ORT in Czech Republic

ORT has come to Czechoslovakia in April 1947, however it was forced by the communist government to end its work in this country in July 1949. During its short presence, ORT helped the after-WWII Jewish immigrants from Poland, Hungary, Rumania and Poland to the country. ORT came back to the Czech Republic in 1996 and started to cooperate with the Education and Culture Center of Prague, where the organization created a computer lab that was opened with a presence of the president of the country Václav Havel. In 2005, ORT entered the Lauder school of Prague, where it established a computer lab in cooperation with the Ronald S. Foundation.

Lauder Schools of Prague

The Lauder Schools of Prague is the only Jewish school complex in the Czech Republic – comprising a kindergarten (established in, an elementary school (established in 1997) and a high school (established in 1999). It is open to students of all Jewish backgrounds and is also open to non-Jewish students. Not only is the school a partner of World ORT, but it also belongs to the European network of Lauder schools, established in the 1990s.

Name of School Lauder Schools of Prague
Location Prague
Type Non-ORT institution participating in ORT programmes
Age range Preschool, Elementary, Junior High, High School
Students 303
Teachers 41

Languages and Interdisciplinary Teaching

Staff at the school have created a specific curriculum – “Le Chajim” – which meets the national standards for kindergarten, elementary and high school education.

  • From the 3rd grade of primary school students (aged 8) start to study English.
  • From the 3rd grade (aged 13) of high school, students start to study another language (French or German). Language classes are streamed according to ability across year groups, rather than across single year groups. This allows for a greater number of ability streams, and encourages students of different ages to get to know each other.
  • Also beginning in the 3rd grade of high school, students take a specialised subject – “The World in Context” – which is taught in English and is an example of interdisciplinary teaching at the school. This subject merges English as a foreign language with History and Social Science, covering a range of historical events and their influence on the modern world. Students give sample presentations in English and often work collaboratively in groups. The development of this subject is informed by the theory of CLIL – “Content and Language Integrated Learning” – which specifies the need for content aims, linguistic aims and cognitive aims. The benefits of teaching in this way are that students see English language as a tool to gather relevant and meaningful information, and that they are able to learn outside the “box” of individual school subjects.

Jewish Education

Judaism plays a central role in the curriculum. It is taught in Jewish studies lessons and in Hebrew classes, as well as Jewish topics being incorporated into a range of other subjects. In primary school, students from the 1st grade (aged 6) study Hebrew according to the Tal-Am programme. 

On moving up to high school, the school offers students a 5-day team-building programme to bond with each other outside of the classroom, to meet their class teacher and to spend their first Shabbat together.

Global Day of Jewish Learning

Each year the school opens itself to the Jewish community to host the Global Day of Jewish Learning - an international project which brings communities together once a year to celebrate Judaism's foundational Jewish texts through community-based learning.  

In year 2015 Lauder school joined the many organizations that held a series of shiurim on the occasion of the Global Day of Jewish Learning. During the school´s event, teachers partly followed the curriculum suggested by the Global day website and party created own workshops and lectures under the year’s theme “Love: Devotion, Desire and Deception.” The shiurim involved:  „Love in Shir ha-Shirim“ taught by rebetzin Elise Peter-Apelbaum, „Love in Judaism – Its Meaning and Expression“ presented by Rabi Herschel Gluck from London, „Mille Modi Veneri“ taught by the writer Jan David Novotny and „Love and Falsity“ presented by the psychotherapist Tomas Rektor. The event was attended by approximately 35 attendees – mostly members of the local Jewish community and/or parents of the school. 

E-learning Programme for Jewish Students Outside of Prague

As of September 2013, the school has started an e-learning programme – sponsored by the Lauder Foundation – for Jewish students who live outside of Prague and attend non-Jewish schools. Students can take two lessons per week in both Jewish Studies and Hebrew, with an optional two further lessons per week in English. They access these lessons using tablets which are provided for them. Students are encouraged to use these lessons as a springboard for virtually interacting and engaging with each other, thereby building a broader sense of Jewish community across the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This school year (2016/2017), there are 48 students and 8 teachers who live in 7 countries: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Israel, United Kingdom and Republic of South Africa.

Half Semester Project

High school students (11 -19 years old) made the film as part of their yearly project. The theme for the school year 2014-2015 was “1914-2014”, and the aim of the workshop was to create a stop-motion animation depicting the changes Israel went through in the past 100 years. Teachers suggested the students with a number of places in Israel, they then researched the history of these places, presented their findings to the class, built models and shot over 2000 pictures, which were then combined into this animated film. The places chosen were Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nahalal, the Dead Sea (depicting it drying over the years) and Elat. The students also prepared an oral presentation in which they described and explained the changes shown in the film.This project helped students to gain a lot of knowledge about Israel, having to really dig into the history of specific places (not only learning about the Six Days War, but actually recreating it). Questions that rose in the process – for example: which flag should be put on the air planes bombarding Jerusalem – showed that the students were indeed interested in historical accuracy, and therefore gained historical, geographical and social knowledge. They also had a chance to show their creativity, which is a very important aspect of true learning. The film speaks for itself in that respect.The theme for the 2015-2016 school year is ‘Light”.

Technology Education

The support of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, together with World ORT donor Raymond Tye, has been instrumental in helping the school to establish an ORT Technology Center with high-tech science laboratories and data logging equipment. The school also has two interdisciplinary technology labs and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) equipment, 3D printer and 3D TV.

Problem Based Learning & STEM education

Through several projects during school year, but mainly through regular half semester project teachers apply modern educational methods like Problem Based Education or STEM. Students are solving a problem and the teachers only acts as moderatos. Finally, students present their results not only to other students but also to parents and members of Prague Jewish Community

Projects and Collaborations

Students benefit from an exchange program with the Ulus Ozel Mosevi Lisesi Jewish School in Istanbul, Turkey – which introduces them to Jewish life in a different country and culture.

The school cooperates with the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University of Prague – providing opportunities for university students to shadow teachers and participates in project-based learning.

Several times per year the school organizes educational sessions for parents. The themes are usually from pedagogy, psychology and Judaism. School also offers other actual field of themes, for example next theme is “Children and hygiene of using of mobile phones and IT”.  Part of the improvised Café is refreshment made by students and music by students’ band. Moreover, parents actively participate in school life – for example, attending project presentations and celebrations of Jewish holidays.

Few times per school year, parents, teachers, students or some famous person came to school and read to other students their favourite book from childhood. The aim is mainly development of reading literacy.

The school has hosted an academic conference for its own students, for students from other schools in Prague and beyond, and for members of the general public. Participants choose from a wide variety of lectures in the fields of both science and humanities. In the year 2015 between the speakers were also: Gary Koren - Ambassador at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel in Prague, Andrew Schapiro – U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Leo Pavlat – director of Jewish Museum of Prague, Tomas Pojar – former Czech Republic Ambassador to Israel, Jan Pirk – heart surgeon and others