By Karen Schwartz, Chabad.org Hanna Briskin, 17, is counting the days until…
With minimal effort, Chabad of Tampa has managed to increase attendance and participation at events and services. Simply by enrolling in CTeen, Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch’s national teen program, not only have they attracted numerous teenagers to the Chabad House, but they have also drawn in their parents and families.
“Before CTeen I simply didn’t have the time or resources to deal with teens,” says Rabbi Mendel Dubrowsky, shliach at Chabad of Tampa. “Now I simply plug them into an incredible program, with everything already prepared for me. It’s fantastic.”
CTeen provides monthly or bi-weekly programs which tackle timely and relevant issues, engaging the youngsters in lively discussion on hard-hitting topics often avoided by community leaders. According to Rabbi Dubrowsky, CTeen members appreciate being treated as responsible adults and not being babied.
He points to a moving tale which unraveled just this week. 14 year old Lida, a girl living with her adoptive parents in Tampa, attempted to track down her biological parents in Siberia. Sadly, by the time she discovered their identity her mother had passed away. The emotional anguish was tremendous.
“I went over to comfort her, to help her deal with this traumatic situation,” says Rabbi Dubrowsky. “As we talked, I was able to point back to our discussions in CTeen’s lifecycle events and was amazed at how much she had absorbed, and how she was able to apply it when it really mattered.
“CTeen gave her the confidence to deal with what she had found out about her mother and move forward with her life.”
A vital component of the CTeen experience is Jewish networking. Local chapter meetings coupled with regional and national events provide a unique opportunity for real Jewish friendships to develop between teens. An active online presence and savvy social networking augments the relationships and ensures a sense of belonging that draws the teens into the wider Jewish community.
“Teens will invariably join other Chabad House programs and the positive experience will help attract their parents,” says Rabbi Mendel Perlstein, CTeen Central director. Rabbi Dubrowsky claims that his members finally feel a connection to Chabad House programming. “They used to think Chabad was only for parents. Now they feel that we are relevant to them, too.”
“As long as you have a connection with one teen, you are a teen shliach,” say Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky of Merkos. “As Shluchim of the Rebbe, we follow his directive to reach out to every single Yid, including teenagers.” While many shlucim once had difficulty tapping into this demographic, CTeen’s appealing and contemporary design, professionalism and easy usability now allows them to finally reach these vital neshamos.
“Shluchim also have access to a most phenomenal resource,” according to Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos Suite 302. “A network of 3,800 like minded Shluchim, eager to assist with advice, tips, tricks and answers to pressing questions.” A CTeen Shliach is automatically assured of an extensive support group that serves to perfect the CTeen module within his community.
With CTeen constantly developing new ideas and programs, it’s understandable that they are the fastest growing Jewish teen network. Their secret? Combining meaningful learning together with fun and energy, all the while making it easy for the shliach to implement in the midst of his busy schedule.
“As one child recently told me, ‘You know what, rabbi? I am gonna be able to join CTeen in 3 years and 4 months!’”