vilnius, and drawing courses in Kremenchug. The ORT board discussed opening courses in driving. As these new professions were in great demand, the successful completion of such courses guaranteed a job.
With the beginning of the First World War, a part of the Jewish population was forcibly evacuated from the Pale to the inner provinces of the country. These people and their families had to be provided not only with housing but also the possibility of making a livelihood. ORT joined the Jewish Committee for Relief of Victims of War and Pogroms (ECOPO) in providing relief for the refugees. ORT and ECOPO employment offices helped them to find jobs. In Petrograd alone ORT opened two cooperative canteens for refugees in 1917, and on the eve of the October revolution it proposed setting up national chapters of employment exchanges. Alongside this, ORT carried on its traditional activities and raised funds for another model workshop.
In August 1917 ORT was one of the initiators of a congress on Jewish vocational education in Russia. ORT began to propagandize its activity among American Jews for the purpose of raising funds for Russian relief within the framework of ORT activities. It is not clear whether ORT leaders understood that they were laying down the basis for the international operation of their organization.
During 37 years of work in Russia (from 1880 till 1917) ORT founded 17 vocational schools. It fully or partially supported 63 vocational classes and departments in Jewish schools for boys and girls. Specialized vocational courses for adults were opened in four cities. During the war nearly 200,000 refugees and unemployed Jews were registered with more than 380 employment offices opened in 53 provinces.
"Help ORT" postcard, 1914