Cteen of Brighton Beach opened a beautiful state-of-the-art lounge for its local Jewish teenagers to congregate in.
On Sunday, October 22, Cteen of Brighton Beach – F.R.E.E. opened its doors to a state-of-the-art teen lounge. The grand opening saw a significant turnout from Cteen members and their families. The teens proudly showcased the lounge to their families.
The lounge boasts an array of Jewish artifacts, a Tefillin area, cozy seating, games, all adorned in Cteen’ssignature orange and blue colors. The establishment of this space was made possible through the support of the Merkos 302 Cteen office and the generosity of community donors. Cteen Alumni, now in city and state universities, also returned to partake in this landmark event.
Rabbi Menachem Okonov, the current director of Cteen of Brighton Beach – FREE, announced a packed calendar for the upcoming months: game nights, Chanukah Parent Latkeh War, Friday night meals, Sunday Dad-Tefillin-Breakfast sessions, bowling, challah bakes, IDF appreciation events, Holocaust memorials, and more.
Parallel to these, the broader Cteen network also has a full roster of events, including the renowned tri-state Shabbaton and the annual International Shabbaton featuring the iconic Times Square Havdalah. Rabbi Menachem thanked Cteen headquarters for their support and a special thank you to Mrs. Leah Rivkin for all her help with this project.
Established in 2008, Cteen, short for “Chabad teen”, began as a modest network aimed at giving Jewish teens a space to connect, learn, and grow with their peers. Primarily, Cteen provides a nurturing environment where teens, often from public schools, can explore Jewish holidays, traditions, and values. Today, the Chabad teen network boasts over 800 chapters worldwide.
Youth activities began in Brighton Beach in the early 1980s at the initiative of Rabbi Hershel Okonov, shliach of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to FREE of Brighton Beach. Programs were run by Rabbi Mordechai Goldin ob”m and then continued by Rabbi Avremel Okonov, the current director of Mazel Day School. FREE of Brighton Beach has been a part of Cteen almost from its inception under the leadership of Rabbi Dovid Okonov.
At Sunday’s opening event, Rabbi Shimon Rivkin of Cteen Headquarters shared about the significance of the date, Zayin Cheshvan, and of the lessons the Rebbe taught that we can learn from this day, namely to love our fellow Jew unconditionally. FREE of Brighton Beach’s gabbai, Reb Isaac Liberman, also spoke about how fortunate the community is that the Rebbe sent Rabbi Hershel Okonov to Brighton Beach to open a center for Jews from the former Soviet Union.
Jonathan, a former Cteen member, spoke about the impact Cteenhad on his life and how it influenced his recent commitment to putting on tefillin daily. Current Cteen leader, Celina, shared how being a part of Cteen and her connection to her shlucha, Mrs. Yehudis Okonov, co-director of Cteen of Brighton Beach – FREE, gives her a place where she can always turn to, in order to nurture and strengthen her Jewish pride. Representing the parents, Celina’s father talked about the importance of Cteen in today’s Jewish teens’ lives. Tehillim was recited by brothers Ariel and Gabriel, both current Cteen leaders.
In an era where many Jewish teens grapple with feelings of alienation and doubt, spaces like a Jewish teen lounge are vital. They offer a haven where Jewish values, teachings, and traditions can be celebrated and understood. The new lounge in Brighton Beach will provide a much-needed sanctuary for teens during these trying times. It is more than just a venue; it’s a second home for Jewish teens.