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COVID - 19 Making Difficult Situations More Difficult But Boys Town Jerusalem and its Students Find a Way to Keep Going

March 26, 2020

As all Israeli schools have been ordered closed as a means to fight the spread of the COVID-19, Boys Town Jerusalem shut its classroom and dormitory doors.

For the over 960 students, BTJ provides a safe haven for the boys and this closure has added a tremendous burden to their already difficult lives.

“I’ve never been so alone,” 15-year-old Dani told Boys Town Jerusalem social worker Hadas Knopf softly over the phone. “My mother’s back in the hospital. My father stopped coming home months ago. How can I possibly get through this isolation?”

As is the case with many students at BTJ, Dani’s home life is nightmarish.  For well over a year, his mother’s medical condition and his parents’ rocky marriage have caused his home life to deteriorate. Despite the hardships, the youngster was managing very well at Boys Town, surrounded by his friends, teachers and rabbis. But now, with the closure, Dani doesn’t know how he will manage.

“What will I do about Pesach?” he asked Hadas in tears. “When my mother comes home, we’ll have each other. But the house is so dreary.” Together they discussed options, including Dani’s suggestion that he paint the house. “I knew this was an ideal option to keep Dani busy and enthusiastic during his ‘solitary confinement’ in the house,” Hadas admitted. After consulting with BTJ principal Rabbi Elimelech Yaakov, she found a hardware store in Dani’s neighborhood where the owner was assured that the school would cover the cost of the boy’s purchase. Then, mask in place, Dani set out to buy paint. “He’s now hard at work moving furniture, sanding, prepping and painting their two-room apartment,” Hadas reports. “He’s keeping me updated on his progress, and sends me pictures. Taking initiative with this project has given him new determination to get through the terribly long, lonely days.”

 

“Being home alone is hard enough,” Hadas notes. “But when you’re facing today’s uncertain reality, it’s all the harder. Dani’s ability to take some control over his life will give him strength. As always, we’re here to listen, care and encourage.”

 

In addition to staying busy with his home improvement project, Dani is keeping up with his school work through video lessons and assignments. As teacher Rabbi Doron Book admitted, “We’re not used to this method, but it is providing a golden opportunity for the students to research and learn independently – and to learn the art of patience as well.”

 

To alleviate some of the stress felt by both students and their parents, BTJ social workers and guidance counselors are stepping up and are making daily phone calls. “For them, and for all of us, it’s now crucial to talk, communicate and share emotions,” says Hadas Knopf. Registrar Rachel Cohen-Pur reports a deluge of phone calls from parents whose financial situations have reached crisis proportions. Among the saddest calls was from a single mother who has been struggling desperately to pay her son’s already-reduced tuition. Today she was fired from her job as a tour guide and she has no idea how she will support her children. She thanked Rachel for her understanding in suspending tuition payments indefinitely.

 

In these trying times, Boys Town Jerusalem and its students are finding a way to keep going. The entire BTJ family prays for the good health and safety of all of our friends and supporters. You can help by making your donation now to Canadian Friends of Boys Town Jerusalem by calling 416-789-7241, or by going to http://btjcanada.com. Your support is greatly appreciated.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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