“I did have eight children of my own, but right now I’m up to twenty-one!” declares Boys Town Jerusalem Special Education teacher Rabbi Yossi Ben Zruel.

Since the Israeli government recently closed all schools and dormitories due to the coronavirus outbreak, Rabbi Ben Zruel has been devoting his entire days – and nights – to teaching and maintaining constant contact with his 13 seventh-grade students and their parents. Incredibly enough, the rabbi is quite encouraged by the outcome.

Each of my students has acute learning disabilities, and far too many face terrible situations at home,” he explains. “Teaching them now by ‘remote’ and giving them independent assignments to complete and share is bringing fascinating results: Boys challenged by social interaction are thriving with digital communications. Suddenly, some of the most troubled students are completing every assignment perfectly and participating well in our online classroom. As for me, I now have the opportunity to frequently phone each boy and compliment him.” 

Rabbi Ben Zruel notes that the greatly-escalated communication within the BTJ Teachers’ WhatsApp Group is also a boon. “Special ed kids need special care, and now I’m gaining (and giving) valuable tips in real-time from my colleagues.”

Ongoing communication with parents is of new urgency, the rabbi stresses. “Under the strain of isolation, the many single mothers coping with special-needs children are in particular distress. I’m doing my best to listen and encourage.”

Rabbi Ben Zruel cited the major problem that many boys lack easy access to a computer at home, since their siblings are also learning online. “Our students are now in desperate need of laptop computers.”  

Overall, Rabbi Yossi Ben Zruel is cautiously optimistic about the post-corona future. “I’m discovering capabilities and maturity among my students that I never imagined existed, and I look forward to new progress and spirit once we get back to the classroom. With the Almighty’s help, we’ll emerge much stronger from these difficult days.”

If you’d like to help boys like the ones in Rabbi Zruel’s class get laptops, click here.

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