Ed­u­ca­tion for the 21st Cen­tury: How ORT Sus­tains Jewish Life in Rome

The Jewish Voice - - EDUCATION -

“Grow­ing up as a Jew in the cap­i­tal of Chris­tian­ity is not an easy thing. You al­ways feel dif­fer­ent. But you also feel a part of some­thing.”

For Shirel, Rome is not just history; it’s also her home. Jews have lived in the Eter­nal City for 21 cen­turies, through golden ages and ghet­tos, fas­cism and free­dom. But things are chang­ing. And with­out ORT Liceo Renzo Levi — the city’s sole re­main­ing Jewish high school, run by Fed­er­a­tion part­ner ORT — Rome’s Jewish fu­ture would be a lot less cer­tain.

Alumni of the Liceo Renzo Levi make up the heart of Rome’s 15,000-strong Jewish com­mu­nity. In fact, nearly ev­ery Jewish com­mu­nal pro­fes­sional and lay leader in the city calls the school their alma mater.

“Each time I go home, I find a new sy­n­a­gogue, new kosher restau­rant, and more and more Jewish non­prof­its,” says Shirel. “I think the school is play­ing an im­por­tant role in this com­mu­nal pro­ject.”

Liceo Renzo Levi helped alum Daniel Be­dusa find his pas­sion for Jewish life. “My Jewish iden­tity was forged at that school,” he re­mem­bers. “My fam­ily is from Libya. They fought for gen­er­a­tions to keep this iden­tity, and I want to hold onto it for the next gen­er­a­tion.”

He also learned to fol­low his

own path. While a lot of fel­low stu­dents went into law or real es­tate — in his words, “BOR­ING!” — Daniel now runs his own de­sign and com­mu­ni­ca­tions stu­dio in Rome. His in­spi­ra­tion? Liceo Renzo Levi’s teach­ers, who “al­ways en­cour­aged me to do what I loved.”

With jobs scarce and the econ­omy strug­gling, not ev­ery Liceo Renzo Levi stu­dent stays in Rome. So the school works to pro­vide con­nec­tions to Jewish life wher­ever grad­u­ates find them­selves.

Like other ORT schools, Liceo Renzo Levi of­fers a high-qual­ity STEM* ed­u­ca­tion. Shirel, then a bud­ding re­searcher, seized the in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to work with Rome’s lead­ing sci­en­tists, in­clud­ing a No­bel Prize re­cip­i­ent, while still in high school. “Even though I was only 16, I was able to take an ac­tive role in the re­search,” she says.

The school later helped her at­tend a pres­ti­gious sum­mer science pro­gram in Is­rael, where she got hooked on life in the Jewish State. She went on to grad­u­ate from the Tech­nion and is now a pro­gram man­ager for the Is­raeli Air Force.

Though she’s now an Is­raeli, her heart has never left Rome. “Thanks to the ed­u­ca­tion I re­ceived by my par­ents and school, I can proudly say I have a strong Euro­pean-Jewish iden­tity. Pro­fes­sion­ally, I owe ev­ery­thing to ORT.”

ORT Amer­ica sup­ports the global ed­u­ca­tional net­work of World ORT, whose pro­grams fo­cused on STEM* and Jewish val­ues in Is­rael, the for­mer Soviet Union and other ar­eas pro­vide a solid foun­da­tion for more than 300,000 stu­dents of all ages and ed­u­ca­tors world­wide.

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