Teen Leaders Spearhead Purim Initiatives To Include Fellow Teens

CTeen leaders from around the world initiate creative programs to involve their peers in celebrating the joy of Purim.

In the shadow of increased hateful rhetoric facing young Jews in school and online, CTeen leaders around the world saw the need to share the message of Purim with as many others as possible. From pitching creative Purim ideas to donors to planning, implementing, and coordinating volunteers, teens rose to the occasion to ensure the Purim celebration made its mark among the teen community.

Rather than cower alone in the dim blue light of their devices, these teens embraced teamwork, ingenuity and creative solutions to ensure local Jewish teens felt a sense of community this Purim. Galvanizing to pack Mishloach Manos packages, distribute them to others, and coordinate immersive celebrations, the build-up to Purim was a time for Jewish teens to put aside the difficulties of high school life for an age-old tradition with friends.

“As leader of my CTeen Chapter, I am always looking for new ways to bring in more teens to join our activities,” says Liza Begelfer, a 10th grader from Monmouth County. “It’s so important for teens to have a social group where they can feel at home, and not have to deal with any affront to their Jewish identity as is often the case in school.” Having attended Chabad’s Hebrew School as a young child, Liza has always been passionate about sharing her religion.

With many Jewish teens having experienced antisemitism online or in school in recent months. Purim, a celebration of Jewish resilience against their oppressors, was seen as the perfect occasion to engage with more youth than ever before and celebrate our identity with pride. With no one better to reach new teens than the teens themselves, CTeen pioneered a “Transform Purim” a shark tank-like competition to garner the best ideas for maximizing this celebration locally.

Teens from Manchester, UK, to Calgary, Canada, and dozens of places in between, pitched their ideas to a panel of “sharks” led by Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302, to invest in their local initiative. Liza’s idea was to create games that incorporated the four mitzvot of Purim in an exciting way by organizing a teen-only Purim party on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Solomon Gholian, CTeen leader in New Haven, pitched the idea to stage a GIF competition inspired by Mishloach Manos GIFs to see whose Purim GIF could go most viral for a prize reward. For the two CTeen leaders in Rochester, NY, under the direction of Rabbi Yitzi and Risha Hein, the ambitious pitch was to reach every single teen in the city with a personal Mishloach Manos package. A project which required significant manpower, and garnered the attention of local news.

In the classic Jewish response to adversity, the program saw hundreds of teens who may not have experienced Purim otherwise be able to join in with their youth community and celebrate their heritage. “One of the core Purim themes is being able to recognize our responsibility to step up in a time of crisis,” says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302. “Seeing these teens truly living up to the moment and ensuring that every local teen felt included gives us hope for a bright Jewish future.”

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