In a First, All French CTeen Group to Travel to Israel

When Rabbi Mendy Matusof, the Chabad shliach to Pau in southern France, heard that there was finally going to be an all-French language trip to Israel for Jewish teenage girls, it lit a light bulb in his head.

When Rabbi Mendy Matusof, the Chabad shliach to Pau in southern France, heard that there was finally going to be an all-French language trip to Israel for Jewish teenage girls, it lit a light bulb in his head. He recalled a Jewish family living in a remote town an hour’s drive from Lannemezan and remembered that they had a teenage daughter. When he inquired for more details about the trip, he discovered that it was being arranged by CTeen Summer at Merkos 302, and more importantly, that it was geared specifically for teenagers who aren’t otherwise so engaged with the Jewish community.

It was literally a perfect fit. It was as if this trip was custom-designed for this one teenager.

So he jumped into his car and drove the hour-plus to Lannemezan. After speaking with the family and extolling the merits and benefits of traveling together with other Jewish teenagers on a trip to Israel, no less, Mandy was signed up. He was shocked to learn that this was her first-ever Jewish experience. Growing up in Lannemezan, there isn’t any shul, other Jewish friends, or programs to attend. This upcoming summer trip will G-d willing be her introduction to Judaism.

“After many years of arranging wonderfully successful programs all over the country, we saw the need to zero in on the underserved demographic of teenagers who aren’t otherwise involved in anything,” said Rabbi Mendy Mottal, who together with his wife Haya, co-directs CTeen for the entire France.

Speaking from his Parisian office, Mottal describes the unique situation in France. “Baruch Hashem, in just over ten years, CTeen has grown exponentially here. Just this past year, we brought a group of 600 teenagers to the CTeen Shabbaton in New York. With so much engagement and close to 5000 teenagers enrolled in our program countrywide, two things became clear: one, we need our own unique programming—in French, by French speakers. Number two, it was time to take the next step and try to reach past the first layer of engagement and touch those who aren’t usually reached.

“And so, in just a matter of a few months, we threw together a first-class itinerary and program for French speakers: a highly subsidized 22-day summer trip to Israel. We are excited to see how much impact it’s going to make on these under-engaged teenagers.”

While the parent program in the United States has been running successfully since 2016, growing in numbers each year, France is an entirely different story. “European norms are much different than in the States. So while it’s normal and accepted for teenagers to spend a significant amount of money on trips and activities, that’s not really the case here in France. So, each year, we saw the incredible summer programs for the American teenagers and could only look on wistfully.

“This year, thanks to a jointly funded voucher by Mosaic United and Rabbi Bentzi Lipsker of the Meromim Foundation, that have generously subsidized the program, we have been able to bring the CTeen energy and this remarkable Jewish experience to France.”

While the hubbub of Jewish life in France centers around a few major cities such as Paris, Lyon, and Strasbourg, registration for this particular program is pulling from all sort of remote corners of the country. Currently sitting at thirty participants, they hail from seventeen different cities, with little-known names such as Orleans and Pau, For many participants, in fact, for most of them like Eden from Pau this will be their very first Jewish experience. Four dedicated, French-speaking staff members have been hired as counselors for the trip, headed by Mrs. Shlomit Atlan, CTeen shluchah to Rennes, France.

As they trek around the Holy Land and take in the sanctity, the Jewish pride and heritage, and soak in the inspiration, these French teenagers no longer have to crane their ears to a foreign tongue and scratch their head trying to translate. Of course, that can only make everything all the more impactful—which it surely will.

“As Jewish teenagers across the world become involved and energized by the trademark CTeen Jewish excitement, we’re excited to see various groups come together and deliver that experience in their native tongue,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch and Chairman of CTeen International. “To see so many French speakers, and from such remote locations within their own country speaks to the Rebbe’s far-reaching vision of touching every single Jew, wherever they may be.”

For more information regarding the CTeen Israel Journey French Trip email [email protected] 

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