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When Ryan Rubin, a young adult living in Raleigh, North Carolina, joined the Encounters trip to Guatemala in May, arranged by Chabad Young Professionals, he never imagined that months later, he would be spending yet another Encounter weekend with some of the same people in San Diego, California.
But that’s exactly what happened.
As part of their ongoing effort to engage as many young Jewish professionals in meaningful, creative ways, CYP International, the world’s largest network of young Jewish professionals with 218 chapters serving more than 220,000 young Jews worldwide, has been arranging these Encounter trips for the past few years. The first such experience was what has now turned into the annual CYP Shabbaton in Chabad Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn. From there, through the efforts of Rabbi Hershy Weinstein, assistant director of CYP International, other Shabbatons called “Encounters” have blossomed worldwide, including trips to Guatemala and Panama, all with the goal of curating life-changing immersive Jewish experiences for young professionals.
On that trip to Guatemala, large groups from Raleigh and Pacific Beach, California were present. Over the course of the journey, participants became fast friends, keeping in touch with each other well after the trip came to an end.
“I happen to travel to San Diego quite a bit for work,” said Rubin, “so when I heard that CYP was arranging a regional Shabbaton in Pacific Beach, I contacted my new friends there. Turns out that it was scheduled for a weekend that I would be there. I was doubly excited to hear that Rabbi Yossi and Rochie Tiefenbrun of the Chabad at Pacific Beach were going to be the hosts, as they, too, were on the Guatemala trip and I had gotten to know them quite well. Of course, I signed up immediately, and I’m so happy I did. It was a fun little reunion.”
For the local young Jewish audience in San Diego, this weekend assembly was an eye-opening affirmation of how robust young Jewish life is in the area. “There are so many young Jewish adults in the surrounding area, yet many of them are unaware of each other,” said Tiefenbrun. “Coming together here this weekend highlighted the abundant opportunities to connect with other like-minded people and possibly even find a suitable life partner,” Tiefenbrun noted how he anticipates increased young attendance going forward after such an experience.
And an experience it was. Nearly two hundred young professionals from all over the area and beyond—with guests from as far as Texas and New York—converged on the Pacific Beach Chabad. Guests were welcomed Friday night with a terrific icebreaker game that got the positive energy and intimate atmosphere rolling for the rest of the weekend. By the time the dust had settled and the Shabbat meal was underway, participants already felt like old friends.
Scholars-in-residence Rabbi and Mrs. Abba and Chanie Perlmutter of Chabad Long Beach, not too far away, hosted a side-splitting discussion throughout dinner and into the night. A dynamo couple known for hilarious banter and witty insight, the Perlmutters had the young adults captivated long after the glow of the Shabbat candles had waned dark.
Participants were treated to a traditional Shabbat morning Torah study followed by services led by Rabbi Tiefenbrun. Later in the afternoon, the Perlmutters retook the helm, leading a no-holds-bar discussion about relationships—a pertinent and urgent topic for many, if not all, of those present.
The highlight of the weekend was Motzai Shabbos when the arid California winter air gave way to a lively outdoor fireside concert for attendants, plus other local young Jewish adults. Hosted at a beautiful private home, musical sensation Yossi Rodal sang original songs and entertained the crowd while others mingled about and enjoyed. “The venue was on the edge of a cliff overlooking downtown San Diego, and the view was just sensational,” said Rubin. “Coming off the Shabbat discussions, we were able to co-mingle in a meaningful way.”
“Experiencing Yiddishkeit at a Shabbaton in Crown Heights is one thing,” said Rabbi Beryl Frankel, Director of CYP International, “But to see hundreds of young Jewish adults celebrating their Yiddishkeit on the opposite coast truly encapsulates how vibrant the global young Jewish professional community truly is.”
As for the locals, it couldn’t have been better. “I have been coming to Chabad Pacific Beach for almost a year now,” said Liron Blumenthal, “and the energy we had this weekend was unlike anything I have experienced here. It was a great time with even greater people, and I would encourage everyone to attend a Shabbaton if they have the chance. You won’t regret it!”
“The long-lasting impact of these Shabbatons cannot be underestimated, “said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, “The opportunity to internalize your Yiddishkeit on a personal level and connect with other Jews in a similar stage in life is something invaluable and we hope to replicate that meaningful experience around the globe.”