Braving pricey flights and immense distances, thousands of Jewish teens worldwide count down the days to CTeen’s 15th International Shabbaton in New York City on February 23.
When two thousand five hundred Jewish teens traveled to New York for the International CTeen Shabbaton last February, eighteen came from Montevideo, Uruguay, with Rabbi Mendy Shemtov. This Hakhel year, he’s bringing a whopping sixty teens. “The teens came home ecstatic last year,” Rabbi Shemtov says, “now everyone wants to be a part of the Shabbaton.”
Seven thousand three hundred sixty-six miles away across the Pacific Ocean, Rabbi Chida Levitansky says it’s the first time since Covid that a group of teens will fly to New York from Jems CTeen in Sydney, Australia.
“A flight to New York costs 4,000 dollars Australian,” he says. “It’s a big investment for teens and their families; they’re fired up to meet thousands of peers from dozens of countries, and it’s an opportunity to grow.” The trip from Uruguay carries comparable costs, but a visionary philanthropist’s generous investment in Jewish education is helping Chabad of Uruguay cover much of the $2,400 expense for each teen.
Both rabbis have led groups to the Shabbaton before and have seen teens come home invigorated with a new sense of Jewish pride and engagement. “Crown Heights is legendary for hachnosas orchim,” says Rabbi Mendy Shemtov of Beit Jabad del Uruguay. “The teens feel welcome, and at home among Chasidim, they’re proud to walk on the street as a Jew, and that makes a profound impact.”
The Shabbaton’s programming fuses meaningful Jewish learning, visits to the Rebbe’s Ohel and 770, and talks from inspirational figures with good old-fashioned fun, thrilling trips, and lots of chances to make new friends. “Each year, teens are still talking about Kabbalas Shabbos in Seven Seventy and the visit to the Rebbe’s Ohel,” Rabbi Shemtov says. “The connection they feel is beyond explanation.”
For the eighteen teens who flew from Montevideo, Uruguay, last year, the Shabbaton was a window into what it’s like to live with genuine Jewish pride. “After Shabbat, when everyone took the subway to Times Square and started singing Jewish songs,” Rabbi Mendy Shemtov says, “that just blew them away.”
Jewish pride on the subway was just the start. The teens danced at a Jewish concert as pictures of the Rebbe and photos of teens doing mitzvos were projected onto Times Square billboards. Rabbi Shemtov saw the teens rethink assumptions in real time. “Given what Times Square represents for the teens, the experience transformed their outlook.”
The 15th CTeen Shabbaton reves up on the 2nd of Adar and runs from February 23 to 26. As the date approaches, teens worldwide are eagerly prepping their packing lists. But in many CTeen chapters, they’re also studying. “Teens are coming to Monday night classes on Jewish topics for six months,” Rabbi Levitansky says, “we’re giving them $1,500 towards their tickets.” The learning makes the trip even more meaningful.
“The Shabbaton gives teens a glimpse of how they can bring Judaism into their lives,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, CTeen’s chairman. “It’s just one Shabbos, but it gives teens a taste of authentic Jewish life and empowers them to take leadership roles in their communities back home.”
In Sydney, Rabbi Levitansky has seen the impact firsthand. “In my experience, teens return with an enthusiasm for Jewish life, they’re proud to invite friends to CTeen activities, and they’re motivated to take steps in their personal growth.”
Last year the Uruguayan CTeeners fit into two small New York Airbnbs. This year, they’re renting two whole houses in Brooklyn. “It’s a mofes,” Rabbi Shemtov says, “To be able to bring sixty neshamos to the Rebbe— it’s truly an amazing opportunity.”
Visit CTeen.com/shabbaton for more information or register for the largest CTeen International Shabbaton yet.
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