Society for the Promotion of Trades and Diligence among Jews ORT
City (office) Vilnius
(See on the map)
Established 1918
Closed 1940


ORT's mission was to enable poor Jews to receive craft and agricultural training that would allow them to become gainfully employed.

Additional information

The Society for the Promotion of Skilled Trades and Diligence among Vilnius Jews
The society was established in 1918 and continued its activities during 1920–1939 after Poland occupied Vilnius and its environs and in 1939 when Lithuania regained the occupied area.
At the beginning Dr Zemach Szabad, a known Vilnius public figure, headed the society.
In Vilnius the organisation supported a technical college and a vocational school, offered various courses, and kept model farms and workshops. In addition, it supported the needy who wanted to study a trade, by providing them with benefits, tools and materials; learning a trade helped them find work. Before 1940, more than 10,000 people had enjoyed such support.
The organisation received donations from the public, especially from charitable Jewish organizations abroad, for instance, the Jewish relief organisation the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).
ORT Vilnius expanded its activities in 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War. After Poland fell the Vilnius area was flooded by refugees, and the municipalities and state authorities were unable to support them all. During the first half of 1940 alone, the organisation gave support to over 5,000 people, providing them with work, benefits, and food; the Jewish health organisation OZE provided them with the necessary medical help.

The ORT Vilnius Jews’ vocational school
The Vilnius Society for the Advancement of Skilled Trades and Diligence among Vilnius Jews had a private vocational school. It worked according to a programme similar to ORT’s secondary vocational school in Kaunas. Jewish boys over the age of 14 who had left sixth-form elementary school were accepted. The boys’ aptitude and family financial status were taken into account upon enrolling at the school. Children from poor families and children’s homes were given preference; they studied free of charge, while others had to pay a fee. The school had departments of mechanics and electrical engineering and trained qualified craftsmen who could work independently or for industrial firms.
The school was located on the ORT premises at Gdansko Street No 3 (today Islandijos Street No 3), had the necessary machines and mechanical equipment, well-equipped workshops and qualified engineers and technicians among its staff.

The ORT Vilna Technicum
The Technicum was established in 1920. It was a well-equipped school with various workshops and laboratories and taught technical subjects. The only other similar establishment in the region at that time was in Russia.
Pupils who had completed four years at reformed gymnasiums were enrolled. Studies lasted for three years, and school graduates became technicians and engineers’ assistants. Twenty-five disciplines were taught at the school. Students learned the basics of the construction of various machines, metalworking in particular, but also hoisting machines, steam boilers, and all sorts of power machines including heat engines, steam turbines and electric machines.
In order to acquire practical skills students worked at the school laboratories – in physics, chemistry, technology, electrical engineering and assembling. There they carried out assignments, learned to use various tools as well as machine maintenance, regulation, repairs, etc.
Besides laboratories, there were a forge, metal workshop, machine and metalworking workshop, steel foundry and electrical-engineering workshop. Many school graduates started as ordinary workers at lathes, diesel engines or some other equipment. The training of such workers was not the school’s goal, but graduates who did the work scrupulously were soon promoted to a higher position of a technician.
Much attention was given to technical drawing. After three years of studies students were able to draw even very complicated hoisting machines, heat engines and other equipment so precisely that they would not have disgraced any polytechnic establishment.
ORT helped students to achieve the goal; it provided laboratories, workshops, drawing and drafting rooms, a library, suitable equipment in the classrooms, and a well-qualified teaching staff (10 engineers, 6 teachers, several instructors, draftsmen, etc.) and administrative personnel.
Technicum teachers and ORT personnel took care of programmes, the organisation of the teaching process, improvement of instruction and equipment.
Everyone was proud of the school publishing house, which published technical literature used for instruction in Yiddish. The only serious Yiddish publishing house of its kind in the Vilnius area, it published books on electrical and steam machines, heat engines, steam boilers, thermodynamics, resistance of material, etc.
During its 19 years of operation the school trained more than 600 technicians; of whom 80 per cent had emigrated. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a country in the world where no single Jew with an ORT Vilna graduation certificate had worked. Some graduates later continued their studies at polytechnic schools in Belgium and France or in Haifa and worked as engineers after graduation. There was not a single factory owned by Jews in the Vilnius area, nor a technical bureau, sawmill, or a windmill which did not employ the vocational school’s graduates. Many graduates found jobs with large firms such as the Elektrit radio factory, engineer Kavenokis’ technical bureau, the paper factory in Valkininkai, the Kinkulkinas-owned windmill and others.
The Technicum had a large collection of letters by former students from all over the world. They did not forget the Technicum, expressed their gratitude in the letters, were interested in its activities, and wrote about their working experience and achievements.

Educating for life ORT in Lithuania. VGSJM catalogue of the traveling exhibition, Vilnius 2013, p. 34-37
Copies of the documents from Lithuania Central State archive f. 391, ap. 5, b. 804, l. 4, 55


Benjamin Jocheles
1898 00 00 - 1943 00 00
Mateusz (Matitjahu, Moišė) Schreiber
1887 00 00 - 1944 00 00