Profile in Courage


A miracle was marked at the Boys Town Jerusalem 2014 Graduation Ceremony when Oriel S. (*name changed) was named “Most Exemplary Student.” For 18‐year‐old Oriel, the prize was a sweet victory over many formidable hardships that could easily have driven him down. Instead, he’d simply soared.

“Oriel S. excelled in not one but in every subject,” said Principal Yossi Cohen. “His average matriculation score was a phenomenal 96%. I’ve rarely seen a case where each severe hurdle in a boy’s path made him stronger and more determined to succeed.”

The list of Oriel’s most recent hurdles includes a difficult immigration to Israel, domestic violence, his father’s desertion, his parents’ painful divorce, and abject poverty that continues to this day. “The first miracle was that Oriel and his brothers found their way to Boys Town Jerusalem,” declared social worker Lizzie Azlan. “The next was that we found the strength to fight relentlessly for their well-being.”

For four years, Azlan has headed a Boys Town team of teachers, rabbis, and psychologists working on behalf of Oriel and his two older brothers, following their immigration to Israel from Europe. At times the team was called upon to intervene between the family and the social services authority, the police, immigration officials and other parties, but the bulk of their efforts focused on creating a strong support system for the boys within Boys Town’s school and dormitory. “Against daunting odds, Oriel’s brothers succeeded to graduate and are now both serving in the Israeli Army,” Lizzie Azlan noted.

When Oriel enrolled in Boys Town in ninth grade, he did not yet speak Hebrew fluently. “The teachers were patient with me,” he recalled. “By the eleventh grade I’d caught up to my Israeli‐born classmates.” With an inborn gift for math and logic, Oriel relished his Computer Networking major and ultimately devised a sophisticated WAN (Wide Area Network) for airports as his senior project. His mark: 100%.

As for his secret to excelling in his studies, Oriel gives credit to his classmates. “My friends in the dorms had a hard time grasping math and other subjects, so I volunteered to tutor them. The more I worked together with them, the greater my own understanding grew.”

Following graduation, Oriel will pursue one year of intensive Jewish studies before enlisting in the IDF. “I look forward to giving to the State of Israel,” he smiled.

Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau, the keynote speaker at the commencement ceremony, assured the new graduates, “The knowledge and the wisdom you’ve received at Boys Town will remain within you as a source of strength in difficult times that may lie ahead.” For Oriel S., the miracle of his arrival in Boys Town to partake of this knowledge and wisdom has spawned new miracles of excellence and strength.

*Name changed to insure privacy.

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