Rabbi Koby’s Revolution
From the day that young Rabbi Yaakov “Koby” Artzi began his (first) job as the Dorm Parent for twenty-five tenth graders at Boys Town Jerusalem, life began to change in a big way. “We’ve come together, we care about each other, and we’re building something meaningful for us and others,” said 16-year-old Noam Yisraeli. “In short, a revolution.”
For this particular group of students, the revolution came none too soon. “Most come from broken homes and/or illness and poverty have struck their families,” notes registrar Rachel Cohen-Pur. “It was never easy for these boys to concentrate on their schoolwork or their future. That they’ve become strong, positive young men is a tribute to the boost of love that Rabbi Koby has given.”
The rabbi’s day begins at the crack of dawn. Quietly, without waking his wife or infant son, he cooks up a batch of hot cocoa to bring to “his boys” when he wakes them for morning prayers. At their breakfast together following the services, Rabbi Koby makes time for a dvar Torah, a short inspirational message of Jewish ethics. After school, he’s there to welcome the boys back to the dorm for the afternoon and evening activities they organize. “When I arrived on the job last year, most of the kids were glued to their mobile phones or sat around the TV in the evenings,” he recalled. “Now the phones have disappeared, and the TV has been off for months.” Instead, the tenth graders are occupied with projects they’ve initiated, from fixing up their rec room to writing a weekly newsletter to delving into Jewish sources in search of knowledge. Most important, there’s plenty of time devoted to discussing the questions that fill the lives of these adolescent boys.
“Every boy – even from the best home – is full of doubts and challenges at this age,” Rabbi Koby explains. “Someone needs to show them the way, especially those who have no father. I want each boy to realize that he is very important and he has a place here. Mostly I listen. The boys feel comfortable to open up about something painful at home or at school, and we work to solve the issue.”
Clearly, the results are…revolutionary. “Rabbi Koby’s Boys” are a strong, cohesive group with self-confidence and spirit. “Kids who aren’t in the dorms know that they’re missing out,” says Shachar Mordechai. “We’re creating a great place to live. We’re even raising our own money to buy books, snacks, and more, but we’re also taking responsibility for improving our environment and our Jewish knowledge.”The boys aren’t alone in their growth. “I’m gathering so much new understanding and strength from these students,” says the wise and wonderful Rabbi Koby, who is just under a decade older than “his boys.”