PERSONALITIES


JACOB OLEISKI
1901 - 1981

Photo from the book "Facing the future. ORT: 1880 - 2000", World ORT, 2000

Born in Kovno, Lithuania, Oleiski holds a special place in ORT's history. He was committed to the idea of Jewish agricultural labour for independence and survival.

He served as Director of ORT in Lithuania from 1927 to 1941, when the Germans herded the Jews of Kovno into a ghetto.

In 1942, he was permitted to set up an ORT school there, offering a substantial programme of vocational studies. General education was delivered in secret.

Oleiski survived the liquidation of the ghetto and imprisonment in Dachau concentration camp. It was his extraordinary optimism and courage that enabled him to open ORT classes in the newly liberated Landsberg camp in 1945, teaching metalwork, car repair, mechanics and other skills.

His example led ORT to open programmes in other camps for survivors of the Holocaust.

Oleiski brought his wealth of experience to the fledgling organisation in Israel, where he became administrator and then Director.

Despite extreme scarcity of funds and resources, the organisation grew rapidly under his lead, creating the sound structure that would develop into a nation-wide education and training system.

The ORT School in the Street of the Prophets in Jerusalem was named in tribute to his significant contribution.