When Boys Town Jerusalem computer instructor Shlomo Saruk was recently named one of the top 100 teachers in Israel, he defied both the odds and fate itself. The 54-year-old teacher, who has initiated some of the nation’s top computer technology programs during his 30 years at Boys Town, never received a college diploma. The grave injuries he’d suffered in combat during the Yom Kippur War had prevented him from completing his university studies. Ultimately he returned to his high school alma mater of Boys Town, where he began working odd jobs in the administrative office. And there, despite terrible pain, Shlomo Saruk found a haven—and an entirely new world of technology to pioneer in Boys Town of the early 1980s.
“I was hospitalized for 18 months,” he recalled, “and my rehabilitation was very difficult, but my work at Boys Town was excellent therapy.” At that time, the school became one of the first in Israel to acquire a computer, bound to revolutionize their administration and academic spheres. Saruk quickly learned the basics of computer programming, still in its early stages. Naftali Goldenberg, the founder of BTJ’s computer department, took young Saruk under his wing and asked him to develop programs for a host of the school’s administrative needs. “Within just a year or two, I wrote hundreds of programs to computerize everything from salaries to class schedules, making us the first Israeli school to digitalize their administration. At the same time, I was involved in the milestone mission to computerize the school’s printing and mechanical design departments. The efforts flourished, and even the Israeli military engaged our services to produce fine machinery components for aircraft. Nothing was impossible then!”
At the height of those efforts, Shlomo Saruk enlisted top BTJ students to help him develop the computer programs. “I was only seven years older than my first students,” he smiled, “but gradually I moved from the realm of programming to the world of teaching. I took pedagogic courses, and officially joined Boys Town’s faculty 20 years ago.” In 2000, when BTJ became Israel’s first high school to be designated a center of instruction for the CISCO Network Management Program, Shlomo Saruk was tapped to head program. In 2010, the school was selected as the nation’s first—and only—high school to offer a major in “Open Source Operating Systems” within the computer science program, under the direction of Saruk.
Yet Saruk’s students are not restricted to the advanced scholars. He also teaches computer studies to new Ethiopian immigrant students who have absolutely no technological background. After one year, the majority are excelling in their studies.
Recently Shlomo Saruk was named one of the “Best 100 Teachers” by Israel’s Ministry of Education’s division for religious high schools, citing his “groundbreaking initiatives in education.” BTJ dean of students Rabbi Meir Linchner noted, “Shlomo Saruk is one of the most dedicated teachers in the nation. Not only are his lessons outstanding, but he voluntarily tutors weaker students for hours after class.” Saruk himself was nonplussed by the award. “My true award is in knowing that I’ve helped my students reach their potential. I’m delighted to see my grads advance in the Army, in hi-tech, and in building their own families in Israel. I can’t imagine a profession more gratifying than my own.”