Bramson ORT College Expands into Jewish Heartland

A massive new building in New York is a sign of Bramson ORT College’s commitment to attract more Charedi students as well serve its traditional clients in the Russian Jewish and general immigrant communities.

The impressive eight-story, 24,000 square-foot, building in Bensonhurst was opened amid fanfare – including a proclamation by the President of the Borough of Brooklyn making it an official day of celebration – to help Bramson ORT accommodate record student rolls as well as provide space for further growth. In addition, the college’s main campus in the Forest Hills neighborhood has been recently extended.

Fully owned by Bramson ORT, the newly-constructed building features state-of-the-art classrooms, computer and medical laboratory facilities, with cutting edge technology, designed to prepare students to meet the demands of today’s job market.

The area is also host to many medical offices which can provide opportunities for internships for Bramson ORT students for whom work experience is an integral part of their vocational programs.

This year the college initiated a new associate degree program for pharmacy technicians. And for those who want to continue their studies to become a licensed pharmacist, credits from the two-year program can be transferred to the relevant five-year course of study.

Established in 1942 to serve refugees and immigrants during the war, Bramson ORT became a college in 1977 to provide quality technical post-secondary education for the New York community.

Its English as a Second Language (ESL) courses and practical, career-oriented programs made it popular with the many Russian Jews coming to the United States. Now, Bramson ORT wants to maintain its links to the community by providing that immigrant generation’s children with associate degrees and other qualifications in accounting, business management, computer information systems, electronics technology, medical assistant and office technology.

But a significant development, one which could have ramifications in major Jewish communities worldwide, is Bramson ORT’s astonishing success in attracting Charedi students.

Thanks to a close collaboration with Chabad-Lubavitch, Bramson ORT’s two-year vocational program, which features mornings spent in traditional Yeshiva-style learning and afternoons immersed in secular studies, is seeing its enrollment increase exponentially.

Graduates of the program acquire an associate degree in business management and high school equivalency which enables them to pursue full degree courses or work in a wide range of fields, including computers, electronics, web design and health care.

“More than 10 per cent of the student body is now Orthodox,” said the head of Chabad’s Jewish Technical Vocational School (JTVS), Rabbi Levi Kaplan, who spoke at the opening of the new building. “By reaching out to Chabad, ORT has bridged the gap with the Orthodox community. Now they come to the college and see Orthodox students in the building wearing a kippa and that really allows things to develop.”

One of the most successful incentives for Orthodox youth, Rabbi Kaplan said, was the provision of one-on-one tutoring to enable those without a background in secular studies to get up to speed.

“There has always been a large percentage of the [Charedi] community going out to work,” Rabbi Kaplan said. “But now it’s more challenging to do that without qualifications.”

The college wants to also capitalize on being a highly respected name in the Orthodox community by not only attracting more young men but also by providing programs tailored to meet the vocational and religious needs of Orthodox women.

The college also continues to reflect the cultural diversity of the area. Its recognition by the Department of Education and strong ESL tutoring means that it attracts many foreign students, particularly from China, as well as new immigrants.

“It’s so multicultural, it’s like a mini-UN,” said Lynne Leeb, the Secretary of the college’s Board of Trustees. “It’s so exciting to walk through the building and see all the cultures intermingling.”

“The success of Bramson ORT, which has necessitated this new site, is a source of joy and pride to all of us in the ORT family. Credit must go to Ephraim Buhks for his superb leadership,” Robert Singer, World ORT’s Director General, said. “Bramson ORT takes pride of place among our international network of opportunities for post-high school study – from a highly rated university in Uruguay and colleges in Argentina, France and Moscow to Kadima Mada programs in Israel.”