CKids Shabbaton Continues to Inspire Months Later

Despite the CKids Shabbaton taking place months ago, heartwarming stories of families strengthening their Jewish identity as a result of that Shabbos keep pouring in.

A young girl in Bethlehem, NY, remembers to say a blessing on the earthquake. A mother plans her daughter’s Bas Mitzvah to include a challa bake and promote Shabbos candles. A young boy walks to shul each Shabbos instead of going in the car —all direct results of one incredible weekend.

In March, nearly 1,000 Hebrew School kids from around the world arrived at the Armon Hotel in Stamford, CT, they were met by two 20-foot-long tables covered in color-ordered kosher candy. The agenda: design a “Shabbos Party Candy Board,” but they were advised not to eat it all at once. “Save some for next Shabbos at home” referred to both the candy and the inspiration from the entire CKids Shabbaton.

‘The goal of any initiative like this is to have a peulah nimsheches, a lasting effect, not just a one-off good time,” explains Rabbi Zalmy Loewenthal, Director of CKids International at Merkos 302. “From this Shabbaton, we’ve seen family’s shabbos experiences enhanced, more mitzvos being kept, and an abundance of Jewish pride taken home.”

Among the Shabbaton attendees was Mandi Mendelsohn, from Wesley Chapel Florida. When she visited the Ohel together with the parents program on Friday morning, a video of The Rebbe speaking at a farbrengen was playing in the foyer. “One way to accomplish a healthy family unit is to spend Shabbos together. Unlike during the week when parents and children are busy with their own personal endeavors, the Shabos meal can bring together all members of a family for the six days of the week which follow too.” The Rebbe’s words echoed from the screen.

“The video inspired me and was exactly what I needed, I hadn’t been making a Shabbos meal, having felt too busy with schoolwork and middle school sports. But I knew something was missing and everything pointed toward the Shabbos meal,” Mandi recounted. “So together with a few other moms at the Shabbaton, we started a WhatsApp chat called “Let’s Make Shabbos Beautiful” to keep everyone connected and promote only positivity and inspiration for this important weekly highlight.”

Throughout the coming weeks, each Friday, photos poured in with Shabbos candles beautifully prepared for moms and daughters, fresh Challah baked, and of course the Shabbos Party Boards with leftover kosher candy from the Shabbaton.

“Raising Jewish children in today’s environment can seem more difficult than ever,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302. “ The sense of community and lasting friendships from the Shabbaton let these families  know they aren’t alone in the struggle.”

The influence went far beyond the Shabbaton attendees. “Cooking for Shabbat guests tomorrow. We will be hosting about 8 families who are not affiliated with their Judaism. Hoping to spread the love of Hashem and Shabbat with yummy challah and other delicious dishes,” one group member posted. True to The Rebbe’s words, this brought together families and communities in their Yiddishkeit, marking a significant milestone for them.

Another memento to take home was thanks to the video producers of 321 Motion, who have worked on the Shabbaton for the past few years. Uplifted by the experience, 321 Motion sponsored an LED night table lamp with the words of Shema engraved for all participants. Children proudly displayed them in their bedrooms and added a mitzvah to their nighttime routine.

The Shabbaton inspired kids to return home with their heads held high as Mark, a Hebrew School father from Maryland told Rabbi Mendel Raskin, Director of JewQ at Merkos 302, “Ethan was so proud he went to public school today in his CKids swag. The weekend was magical! we’ve been to Disney World, but Shabbaton was at another level. The spiritual awakening in the group was palpable.”

Yarmulkahs and tzitzis aren’t a common sight in public school, but for Ethan, 10,  from Potomac, Maryland, that didn’t matter. The Shabbaton taught him to be a proud Jew no matter what.

With more stories accumulating,  such as parents purchasing letters in the children’s Sefer Torah and keeping “Living Jewish” books at home, the impressions of the CKids Shabbaton continue to grow. This summer, five CKids-affiliated overnight camps, from Hendersonville, North Carolina to Budapest, Hungary, will further this inspiring journey, with many Shabbaton attendees already enrolled.

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