ORT Strasbourg Graduate Among The Crème De La Crème
Submitted to: Organisations 
Posted: March 21 2007


March 21 2007 (Jewswire.com) - A graduate of ORT Strasbourg has won a highly sought after place at the elite Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.

Jonathan Aflalo was one of only 45 people chosen from among 6,000 applicants who sat the notoriously difficult written and oral entrance examinations. He capped this achievement by coming top in mathematics and 11th overall.

As a strictly observant Jew, Jonathan’s only chance to study for the entrance exam was at ORT Strasbourg.

“ORT Strasbourg is the only institution in France that offers the preparatory course for the Ecole Polytechnique without classes on Shabbat,” Jonathan said. “All the other institutions require students to attend on Saturday. Education at ORT allowed me to make my ambition a reality.”

Jonathan spent three years studying at ORT Strasbourg after graduating from a religious high school and spending a year at Yeshivas Shaarei Torah in Manchester, England.

“Most people who apply for the Ecole Polytechnique have been studying for it for 10 years,” he said. “But my high school wanted its students to go on to yeshiva and emphasised religious subjects over secular ones. So I had three years in which to bring my maths, physics, chemistry and other subjects up to the necessary standard.”

The Ecole Polytechnique, founded in 1794, is the most prestigious engineering “Grande Ecole” in France and trains the country’s scientific, industrial and economic elite. The nature of the studies there are such that students are awarded a Master’s degree after three years; alumni include former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Nobel Prize for Economics laureate Maurice Allais, the founder of sociology, Auguste Comte, and the co-discoverer of electromagnetism, Andre-Marie Ampere.

The Ecole Polytechnique was founded as a military academy and still has strong military traditions; students spend the first of their four years there undergoing military training.

“We were based in the French Alps, where we learned about military strategy and did physical training,” Jonathan said, adding that his religious needs had been respected. “I was exempted from activities on Shabbat, was provided kosher food and was permitted to spend the High Holydays with my family.”

When the real studying starts next month, Jonathan will be focused on a range of subjects including mathematics and sciences before choosing a specialisation.

“I expect I will choose maths,” he said. “But I’m not sure yet which course to take. I could, for example, take financial mathematics or maths as applied to cryptology; there are other possibilities, too, so I shall see what I prefer.”

Jonathan’s father is a rabbi and an ophthalmologist.

“He thinks it’s possible to study both secular and religious subjects,” Jonathan said. “He told us that we should choose to do what’s best for us – only to stay religious and be proud of our religion. I have two brothers in yeshiva but I love mathematics and so I decided to find a way to study it.”

Jonathan admitted that he was hesitant about studying in Strasbourg, which is seen by some Parisians as a provincial town with bad weather.

“But when I got there I saw that ORT Strasbourg was a very, very good institution with a good level of education and a very good ambience between students. There are many religious people there – even my chemistry teacher was a rabbi. It has boarding facilities for Jewish students and a subsidised kosher cafeteria. Shabbat was very nice and helped me to cope with the stress.”

Now Jonathan finds himself in the position of being something of a trailblazer in the strictly religious Jewish community in France, partly thanks to ORT.

“I would say that 90 per cent of religious people go to yeshiva after high school, only 10 per cent go to university,” he said. “But ORT Strasbourg is unique in France because it’s a place where you can learn for university while being religious. Since I have succeeded in doing secular studies and remaining religious I hope that people will recognise that and understand that it’s possible for them to do the same.”

ORT Strasbourg Principal Claude Sabbah said Jonathan was part of a very successful academic year, which coincided with ORT Strasbourg’s 60th anniversary.

“We are understandably proud of last year’s excellent results, which saw our students do very well in the highly competitive examinations to enter the French ‘Grandes Ecoles’ such as Ponts et Chaussees, Arts et Metiers, Sup Telecom and especially the very prestigious Ecole Polytechnique. Of this successful year, Jonathan was our pride and joy for his exceptional performance. We congratulate him and all our alumni and teachers for their excellent results.”

ORT Strasbourg has 450 Jewish and non-Jewish students at junior, high school and university level; some 80 Jewish students live on campus. Post high school studies offered at ORT Strasbourg include international trade and commerce and computer sciences. Last year, ORT Strasbourg became the first private college in France to offer a three-year bachelor degree course in collaboration with a university with the introduction of its Licence Professionel des Metiers de l’Optique e de la Vision with the Louis Pasteur University.

World ORT is the world’s largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organisation and has benefited some 3 million people – Jewish and non-Jewish – in 100 countries since it was founded in 1880.


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    Stefan Bialoguski
    World ORT
    + 44(0)20 7446 8500  

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