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“Just when you think that CTeen can’t get any better, they pull this off,” shared Ben Bursk with a smile. The teen president from Manchester England was referring to the 9th annual International Shabbaton, organized by the Chabad Teen Network. CTeen, the fastest growing and most diverse Jewish youth organization in the world, hosted a four day event in New York, which drew in a record breaking twenty-three hundred people.
The jam packed weekend included an authentic Shabbat experience in the heart of Crown Heights, Havdalah and a live concert in Times Square, and the CTeen Choice Awards which took place at Brooklyn’s illustrious Pier 12. Additionally, teens were treated to a surprise concert by Israeli superstar Gad Elbaz. Friday night and motzei Shabbat activities were separated by gender. While it was a worry to many teens at the beginning of the weekend, they soon realized the power of connection and friendships that can and were forged in such an environment.
The theme of this year’s Shabbaton, Organic Torah—Torah from the source in the most raw and authentic way—was felt strongly and resounded throughout the weekend as teens took the time to connect themselves to their heritage and Jewish lineage.
“The most powerful part of the entire weekend was watching the teen’s inspiration and excitement,” shared Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum, CTeen Rabbi of West Suffolk County, New York, whose teen leader, Dara Blitzer, won Female of the Year at the CTeen Choice Awards. “Their excitement generated a desire for us to do more, and to make sure that the inspiration lasts well after the Shabbaton is over.”
For the seniors in attendance, this year’s Shabbaton had an extra air of motivation and inspiration. Zack Horowitz, winner of the CTeen Male Leader Award from Wilmington, Delaware, shared a passionate speech about his time at CTeen at the Closing Ceremony. “I have been blessed with a family. What more could I ask for? CTeen has seriously changed me for the better—not just in the ‘now I have a lot of awesome friends’ kind of change. I have learned what it means to be a Jew. There is so much more to learn, which is why I plan on taking a gap year to explore my Jewish roots at Mayanot Yeshiva in Israel next year.”
“CTeen is a place to express Jewish pride, and meet people who share my religion. In a suburban town, it can be difficult to publicly express religious pride. The religious freedom I experienced here was unbelievable,” share Elissa Bandler from CTeen Chapter of Manalapan, New Jersey.
“The amazing peula of the Shabbaton is apparent when looking at the pictures and videos, but what’s even more phenomenal is reading the stories and words of inspiration which come from the teens and parents after the Shabbaton,” shared Rabbi Shua Einbinder, CTeen Shliach in Tarzana, California. “The mitzvot these teens took upon themselves with utmost sincerity, the inspiration to live as a Jew with pride, the love and care for Torah and mitzvot, that is what the entire shabbaton was all about.”
“The energy this weekend was palpable,” shared Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of CTeen. “Teens were taking on new mitzvos left and right. It was awe-inspiring and incredible to witness.”
CTeen Headquarters would like to thank the residents of Crown Heights for graciously opening their homes to the thousands of participants who attended over the weekend.
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