Young Leaders Visit ORT’s Student Programs in Israel

The Jewish News
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Andrew Luckoff, Shayna Levine and Scott and Dana Marcus at the Kfar Hasidim auto tech garage

Shayna Levine, Andrew Luckoff, Dana Marcus and Scott Marcus, all active members of the Michigan Region of ORT America, recently took part in the national Next Gen mission to Israel, along with 12 other young adults ages 25-45 from across the U.S.

Scott is a vice president of ORT Michigan and has been involved in ORT since 2009. Andrew recently joined the board as Young Adult Chair; both he and Scott also serve on the Rub-a-Dub Planning Committee. Shayna, a board member, has been involved for three years, serving as co-chair of the Camp Hermelin fundraiser. Dana serves on the Camp Hermelin Planning Committee.

These Detroiters were selected for this subsidized mission based on their significant contributions to the organization. The trip was an investment in leadership development and in the future of ORT programs.

The group visited the various World ORT Kadima Mada schools and programs, learning how ORT enhances education for thousands in Israel’s peripheral regions, giving underprivileged youth and young adults a solid educational foundation and skills to develop 21st-century careers.  With a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Kadima Mada changes the educational landscape throughout Israel by bringing cutting-edge learning opportunities to citizens in under-resourced communities.

“I was surprised that K-12 education is not consistent throughout the country; Kadima Mada fills a large gap,” Scott said.

Kfar Hasidim youth village near Haifa, which ORT Michigan took on as its major fundraising project in 2016-17, offers a “last chance” for at-risk teens who deal with problems resulting from severely dysfunctional family backgrounds, neglect and other challenges.

The Michigan region made a sizeable financial commitment to the renovation of the school at Kfar Hassidim, following a $1 million contribution by the William and Audrey Farber Family Foundation. Shayna’s father, Rabbi Harold Loss of Temple Israel, had visited the village and advised the Farbers, who saw the great need. This spurred other sizeable gifts from Detroiters, allowing major improvements.

“I have a deeper appreciation of the ORT mission,” Shayna said at the village. “Israel continues leading the world in technology, education and thinking; ORT plays a strong role in that advancement, and seeing it solidified my perspective.”

Another stop was at the YOUniversity Center of Excellence in Nahariya. This after-school enrichment program, intended to supplement the regular school curriculum, offers disadvantaged youth a wide variety of science and technology courses in a fun environment with hands-on instruction by industry experts. Introducing children to subjects they would not normally be exposed to paves the way for them to excel and consider eventual careers in these professions.

“My eyes were opened to the direct impact our donations contribute to,” Andrew said. “They understand each child has different needs, what has to be accomplished and the realistic path.”

The mission also provided dialogues with students, teachers, staff and experts, who provided context for the programs.

“Some students would not be learning skills to enter the workforce were it not for ORT schools,” Dana said. “The ORT students appreciate the opportunity they’re given and want to learn as much as they can in ORT schools.”

Before the mission, the local participants were guided by a strong desire to help further ORT’s educational programs. After the mission, the group is more determined to make a difference for ORT America, the lead fundraising agency for World ORT, whose worldwide schools, colleges and international programs prepare more than 300,000 students for bright outcomes.

“A donation to ORT is an investment in the future of Israel, in the world economy and in the greater human good,” Andrew said.

ORT Michigan will hold its annual Rub-a-Dub fundraiser on Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Franklin Hills Country Club. For details, contact Regional Director Nicole E. Miller at (248) 723-8860 or nmiller@ortamerica.org.

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