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Source: Chabad House Compass Express
Red carpet events, V.I.P. cards, flashing paparazzi lights and… Crown Heights? On Friday, February 4, more than 300 teenagers from across the country will gather at the annual National CTeen Shabbaton, where they will enjoy a glamorous V.I.P. weekend complete with a celebrity appearance and a black-tie NYC river cruise.
“It’s about revealing the potential within each of our teens,” explains Rabbi Benzion Treitel, the organization’s National Events Coordinator. “We aim to instill a strong feeling of self respect; an appreciation for one’s own capabilities.” Coupled with the V.I.P treatment will be a unique learning experience, where participants will have the opportunity to discuss what makes make each one of us truly important.
CTeen Director Rabbi Mendel Perlstein speaks of the program’s critical necessity. “Chabad Houses looking for adult education curriculums, college programs or Hebrew school syllabi all have vast resources. Teen programs, however, are remarkably absent.”
“Teens weren’t a major focus of our Chabad House,” says Rabbi Adi Goodman of Cooper City, Florida. “Now, CTeen has taken on a life of its own and enhanced many other programs.
“Not only do kids love CTeen, they voluntarily assist in many other areas. They built a float for our Lag B’Omer parade. They hosted a Chanukah party for our Hebrew School, building carnival booths and even bringing their own D.J. equipment. They created an event we, as Shluchim, would have been proud of arranging ourselves.”
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky at Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch is proud. “Look around here at Suite 302,” he says, referring to the Merkos office suite which serves as headquarters to CTeen and numerous other ventures. “There is something suited for every Shliach; for every community. A vital demographic such as teenagers should not be left out.”
There are currently more than 2,000 teens at 55 Chabad Houses enjoying the CTeen experience. They enjoy tailor made monthly curriculums and socialize in a healthy environment. “Kids who would otherwise not know each other now get to hang out with fellow Jews,” says Goodman.
For many, the sense of camaraderie is more than just a social networking experience. Goodman tells of one Cooper City teenager whose father died in a tragic accident. His CTeen friends supported and guided him through his ordeal. Joining a CTeen retreat helped clear his mind. In coping with his personal loss, the club was essential. “To see such a young group rally together and get him through that torment was emotional as it was inspiring.”
In addition to local programming, national events further strengthen the network. “When you fly over hundreds of miles to meet a hundred new friends, you begin to realize, ‘Hey, I’m part of something big. I’m part of something important,’” says Noach Pawliger, CTeen’s creative director. “It emboldens their Jewish pride and gives them a sense of self worth.”
CTeen’s success lies largely in its marketability. Its modern designs are eye catching and relevant. It’s no surprise it is so appealing. “We have boys becoming Bar Mitzvah who can’t wait to join CTeen. It’s become the buzz of the community, and has schlepped in the rest of the family as well,” says Goodman. “Our children and adult programs have all grown thanks to CTeen. Families have become more involved.”
As registrations for the Shabbaton continue to pour in, even from as far as Uruguay, Perlstein claims the growing numbers don’t tell the full story. “Sure, we have 2,000 members. But the amount of lives touched by the program is countless. When you learn of the affect CTeeners have on their friends, families and community, you begin to appreciate the tremendous power and potential they possess, and how often they are undervalued.”
For certain, when the youngsters converge on New York this February, they will be anything but underappreciated. Their V.I.P weekend will be one they will long treasure.
Teens will be traveling to the Shabbaton from numerous cities, including:
Cooper City, FL | Cedarhurst, NY | Asheville, NC | North Miami Beach, FL | Teaneck, NJ | Prospect Heights, IL | Palm Harbor, FL | Grafton, WI | Cypress, CA | Sunny Isles Beach, FL | Bellevue, WA | Wilmette, IL | Bronx, NY | Redmond, WA | Glendale, WI | East Brunswick, NJ | Poway, CA | Pembroke Pines, FL | Englewood, NJ | Wayne, NJ | La Jolla, CA | Las Vegas, NV | Milwaukee, WI | Longmeadow, MA | Williston Park, NY | Old Westbury, NY | Passaic, NJ | Mequon, WI | Bothell, WA | Kohler, WI | Aventura, FL | Thiensville, WI | Ottawa, ONT | Thornhill, ONT
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