By Karen Schwartz, Chabad.org Hanna Briskin, 17, is counting the days until…
CTeen’s travel camp, CTeen Xtreme, held its third annual summer trip this year, offering another month of unbelievable trips and extreme sports for Jewish teens from across the country. Each session, comprised of 50 teens and 9 staff members traveled from location to location, taking the famously high energy and spirit of CTeen with them to every stop. The camp visited some of the West Coast’s most famous—and extreme—destinations including scenic attractions and national parks. For these passionate, excited teens, CTeen Xtreme was a chance not just to mountain bike or white water raft, but also a chance to engage in their Yiddishkeit in a way that they never had before.
Both sessions kicked off in Denver, travelling west each day, starting off in style with white water rafting on the first day, followed by mountain biking, rappelling in the days that followed. The boy’s session ran from June 29th – July 12th, and the girls session ran from July 6th – July 19th. Each morning began with davening, a learning session, and then off to the day’s adventures, where the teens harnessed the power they gained through their morning lessons to tackle the sport ahead of them. To add a level of spirit and inspiration to their activities, the teens sang Jewish songs, and danced their way down mountains, through caves, and in tents in the middle of the night. In addition to all of the extreme activities, the camp also participated in volunteer projects and community service throughout the trip. “I never thought I’d become so close to the other campers, but we became a family on this trip. I’ll never forget the people I met this summer, and I can’t wait to see them again,” shared Luke Tumblin, a teen from Las Cruces, New Mexico. Miriam Rosenbluth, a teen from Highland Park NJ, shared a similar sentiment. “I never thought that I would do all the extreme outdoor activities, water rafting and all the seventeen mile bike rides, as well as gain so much on a Jewish level. CTeen Xtreme made me feel so proud to be a Jew.”
The highlight of the trip for many teens, besides with pushing themselves out of their comfort zones to experience new things, was having a chance to go out on a limb and try something new that they had never done before on a Jewish level, like wrapping tefillin or dressing modestly. The campers didn’t just take home memories and souvenirs from camp: they brought back new sparks that they will continue to elevate in the year to come. Koby Lerner, a teen from San Diego, California shared: “I never thought I’d gain so much. I said Shema in more places than I would have ever dreamed of, from the middle of valleys to in front of the Las Vegas sign. I am now proud to wear my tzitzit and kippa out for the world to see, which is something I would have never done before.” As Natalie Davidoff from Brooklyn, New York shared: “On this trip, I learned that Judaism is more than the religious restrictions, it’s also about having a relationship with Hashem, which is something I didn’t feel before.”
Rabbi Moshe Rapoport, shliach in Mequon, Wisconsin, who led the boy’s trip, had high praise for this year’s camp. “I don’t know who gained more, the staff or the teens. This is a very rewarding experience for everyone involved. One of the highlights of the trip was the countless informal conversations the teens had about Jewish life, social issues and ethical and moral challenges. No classroom experience can hold a candle to this out of control road trip!” Rebbetzin Manya Lazaroff shlucha in College Station, TX who chaperoned the girl’s trip, was just as vocal about the incredible experience. “The growth these teens had in two weeks would take months or years to accomplish in another environment. They left with such beautiful hachlotos tovos and concrete understanding of their roles as empowered Jewish young ladies. It was an incredible program. I’ve already begun reaching out to teens in my community to tell them about it for next summer.”
Camp came to a close for both sessions with a grand banquet at Chabad of Brentwood in Los Angeles. It was a bittersweet farewell. Adina Samloff from Solano County, shared: “We danced and sang and laughed and cried and I do not know how to summarize everything that happened in those few hours. We felt united. We felt one. We felt special. We felt Jewish. We davened for the last time as a group that morning and I realized how much I had learned. I could say some prayers without having to read out of the siddur. I was so proud of myself! Throughout the two week trips, teens bonded and grew from being almost strangers to practically family.”
Camp may be over, but the spark of CTeen Xtreme will carry on in the teens throughout the year, until next summer comes around for even more fun, life changing, and extreme experiences. Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, vice chairman of CTeen shared: “The incredible growth and strength that the teens gained this summer will surely impact their year to come, both in CTeen and out. We cannot wait to see what the teens do with the power they gained at CTeen Xtreme.”
Rabbi Nachman Rivkin, Xtreme’s director shared: “The remarkable effects of this trip are thanks to the dedicated staff members, who connected very well and invested so much into each teen.”
CTeen is very grateful to Rabbi Yisroel Engel of Chabad Colorado for his assistance. Special thank you to Rabbi Shea Harligof Chabad Southern Nevada, Rabbi Mendel Spalter of Yeshiva Or Elchonon Chabad, and Rabbi Sender Engel of Silver Gan Israel, Huntington Beach, CA for hosting the camp Shabbosim.