By Carl Zebrowski
Editor of Hakol
Robert Grey has been elected as the new chair of World ORT, making him the chief lay leader of this global education network guided by Jewish values.
Grey, an honorary board member of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, has been with World ORT since retiring several years ago from his position as general counsel at the utility company PPL in Allentown. About 20 years ago, he served as president of the Federation’s board.
“I had a great experience with the Lehigh Valley Federation,” he said, mentioning that he enjoyed working with Mark Goldstein, the executive director who died in 2018. That solid relationship continues with Jeri Zimmerman, current executive director. “I really like working with her,” Grey said. “She’s done a terrific job.”
It was the Federation that brought Grey and World ORT together, particularly Taffi Ney, a member of the Federation’s professional staff for 28 years before retiring in 2014. Grey wanted to get involved with international Jewish education, and Ney put him in touch.
Grey said his years with the organization founded in 1880 to provide education for Jewish boys in czarist Russia have been exciting. He’s worked hands on in various aspects of its efforts, including leading a mission to Ukraine in 2017. “One thing led to the next,” he said, “and they suggested that I might start as board chairman.”
Today, World ORT provides supplemental Jewish and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education opportunities for more than 200,000 Jews and non-Jews in more than 30 countries, including Israel. It runs some schools outright and is affiliated with others, training teachers and providing resources for those.
“The real appeal for me,” Grey said, “is that World ORT is operating in underserved areas. It’s an inspiring program that helps meet the needs of those it serves.”
Heading into the future in his new leadership role, Grey first wants to make sure World ORT’s current efforts are well supported. “I believe organizations do their best when the leadership structures work the best,” he said, looking to enhance the role of the board.
One focus will be Ukraine. “After the war there ends,” he said, “we’ll have to think through what kind of role we can play.” Ukrainians will continue to resettle in other countries. “We’ll want to strengthen our roles with our affiliate schools,” he said, including sending missions to make sure goals are being met.
In his professional life, Grey is a partner at the multinational law firm K&L Gates. He also teaches a seminar on energy law at Columbia Law School and is on the advisory boards of Columbia College and Emory Law School.
A serious art collector, he serves on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Photography Council as well as on the advisory board of the Hood Museum of Art at
He and his wife, Sue, have two children and four grandchildren. They maintain a residence in Allentown, and he said he’ll remain involved with the Federation.
“I really enjoy the people on the board,” he said, “and I look forward to continuing my relationships with them and with the professional staff as well.”