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Thousands of teens from across the globe gathered this past week for a Shabbos of inspiration, learning, and unity organized by CTeen international.
What do thousands of Jewish teenagers, spanning 9 countries and over 125 CTeen chapters, have in common? They all participated in a worldwide Shabbos campaign: T.G.I.S – Thank God It’s Shabbos.
An international project that has seen months of logistical planning, T.G.I.S gave thousands of teenagers the opportunity to experience Shabbat in a true Jewish environment – many for their very first time.
“If the entire Jewish nation would only observe one Shabbat, says the Talmud, Moshiach would already be here,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Director of Merkos 302. “This weekend definitely brought us closer to realizing that ideal”.
Individual CTeen chapters – from Atlanta, Georgia, to Abuja, Nigeria, to Aubervilliers, France – hosted local Shabbat events, each with their own distinct flavor and style. For some it was a Friday night dinner, others a Shabbat lunch, and others a Havdalah service and Melavah Malka.
An initiative that was shared across all chapters was the 24-hour Torah program, a project dedicated to the promoting Jewish unity. Each city was assigned a half hour throughout Shabbat in which to host a group study session, ensuring that Torah was being studied throughout the entire duration of Shabbat.
“These teenage experiences are life-changing,” said Rabbi Zalman Abend, Director of CTeen Regional Events. “Many have never had the chance to celebrate Shabbat; many don’t even know what Shabbat is. This weekend will be imprinted in their memories forever”.
Some CTeen chapters took T.G.I.S to the next level, inviting nearby CTeen groups to spend Shabbos together for a joint weekend of inspiration and unity.
“It was a truly special opportunity for these teenagers,” said Rabbi Moshe Gourarie from Toms River, NJ, describing Shabbat in Atlantic City that brought together teenagers from 14 CTeen chapters across the Mid-Atlantic. “Many of them are from small cities and only have a few Jewish friends. Meeting a large group of similar aged Jewish teenagers, with a similar background and upbringing, really sends the message home – Judaism is alive and thriving”.
Atlantic City was not the only location to host a regional Shabbaton. CTeen chapters from across Southern California spent an uplifting Shabbat together – boys in Pacific Pallisades and girls in Malibu – spending Friday afternoon in a joint humanitarian project, packing lunches and delivering them to the homeless. As well, an inspiring Midwest Shabbaton was hosted by CTeen of Mequon, Wisconsin.
“The Rebbe always stressed the power of the youth,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch. “Events like these tap into that power, and channel it toward making real, life-altering, change.”
Plans for the international CTeen Shabbaton in February are well underway, with expectations for this year’s event to be attract more attendees than ever. For CTeen updates and to follow CTeen events, see CTeen.com and on Facebook @JewishTeens.