ORT is one of the largest non-governmental education and training organizations in the world with activities in more than 100 countries past and present with current operations in Israel, the CIS and Baltic States, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
It is a private, not-for-profit organization that meets the educational, and manpower training needs of contemporary society with more than 3,000,000 graduates worldwide since its inception. It maintains a non-sectarian, non-political position in its education and training provision.
ORT was founded in St Petersburg in Tsarist Russia in 1880 to provide employable skills for Russia’s impoverished Jewish people. The letters O-R-T form the Russian acronym for "Obschestvo Remeslenovo i zemledelcheskovo Trouda", meaning The Society for Handicrafts and Agricultural Work. This reflects the conditions that prevailed when ORT was conceived, when the acquisition of agricultural and manual skills were the key to employment.
Since that time, the skills taught by ORT have evolved in step with technology. Today, in place of manual skills and trades, ORT teaches its students about computers, telecommunications and their applications.
ORT builds schools, develops curricula, sets up laboratories, develops high-tech educational systems, produces hardware, software and courseware and other teaching aids and publications. It conducts its own educational research and acts as consultant to many other institutions, including government bodies. ORT co-operates with industry and is supported by an international membership in excess of a quarter of a million people.
ORT has consultative status for information and education purposes with UNESCO, and observer status at the ILO (International Labour Organization). ORT is a founding member of ICVA (International Council of Voluntary Agencies).
The aim of ORT’s educational programs, throughout the world, is to give its students the best possible preparation for their future. This preparation includes education to help them become citizens who will make a positive contribution to their society, focused training to enable them to undertake worthwhile and fulfilling careers, and – for its Jewish students – the knowledge that will give them an understanding and appreciation of their heritage.
ORT’s mission is to work for the advancement of Jewish and other people through training and education; to provide communities wherever they are, with the skills and knowledge necessary to cope with the complexities and uncertainties of their environment; to foster economic self-sufficiency, mobility and a sense of identity through use of state-of-the-art technology.
Through International Cooperation programmes, ORT supports non-sectarian economic and social development in under-developed parts of the world, with vocational training and the provision of technical assistance.