As Class of 2019 valedictorian Eyal N.* strode confidently to the podium at the recent Boys Town Jerusalem High School graduation, two women he calls “mother” were bursting with pride.

Eyal’s family struggles

His mom marveled as Eyal, the oldest of her seven children, was greeted by the enthusiastic applause of his classmates. For a moment, the troubling thoughts of her husband’s illness and the family’s endless struggle to make ends meet faded from her mind. The school’s housemother Rachel Cohen-Pur, known as “Mother Rachel” to Eyal and countless other Boys Town students, was quite moved at the sight of Eyal’s honor.

He thought about dropping out of school many times

“He tried and failed so many times to hold his own here,” Rachel recalled. “Each time he came to tell me he’d decided to drop out, I convinced him that we believe in him and know that he can succeed. Indeed, he’s now graduating with a major in the very challenging, advanced Cisco Networking Systems course.”

Both women thought of the steady boosts of confidence that Eyal’s teachers and rabbis had given him from the moment he enrolled in seventh grade, how he’s flourished once he moved into the school’s dormitory, and how hard he’s pushed himself to achieve. And neither could forget Rachel’s passion to keep Eyal well-dressed through the years from her prized collection of used clothing. At his request, she’d even sent home clothes for his younger siblings.

His message to his classmates is inspiring

This school believes in us,” Eyal told his fellow grads. “It’s up to us to make something of ourselves. You must always rise to the top, in the army, at work and everywhere. This is our lesson from Boys Town Jerusalem: be the best that we possibly can.”

As Jewish Studies Principal Rabbi Elimelech Yaakov shook Eyal’s hand and congratulated him, applause swelled the hall. He also announced that Eyal had been named the Most Outstanding Jewish Studies student. Eyal’s mother could no longer hold back her tears of happiness. As for “Mother Rachel,” she is already making preparations to welcome Eyal’s younger brother to seventh grade this September.

To support Eyal’s brother and other boys like him, click here


*not his real name


  1. judith says:

    i see that Eyal struggled with studies, i have a brother that always had such difficulty- however, with his hands he could build & fix anything- he is a kinesthetic learner- does BTJ recognize such things?

    1. Sarit Newman says:

      Hi Judith,
      We know that not all students are meant for the classroom, that’s why we encourage our boys to join our extracurricular activities. This way they can gain tools that will help them in life outside the classroom.

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