Ever since the school was founded nearly 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 and to everyone’s delight, the love went both ways.

In the spirit of the “Good Deeds Day” in Israel, the festive Purim holiday and the upcoming Passover observance, BTJ mobilized to bring smiles to neighborhood residents of all ages. The tenth grade class dispersed throughout the community going from door to door 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 center for the aged and with guitars in hand, they serenaded an enthusiastic group of men and women who sang along with the young BTJ troubadours.

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 grads, a number of their siblings had indeed attended BTJ. That made everything seem so close to our students—Boys Town families in Bayit Vegan with boys so similar to themselves,” explained Rabbi Yehuda.

“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. “Nothing could have brought more joy to these special families than hearing their BTJ visitors promise to carry on the legacy of the fallen heroes.”

© 2015 Canadian Friends of Boys Town Jerusalem.