Groups of teens are making their way from twenty-six different countries to Crown Heights, traveling with their CTeen rabbis and rebbetzins for what promises to be a life-changing Shabbos and weekend.
Over the past few days, airport terminals around the world have been a bit more colorful as thousands of proud Jewish teens clad in the iconic blue and orange CTeen merch make their way to Crown Heights for the 15th annual CTeen International Shabbaton.
Set to be the largest ever, with 3,000 Jewish teens expected to attend from 30 different countries, the Shabbaton will bring together young Jews from all walks of life to celebrate their Jewish identity in this Hakhel year.
Teens are converging on Crown Heights, from all corners of the globe, from countries like Iceland to Costa Rica, Australia, Nigeria, and Singapore. Large groups of teens are traveling long distances to participate, including a contingent of 200 teens from South America, 300 from Israel, and 500 from France.
The influx of participants can be attributed to it being a Hakhel year, with CTeen Shluchim encouraging teens months in advance to participate in this tremendous demonstration of Jewish unity and gathering.
One of the chapters making the long journey to Crown Heights for the Shabbaton is JEMs CTeen Sydney, led by Rabbi Chida Levitanksy. The group is traveling nearly 10,000 miles from Australia to be part of the Shabbaton. For the teens, it is an opportunity to form lasting connections and create memories that will last a lifetime. As Naama Crawford, an 11th grader at Blackwattle Bay School in Sydney and one of the only Jewish teens in her school, explains: “I’m looking forward to the Shabbaton as an opportunity to be in an environment with thousands of other Jewish teens my age, make new friends, and have a fun time.”
For Debs Shatari, a 10th grader at South Sydney High School, the Shabbaton is an opportunity to reconnect with her Jewish identity. “I really miss being in a Jewish school, and I’m looking forward to the Shabbaton to spend time with my Jewish brothers and sisters and make new friends from around the world, says Shatari.”
As the teens arrive in Crown Heights, they are welcomed with open arms by the community, which has facilitated this unforgettable experience for CTeen Shabbaton participants throughout the past 15 years.
“The CTeen Shabbaton is an incredible opportunity for Jewish teens from all over the world to visit the Rebbe’s Daled Amos, and it wouldn’t be possible without the incredible hospitality of the Crown Heights community,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch and Chairman of CTeen International, “This Hakhel year, the unprecedented amount of teens participating are being hosted by the Crown Heights community once again. Their warm welcome to the thousands of teens is remarkable and inspiring, and we are truly grateful.”
For many participants, it will be their first time experiencing a Shabbos in this way, surrounded by thousands of their peers from around the world. The CTeen Shabbaton promises to be a truly unforgettable experience, filled with new friendships, spiritual growth, and a celebration of Jewish identity that will inspire and uplift participants for years to come.