Alongside giving out shmura matzah and planning public sedarim, a…
Over the years, hundreds of teenagers have come back from CTeen Summer’s camps feeling inspired, connected, and proud to be Jewish. Whether they embark to Israel and Poland on the Heritage Quest or tour the American west with CTeen Xtreme—they come home with their Jewish engagement at an all-time high.
But as teens look ahead to school and then to college, their heightened Jewish involvement causes them to run into new worries. At the reunions each year, the teens share their concerns with their CTeen Summer staff members. “Teens wonder what Jewish life on a college campus will look like,” says CTeen Summer’s program coordinator Sarah Sherman, “what happens if there are no other Jews in class? Who will they be able to talk to?”
CTeen Summer takes pride in maintaining a connection with its alumni long after the summer has ended, and spends a great deal of time working with teens as they prepare for college. Sponsored by the Jewish Education Project’s RooteOne Fund, CTeen Summer’s workshops address critical issues like dealing with antisemitism on Campus and maintaining a solid Jewish identity in the college environment.
Inez Mundrain, an alumnus of CTeen Heritage Quest, says she has come to rely on CTeen Summer staff for insight into picking the right campus. “They keep all the alumni throughout the country on their radar,” she says, “so they have a pulse on where everyone is going after high school.”
This year, CTeen Summer is hosting its first alumni reunion on the Campus of the University of Miami. Campus themes play a prominent role in the Zoom discussions ahead of each Yom Tov, and college-related topics often come up in private conversations between staff and campers.
But even with all the preparation in the world, nothing beats a caring Jewish presence as teens arrive on Campus. To ensure their alumni were welcomed to campus, CTeen Summer reached out to Chabad on Campus, and a partnership blossomed. “As soon as a teen gets accepted into their college, we’re in touch with Chabad on Campus to make sure they feel cared for even before they arrive,” says Rabbi Nachman Rivkin, Director of CTeen Summer.
Before alumni head to college, a care package shows up at their door. Packed with delightfully practical Chabad on Campus swagger, the package includes a signed letter from CTeen Summer and Chabad on Campus. Campus shluchim will reach out to the budding college students, and CTeen Summer will remain in touch, ensuring that they are comfortable as they grow into an engaged Jewish Campus life.
Alumnus Hannah Gordon is excited about the partnership. “Coming from CTeen Summer, we feel real pride in our Jewish identity,” she says, “ we have a deep desire to continue building a Jewish community long after the summer, and I know we’re grateful to have that connection extend into college.”
Rabbi Ephraim Merovitch, Chabad on Campus’ Director of Strategic Partnerships, says he’s excited about the possibilities this collaboration brings to the table. “Teens are in a very vulnerable place as they transition from high school to campus life,” he says, “it’s vital to help them continue the Jewish links they already have. This collaboration with CTeen Summer is crucial to making that connection stronger.”
Maintaining a robust Jewish identity on a contemporary college campus is no mean feat. CTeen Chairman Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, says it all comes down to solid Jewish relationships. “If we can give teens the care they need at this critical juncture, it will reap huge dividends in their continued Jewish engagement,” he says.