Giving Back Goes Both Ways
Ever since the school was founded 70 years ago, Boys Town Jerusalem has been a landmark in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood. This month, students went out of their way to “give back” to the community where they live and study. To everyone’s delight, the love went both ways.
In the spirit of the “Good Deeds Day” in Israel and the festive Purim holiday season, BTJ mobilized to bring smiles to neighborhood residents of all ages. The tenth grade class dispersed throughout Bayit Vegan, going from house to house to collect food and monetary donations for needy families in the area. “Lots of folks wouldn’t let us leave until they gave us snacks and drinks for ourselves as well,” said Itai Moshe, 15. Meanwhile, back at school, the seventh and eighth graders took charge of organizing a drive for all students to bring food items from home to add to the collection of food to be donated. In addition, the younger students raised money to buy food and gifts to send to “lone” IDF soldiers who have no families in Israel.
To nourish the soul of elderly residents, students from the eleventh and twelfth grades walked to a Bayit Vegan day care center for the aged. Guitars in hand, they serenaded an enthusiastic group of men and women at the center who sang along with the young BTJ troubadours.
Yet the most poignant activity was aimed toward bringing a ray of light to Bayit Vegan families who have lost sons in the defense of Israel. Groups of five students each were selected to visit a number of bereaved families. Rabbi Elimelech Yaakov, director of Jewish Studies, prepared the boys for the visits, giving them insight into the sensitivities involved and cautioning that many of the parents were now quite old and infirmed. “Each family found it imperative to talk to the students about the child they had lost,” said Principal Rabbi Yehudah Rosencrantz. “One was killed as he saved his comrade from a burning tank, others were killed in direct battle. Although none of the fallen sons were Boys Town Jerusalem grads, a number of their siblings had indeed attended BTJ. That made everything seem so close to our students—Boys Town Jerusalem families in Bayit Vegan with boys so similar to themselves.
“While the families were grateful for the holiday food baskets we brought them, they begged our students not to forget them or their sons,” Rabbi Rosencrantz noted. “It was quite moving for our boys and the parents alike. Yet when our students promised to carry on the legacy of the heroes who had fallen, nothing could have brought more joy to these wonderful families.”