July 22, 2024
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Hope, Happiness and a Bar Mitzvah for Har-El

Har-El*, one of 8 children of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, had reached the depth of despair. Less than one week before his bar mitzvah, his mother’s brother, a security guard, turned his weapon on himself to commit suicide. The family was so paralyzed by the tragedy that they sent Har-El to his Boys Town Jerusalem school during the funeral, where the principal spent hours trying to comfort the heartbroken boy on the loss of his favorite uncle. As for Har-El’s long-awaited bar mitzvah, this was the last thing his broken parents could deal with.

Yet, Har-El’s Boys Town Jerusalem family set out immediately to enable their student to enjoy the bar mitzvah of his dreams. Six weeks later, Har-El proudly read his Torah portion at Thursday morning bar mitzvah services in the school’s synagogue attended by his class and close family members. Thanks to donors in New York, all were then invited for a special breakfast prepared at Boys Town, followed by a bowling party for the seventh graders.

Actually, Boys Town Jerusalem’s gifts to Har-El go far beyond the bar mitzvah event. Not one school in the city had agreed to accept the youngster for seventh grade, due to his problematic behavior and study habits. Boys Town took on the challenge, mobilizing efforts to help build Har-El’s confidence and his ability to study and grow. Fortunately, the boy’s behavior has improved dramatically, and his academic achievements are quite good. “He simply needed the attention and the knowledge that we care,” said Principal Rabbi Elimelech Yaakov.

Boys Town Jerusalem is one of Israel’s premier institutions for educating the country’s next generation of leaders in the fields of technology, commerce, education, the military and public service. Since its founding in 1948, BTJ has pursued its mission of turning young boys from limited backgrounds into young men with limitless futures. From junior high through the college level, the three-part curriculum at Boys Town—academic, technological and Torah—is designed to turn otherwise disadvantaged Israeli youth into productive citizens of tomorrow. Boys Town’s 18-acre campus is a home away from home for its more than 900 students. More than 7,000 graduates hold key positions throughout Israeli society.

* not his real name

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