“Just when you think that CTeen can’t get any better,…
The first-ever CTeen Latin America Shabbaton took place in Panama, with CTeen chapters from all across Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico, and Colombia participating.
The uplifting weekend featured Torah learning, workshops, and trips organized by Rabbi Chai Kohan, director of Merkos 302’s Spanish department and Rabbi Shlomo Poliwoda, director of CTeen Panama; 60 teens were immersed in an authentic Jewish environment, some for the first time.
Esteban Sosa, from Guatemala, heard about the Shabbaton from his local shluchim, the Pelmans. It was on this Shabbos that he finally celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Having had few previous Jewish experiences, this was the first time he had the opportunity to be called to the Torah for an Aliyah. Complete with throwing candy and dancing around the Bimah, everyone present celebrated like one big family. He is excited to continue on his journey to Yiddishkeit, doing his part in keeping the Guatemalan Jewish flame alive.
“It’s important that these teens are proud to be Jewish and that they look forward to Jewish experiences.”, Rabbi Kohan said regarding the goal of the Shabbos.
Besides the festivities, there were classes and workshops about various topics, including several about the importance of marrying Jewish – ensuring the next generation of Latin-American Jews. The weekend included an exciting tour of the iconic Monkey Island and the Panama Canal.
Eitan Solomon is an Ecuadorian teen who came to the Shabbaton along with his Rabbi, Dayan Mendy Fried. He arrived with a keen interest in Yiddishkeit, and enjoyed and related to the experience so much that he asked that the next one to be hosted in his home country of Ecuador. There are around 80 Jews in the country, and Eitan has already reached out to some of them, bringing them closer to Yiddishkeit. Doing his part in keeping the Ecuadorian Jewish flame alive.
All of the participants present shared similar feelings, returning home with renewed vigor and inspiration to bring light to their surroundings.
“Each of these teens is capable of transforming Jewish life in their communities,” explains Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch, “these Shabbatons help them see their place within the global Jewish community and how they can play an active role back home.”