300 European Teens Unite in Barcelona Amidst Antisemitism Surge

Three Hundred Jewish teens from sixteen European countries united for an empowering Shabbat experience of Jewish pride and belonging in Barcelona, Spain.

In the weeks since October 7th, France, Britain, and Denmark have seen an alarming rise in overt antisemitism. In Berlin, Germany, many Jewish schoolchildren no longer wear school uniforms, and many Jews hesitate even to order a taxi. 

Against this backdrop, 300 Jewish teens from France, the UK, Germany, and thirteen other European countries, traveled to Barcelona, Spain, for Shabbat Across Europe, a weekend of togetherness, belonging, and Jewish pride organized by CTeen International at Merkos 302 with the support of Meromim Foundation. 

The program aimed to reinforce teens’ Jewish pride at a time when many are choosing to hide. Speaking to her peers, Fanja Benowitz from Denmark shared how she mustered the courage to share her Judaism. “My closest friend is Muslim,” she said, “For a long time, I never told her I’m Jewish.” 

When she did share her secret and expressed pro-Israel views, she found herself bullied and intimidated at school. “Something snapped inside of me,” she said, “I shed my shyness about being Jewish; hiding is not the answer to hate.” 

Friday through Sunday, Shabbat Across Europe’s program gave participating teens of all backgrounds a chance to feel safe and confident in embracing their Jewish identity. Based out of Chabad of Barcelona, led by Rabbi Dovid and Nechama Libersohn, teens toured Barcelona proudly wearing kippot, shared powerful Jewish songs over delightful Shabbat meals, enjoyed their own international soccer tournament, and relaxed at Tibidabo Amusement Park.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch and Chairman of CTeen International, says the Shabbaton aimed to address the sense of isolation Jewish teens feel across Europe. “Shabbat Across Europe gave teens a space where it’s safe to express your Judaism fully,” he said. “It’s a reminder that they’re not alone. We’re already seeing teens who gained the confidence to be proud advocates for the Jewish people back home.”

Olivér Rák from Budapest, Hungary, is now working to educate his peers, but he wasn’t always so confident. Raised in the long shadow cast by the Holocaust, he knew little about what Jewish identity meant. Still, his mother told him, “Be proud of your Jewish origins.” It took years of searching, but he’s enjoyed exploring his heritage after encountering Budapest’s CTeen chapter—led by Rabbi Tzemmy and Sophie Bassman. “Plus, I got so many new Jewish friends,” he said.

Micol Giada Cozzi encountered CTeen in Milan, Italy, but moved to Monaco in 2020 to escape the worst of COVID-19. A newcomer in her new school, she organized her classmates in response to the horrifying attack on Israel this October 7th. “I was hit by a wave of emotions,” she said, “but I rolled up my sleeves and pitched my school on doing a bake sale to support Israel.” 

Her school balked, but Micol organized her Jewish friends, stared down hateful pushback, and united community members of all faiths to raise thousands for Magen David Adom. “My takeaway was simple,” she said, “Keep being true to who you are—no matter what happens.” 

Alfie Joseph, an active member in his CTeen chapter back home in Manchester, England, said hearing these stories at the Shabbaton felt like being part of “one big family.” “All of us here celebrating our Jewish pride, it’s had a massive impact on me,” he said. “I can’t wait to bring that pride home with me to Manchester.”

Heading back to Denmark, Fanja Benowitz summed up her takeaway, “It’s about facing the world with confidence, knowing that your heritage is rich and valuable.” 

With over 730 chapters in 58 countries on 6 continents CTeen is the world’s fastest-growing network of Jewish teens, empowering them to be the Jewish leaders and advocates of today. 

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