“Count On Me” Mega Event Features Teens’ Moving Stories

Filled with moving personal stories, engaging performances, and inspirational takeaways, the CTeen closing ceremony empowered teens to return to their hometowns as leaders and ambassadors of light.

Filled with moving personal stories, engaging performances, and inspirational takeaways, the CTeen closing ceremony event crystallized the uplifting CTeen Shabbaton weekend for the thousands of teens, empowering them to return to their hometowns as leaders and ambassadors of light.

The darkened room filled with thousands of lights as the three CTeeners took the stage singing a moving song emphasizing the theme of “Count Me In.” Suddenly, the atmosphere turned electric as singer Gad Elbaz took the stage, his upbeat songs filling the theater with joy and celebration. Joining him was the surprise appearance of Jewish rapper Nissim Black, whose energetic performance had the crowd on their feet, dancing and singing along. With 3000 teens from 58 countries in attendance, the energy was palpable as they celebrated their Jewish identity and completed the incredible weekend in with classic CTeen energy.

The event featured teens whose journeys exemplify the CTeen’s spirit of taking the initiative, in line with the weekend’s theme of “Count On Me.” Rachel Arrous, 20, from Paris, France, shared her story, which began 11 years before she was born when The Rebbe gave her parents extra dollars in response to their request for a blessing for children, the Rebbe then added the words “for all the Jewish people in France.” The mysterious statement was realized years later when, after attending her first CTeen International Shabbaton, Rachel encouraged the CTeen France directors Rabbi Mendy and Haya Mottal, to launch the CTeen leadership program in their country. Rachel’s passion has since burgeoned CTeen France into a team of 20 leaders, each recruiting countless others to join CTeen, and innumerable mitzvos performed. Rachel capitalized on her “Count On Me” moment and impassioned the entire crowd to do the same.

In a matter of moments, I went from being an average high school student and CTeen president to being a part of everyone’s prayers,” began Jonathan Malka from Northridge, CA, recounting his tale of a miraculous recovery from a motorcycle accident, aided by the CTeen community rallying around him with added mitzvot, prayers, and visits. His CTeen Rabbi, Rabbi Mendel Rappoport, bought a pair of tefillin for others to wear in his merit. In a powerful moment, Jonathan used those tefillin on stage, only seven months after being told he may never walk again, to help a teen who committed to wearing tefillin daily, put them on in front of the entire crowd. 

A practical way to bring home the inspiration gained over the weekend and share with others, the CTeen Mitzvah Ambassador program, which itself was launched by teen leaders in 2019, was explained by Rabbi Mendy Kotlasrky, executive director of Merkos 302 and vice-chairman of CTeen to the in-person audience and tens of thousands more on the livestream. The foundation of this program is that if every teen shares a mitzvah with just one friend, and the friend commits to do the same, the impact will spread exponentially. “Together, we will bring the CTeen energy forward. Anyone standing in this room can’t help but be excited about the future of the Jewish people. There is no power like the power of our youth,” he concluded.

In what has become an annual tradition, the results for CTeen Choice awards weighed in on stage, with Joey Mashaich from Calgary, Alberta and Aliya Marin of Charlotte, NC, taking home the CTeen Choice award trophies. The nominations resulted from leadership in the face of adversity, with the current climate challenging CTeen leaders to find new innovative ways to ensure their peers feel welcome and proud Jews, come what may.

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