CTeen Launches First Spanish-Speaking Heritage Quest

CTeen Summer at Merkos 302 launches a tailored journey for Spanish-speaking Jewish teens, providing a sense of belonging and a chance to explore their heritage in their native tongue.

CTeen Summer at Merkos 302 launches a tailored journey for Spanish-speaking Jewish teens, providing a sense of belonging and a chance to explore their heritage in their native tongue.

For a number of years now, Jewish teenagers across the country have come to look forward to the highlight of their summer: the annual CTeen trip to Poland and Israel. Arranged by CTeen Summer at Merkos 302, this 22-day journey is an exciting blend of heritage discovery, good old-fashioned thrilling fun, and memory-making experiences. Each year, the cohort of teenagers lucky enough to join come back enthused and inspired.

What started as a handful of teenagers from the United States alone has burgeoned into a large group from all over the world; from just one busload of teenagers rolling across the country to a fleet of eight buses. As the demand has grown and new funding from Mosaic United became available to support youth movements in bringing international students to Israel, the opportunity for a broader audience became an imminent reality.  And with that diversification, the need for a more suitable program for each language group has become increasingly urgent.

One particularly large group is the Spanish speakers, hailing from a number of countries across South and Central America. Recognizing the need for an entirely Spanish program, Rabbi Chai Kohan, Director of Merkos 302’s Spanish Desk, kicked into high gear, and in a matter of just a few months, a CTeen Summer Spanish program was born. For the first time ever, no longer will these teenagers need to translate, adapt, or try to fit in. Everything about this trip will be just for them, in their native tongue.

“Each year, we observe that although the benefit of making international friends is powerful, the teenagers who don’t speak English struggle to participate in the program fully,” said Rabbi Nachman Rivkin from CTeen Summer at Merkos 302. “That we’re able to offer this unique program entirely for them—from A to Z in Spanish—really opens new doors for them and allows them to get the full experience. We’re very excited to finally offer them the best possible option.”

Coming from countries such as Argentina, Panama, Uruguay, and Peru, close to thirty teenagers are scheduled to join the inaugural trip. Venerable Shliach Rabbi Tzvi Lipinski of Beit Jabad Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires will lead the Spanish-speaking trip and experienced counselors Chaim Acosta and Ber Chaim Arcusin, also of Buenos Aires will be joining as well. The program guide and learning material the teenagers are required to study prior to the trip are all in Spanish. The tour guides scheduled in Poland and Israel are also Spanish speakers.

In short, this isn’t an English-language trip with some Spanish sprinkled in. From the ground up, everything was overhauled and changed to fit the language and style of teenagers living in that part of the world.

One interesting dynamic that results from the language change is the reality that nearly all the participants live in the Southern Hemisphere—where the months of July and August are right in the middle of the winter. Though one week of the trip coincides with their winter break, teenagers coming along are making quite a commitment, taking off an entire week of school to join.

But, of course, it’s worth it. From the thrill and the fun to the deep, immersive Jewish experiences, the rave reviews keep coming in. “Coming along with experienced guides and walking down the alleyways of history and tradition on this packed itinerary has a tremendous impact on every teenager who joins,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Chairman of CTeen International and Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch. “The strong, proud, and joyous Jewish identity that’s fostered on these trips is something unique to the setting and environment, and to see it come back with the teenagers who participate is nothing short of exhilarating.

“To be able to now offer that to our Spanish-speaking teenagers is a further privilege, and we can’t wait to see the results when they return.”

The 2023 Spanish trip departs in Warsaw on July 9th. The group will travel through several cities in Poland culminating in Krakow, where the group is scheduled to depart to Israel on July 14th where they will spend the remainder of the trip through July 30th. 

For more information and to register today, visit https://www.cteensummer.com/viaje Message Merkos 302 on Whatsapp for any questions, comments, or sponsorship opportunities.

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