BENCHES AND A LESSON FOR LIFE
Behind each vibrant new handmade wooden bench on the Boys Town Jerusalem campus lies a fascinating story—and an extraordinary expression of hard work, character-building and love. The master carpenters: ninth and tenth graders in BTJ’s newest after-school initiative for students to learn carpentry skills, rescue and transform scrap wood into treasures, and work with a mentor they adore.
Once the campus reopened this September after the long pandemic closure, the school’s administration mobilized to counter the academic and emotional harm suffered by so many students-at-risk. Alongside the school’s intensive tutoring program, the new hands-on carpentry course has become an amazing, healing endeavor.
After CEO Amir Kisar set up a small carpentry workshop on the campus two months ago, veteran maintenance crew member Chaim Cohen was given free rein to launch the project. Twenty boys (including Chaim’s 8th grade son Daniel) filled the workshop to capacity the day it opened. Carefully, Chaim began sharing his knowledge of measuring, sawing, sanding, fastening, finishing and appreciating the intricate texture of the wood. Within just three sessions, the first table and bench were completed and proudly placed near the campus entrance. But carpentry skills were just the start of Chaim’s lessons to his eager apprentices.
“Discarded furniture is strewn across the city,” he laments. “Our boys are now on the lookout to rescue good wood. They call me to pick up the ‘treasures,’ and I’m there.” Two beautiful benches the boys built were made from a bunkbed and olive-wood light fixture found in the street.
“Chaim’s Boys” adore their carpentry teacher. “He understands us better than anyone,” says 9th grader Eli Levy. “These kids are my life,” Chaim declares, noting that one youngster who lives in the dorm begged Chaim to take him home one afternoon. “He’s a great kid. I hope that he or one of these boys will replace me here someday!”