Rachel Cohen with Boys Town pupils
By Rosa Doherty
It is 9.30am and a constant flow of pupils have already been through the door of the glass office of Rachel Cohen on the sprawling Boys Town Jerusalem campus. And many of the requests she deals with are not standard school secretary fare.
Because for the 900 boys between the ages of 12 and 20, “we are not just a school. We are their home, their social services, their mother, their father – we are everything.” As she is speaking, a group of students arrive, all clutching 200 shekels (£40) to secure their place on a summer programme.
Boys Town was established in 1948 as an orphanage for young Holocaust survivors and immigrants. Today its intake is largely from low socio-economic backgrounds and 350 of the older pupils live on the 18-acre campus in the Bayit Vegan neighbourhood and are provided with three meals a day.
“Our students come from divorced families,where the parents don’t work or where there has been physical abuse or sexual abuse in the family,” Mrs Cohen explains. “They can be one of 10 children living in a two-bedroom flat. There is no food at home and they go hungry. So they need another place to call home.”
The 200 shekel contribution will allow boys to live, eat and study at the school through the summer holiday period. “Many have asked us if they can stay at school because they have nowhere else to go. So we have come up with this programme. The 200 shekels is all we ask from them and we will come up with the rest needed to fund their stay.”