Teens Reflect on Impact of Crown Heights Community

Photo: Mendel Strasberg/Rivkah Laber/ Sadya Liberow/Merkos 302

After spending a Shabbos in Crown Heights, immersed in the community and witnessing the tremendous efforts their host families went into to make them comfortable, the CTeens write how it affected them.

From backgrounds as diverse as the colors of their beanies, CTeen Shabbaton participants described encountering the Crown Heights community throughout the weekend as an eye-opening experience. This included dancing in the streets, engaging programs in multiple languages and locations, and, most notably, being hosted and inspired by the welcoming families of Crown Heights.

Each evening, after a jam-packed Schedule, the 3,000 participating teens returned to their hosts for the night. Hundreds of gracious families around the neighborhood embraced them with open arms and genuine warmth. Their willingness to open their homes to these young visitors provided a comfortable and uplifting experience. 

Visitors were in awe of the vibrancy of Jewish life in the flagship Chabad community. Ethan Shill, from Irvine, California, came to the CTeen International Shabbaton for the 5th time, this year as a chaperone. He said he’s always appreciated the magic of the Crown Heights community.

“A community like this is exactly what the teens need to see. Every time I’ve visited, I’ve noticed how all the residents care for one another and have each other’s back here. There’s a positive and welcoming energy here that’s unlike what most people experience in other Jewish communities.”

Rather than host the event at hotels, the Shabbaton has intentionally stuck to the classic Crown Heights model for all its meaningful experiences. Davening in the Rebbe’s Shul, supporting local businesses and engaging with an active Jewish community adds a key layer to this immersive Shabbaton. Attendees have the opportunity to join a selection of meals and farbrengens led by balebatim, mashpiim and speakers from the local community, many of which were hosted in individual homes. 

“The opportunity for the teens to interact with local families in a community setting is invaluable. All the intricate moving parts of a full-fledged Jewish family and community life are on display in Crown Heights,” Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302 and vice-chairman of CTeen. “The success of the CTeen Shabbaton and others throughout the year is thanks to the Crown Heights community and its open-doors. The Rebbe’s vision of Crown Heights as an anchor for the shluchim continues.”

Friday night davening and learning in 770, was a highlight for Shabbaton attendees. The main seating area of 770 was designated for the CTeen program, and everyone else piled into the standing areas. A spirited Davening included a Seder nigunim, with scenes reminiscent of The Rebbe’s farbrengens.

“Being part of such a large crowd singing Ani Maamin is enough to send shivers down my spine at the best of times, especially after we’ve been through since Oct 7th, all the more so in such a holy place with such a diverse group of people.” said  Nadav Whelan, 15, from CTeen Manchester, said, “I’ve never experienced a Friday night like it.” 

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