Montevideo, Uruguay — If Sruli (Israel) Kacowicz, ran the world, the elderly would hold an honored place in a society that looks after their every need.

That's Sruli's vision for the year 2000 and beyond. It's a hope that earned this sixth-grader at the Chabad-Lubavitch Rambam Day School in Montevideo the title of "Visionary of the Millennium," in the local part of an international competition.

The contest, sponsored by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Disney corporation and McDonald's, challenges children around the world to come up with ideas to make the world a better place. 2000 winners are to be chosen and Sruli was one of eight winners (out of 430 contestants) in Uruguay.

Sruli's 10-point proposal for a better world included creating universities for the elderly, eliciting and supporting ideas borne out of their rich life experience, and offering government incentives to enable the elderly to live with their relatives.

The young man's ideas impressed the panel of nationally prominent education and UNESCO officials in Uruguay and he was picked as one of his country's next generation of "Visionaries." He also represented the seven other winners at a press conference upon the completion of the national competition.

Dressed in his kippah, tzizit and Rambam Day School T-shirt, Sruli charmed a chuckling audience of local dignitaries, reporters, and UNESCO and McDonald's representatives when he explained that he keeps kosher and asked the McDonald's reps to open a kosher restaurant in Montevideo like they had in Buenos Aires. The company's execs replied that they would consider the suggestion.

At the awards ceremony last week Sruli was quick to point out that the ideas in his award-winning entry were inspired by his education in Torah and the values of chesed (righteous acts) that are so strongly emphasized in his school. In the year just completed Sruli and his classmates learned seven pages of Talmud and the entire tractate of Mishna Chagigah by heart.

"A religious Jewish education produces productive citizens, sensitive to their ability and responsibility to contribute to society as a whole," says Mrs. Rachel Shemtov, Sruli's principal. "In a sense, everything that our students learn is about making a better world."

The winning entries by Sruli and his seven other Uruguayan counterparts were announced before the start of the summer vacation in Uruguay. But the contest continues throughout the rest of the world, with a national deadline in February 2000, after which all the winners will be announced.

In May of 2000 the 2000 winners from 100 countries will meet at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.