Seven schools funded in part by Worldwide ORT are facing an extreme budget crunch in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis. The schools, from Moldova to Siberia, are the only option for Russian students seeking a non-Orthodox Jewish education in the former Soviet Union. Earlier this year, the Jewish Agency for Israel was forced to cut more than $1 million in funding for the ORT school system as part of an overall $45 million budget cut.
All three Jewish educational networks functioning in the FSU have been receiving funds from the Jewish Agency via its collective funding apparatus, Heftsiba, until they were cut at the beginning of this school year. The cuts totaled $2.9 million and were applied to the three networks equally.
The largest network in Russia, Chabad-run Or Avner schools, is also suffering after its main donor, Lev Leviev, was forced to reduce his funding in recent months.
But ORT is in a particularly difficult position. The seven schools in danger operate as joint partnerships between the Russian government and ORT. If their ORT funding falls off, the schools may be in danger of reverting to only state-run schools.