The CTeen Annual Shabbaton  will take place in a virtual world.

The CTeen Annual Shabbaton will take place in a virtual world.

CTeen International is gearing up for their thirteenth annual Shabbaton but this time, it will be in a virtual world.

Thousands of teens from all over the world, in ten different time zones, will gather this Thursday, Motzei Shabbos, and Sunday for a weekend of inspiration, virtual play spaces, music, shows and talks. The theme: UpLyft.

Social by nature, the school-closures and isolation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has seriously affected the mental health of children and teens across the country. The alarming rise in anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation is why CTeen has been focusing on empowering the teens to reach out to their peers and uplift their communities.

“In-person or virtually, CTeen is about channeling the energy outward,” says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302, CTeen’s parent organization. “Our goal is to lift up another person. And then another, and another. Until the whole world is uplifted.”

This will be the last CTeen Shabbaton for Shai Fichtelberg, a high school senior in Sonoma County, CA. “It feels like I have been in CTeen my whole life. The memories, the friendships, and the lessons I have gained from CTeen have been and will be with me as I continue to grow and evolve,” she says.

Here’s what’s planned:

On Thursday, in a unique change from standard Zoom meetings, attendees will be able to socialize with other teens and participate in events over a unique, futuristic virtual play space. With a customized avatar and immersive virtual reality experience, users can “walk” around a retreat and interact with other participants. They’ll be able to enter different “buildings” for featured events like comedy, music videos, and motivational talks by renowned speakers and teens themselves. 

In lieu of the annual Shabbaton climax, the usual Havdalah and concert in Times Square, a video presentation featuring previous years’ Havdalah events will be shown on Motzei Shabbos.

The weekend’s events will culminate on Sunday in a one-hour live show featuring celebrities, a live concert by music sensations Benny Friedman and rapper Nissim Black, raffles, comedy, and talks by inspiring teens. Produced by Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum, the event will be broadcast live from the FlowMotion studio in Brooklyn.

“The Rebbe always taught us that obstacles are opportunities,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch. “A virtual Shabbaton will give us the opportunity to reach many more teens.”

Tune into the live concert on Sunday at Chabad.org/UpLyft

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