It’s a story that came full circle. A Tefillin-wearing teen inspired his friend to don the daily prayer straps. And it’s all thanks to CTeen International’s latest initiative: Mitzvah Ambassadors.
Mitch Kupriyanov, a senior at the Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, started praying with Tefillin over a year ago. “I was inspired by both my rabbi and last year’s Shabbaton. Tefillin felt like the natural next step.” Mitch received his pair via CTeen at the beginning of last year. But the story doesn’t end there.
This past month, his local CTeen Rabbi, Yossi Denburg, requested their chapter to send their friends a link to CTeen’s Tefillin bank. “I thought, hmm, who do I know that could use Tefillin,” said Mitch. When he met up with Forest Weiss at the gym the following day, his question was answered. As it turns out, a mutual friend of theirs, Adam, had already sent Forest the link. But meeting Mitch and hearing that he had been praying with Tefillin for the past year encouraged Forest to go for it.
“I have always wanted to know how to pray with Tefillin, I watched my friends do it, so my initial reaction was ‘Yes!’” said Forest, “I’m really excited and grateful for this opportunity.”
Thanks to this latest project, already 204 teenagers have committed to encouraging a friend to fulfill a mitzvah. When a student signs up, their name is placed in the Mitzvah Ambassador database.
Project coordinator Risa Mond explains, “The goal is to increase the idea that you don’t have to be a rabbi or a CTeen leader. It’s if you know a Jewish friend, you’re able to give something.”
“We’re excited about this program,” says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302, CTeen’s parent platform, “It’s clear that teenagers are in a unique position to motivate; we’ve seen tremendous success.”
To date, the Mitzvah Ambassadors have given out 131 Shabbat Candle Kits, 43 Mezuzot, 51 Tzedaka Boxes and 14 pairs of Tefillin. There are 58 teenagers now committed to studying Torah.
In a report from Rosyln, NY, local CTeen director Rabbi Yaakov Wilansky shared that: “This Chanukah, our chapter was going around the neighborhood, giving menorahs to people who didn’t have them. Without the Mitzvah Ambassadors program, these teens would have never reached out.” In Rosyln alone, 40 extra menorahs were lit because of ordinary teenagers. And across the world, 67 ambassadors handed out over 100 menorahs.
CTeen International is looking forward to increasing those numbers this Pesach. Any teen who signs up to be an ambassador will receive free matzah to distribute to their peers. Teens in your area can sign up today at mitzvah.cteen.com/matzah.
Thanks goes to the Meromim Foundation for their visionary partnership with CTeen in enabling this monumental project.