The first day of the 2021-2022 school year at Boys Town Jerusalem was greeted like no other: Pandemic-weary junior high and high school students entered the campus wearing masks, clutching vaccination certificates, and “socially distancing”. Yet, they were visibly delighted to be back.

Being alone was one of the hardest things about learning by ‘Zoom’ most of last year,” declared 14-year-old Ron Levy. “Now I really appreciate being at school with my friends.”

In turn, BTJ Junior High Principal Rabbi Yehudah Rosencrantz stressed the terrible emotional price of Covid. “In my decades of teaching, I’ve never seen so many families disintegrate as now. Our boys have borne the brunt of their families’ poverty, illness, tension and despair over these past 18 months.”

The ramifications of the acute financial crises are staggering as well. “Unemployment has skyrocketed among parents, leaving them unable to pay tuition, purchase books or sign up for extracurricular activities,” the rabbi noted. “We’re extremely grateful for the support of donors which enables us to provide financial aid.”

The seven months that the campus was closed last year were marked by intensive teaching efforts, from remote learning to outdoor classrooms. Yet, significant academic harm – particularly at the junior high level – resulted for many students. BTJ is now launching a special remedial study program in all subjects to boost reading and writing skills, which were particularly impaired. From math to sciences, students will be scrupulously reading, verbalizing and writing about the material they study.

The most popular place on the newly-opened campus is definitely the cafeteria. Now back in full operation, the school’s Food Services department is providing ample freshly-cooked, nutritionally rich meals for the record number of boys who have no food at home.

“This new school year may not be easy,” admits BTJ High School Principal Rabbi Doron Taib, “but we will do everything in our power to make it better than last year. We’re grateful to be open, and hopeful for the best.”

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