Texan Professionals Enjoy Uplifting Shabbos Encounter

As the sun dipped low last Friday afternoon, the beautifully set Chabad of Uptown Houston main hall buzzed with the sounds of hundreds of young Jews. Attendees of the CYP Encounter Texas Shabbaton were united by a shared heritage.

As the sun dipped low last Friday afternoon, the beautifully set Chabad of Uptown Houston main hall buzzed with the sounds of hundreds of young Jews. For many attendees of the CYP Encounter Texas Shabbaton, both locals and visitors from all over Texas and beyond, the Friday Night meal transpired to be a highlight of a busy weekend. Singing classic melodies together and meeting like-minded individuals from other cities. United by a shared heritage and seeking community spirit in troubling times for the Jewish people.

After a vibrant evening prayer service, the Shabbat dinner was led by Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff of YJP Houston, leading the assembled crowd of young professionals in familiar Jewish songs. Israeli Consul Elad Shoshan addressed the crowd, reminding them that in these turbulent times in Israel and around the world, the Diaspora community must be upstanding and active. When those who need to advocate for their brethren are silent, that allows the enemies of the Jewish people to raise their heads.

“I didn’t expect to stay there until 12.30 am answering questions,” Elad told the organizers after the event. “Meeting so many young passionate people from around the States was a real pleasure and a testament to the work of Chabad that they all gathered together. It was heartening to see how eager and curious the crowd was to discuss what’s happening in Israel at the moment, matters of public diplomacy, and the future of The Jewish people.”

As one of many Chabad Young Professional getaways, the weekend allowed old acquaintances to reconnect and new relationships to be formed, something especially critical in this day and age. Houston accountant Kayla Barshop said, “I was able to create meaningful connections with so many new people. Meeting people from all levels of observance meant we could all learn from each other, an experience I’ll cherish.”

Shabbos’s program included a moving speech by Bob Ulman, a local holocaust survivor. The audience was captivated by an address that included both emotional recollections and upbeat hope for the future. Narrowly escaping Belgium from the nazis in 1940 together with his family, Bob offered a glimpse into recent Jewish history, which he candidly acknowledges at the age of 86 is dwindling with the ongoing demise of his generation.

“I am relying on you, the young Jewish professionals, to be the future of the Jewish people, to love being Jewish, and to participate in the community,” Bob concluded to much applause, “I have never been more proud as a Jew than since I have joined Chabad.” 

CYP Director Rabbi Beryl Frankel said this is the essence of what the Shabbaton aims to achieve “As both Bob and Elad emphasized, communal participation and leadership by the younger generation is the key to Jewish continuity. Creating a space where the future community leaders can connect and build meaningful relationships is of utmost importance.”

Participants reported on the impact of spending time together with other young Jews, allowing the age-old tradition of Shabbos to work its magic. “I haven’t kept Shabbat since I was in camp as a kid,” reported Lauren Goodman, a hospitality professional from Austin. “This week, I turned off my phone around 4 pm on Friday and didn’t turn it back on until after the axe-throwing activity on Saturday night. It was so special to interact with new people without technology getting in the way and build genuine connections as fellow humans.”

As the Shabbaton concluded on Sunday afternoon, participants volunteered for two local charities, preparing meals for the homeless with the special children of Friendship Circle and joining Aishel House to distribute meals to the families of hospital patients. After a personally uplifting time, it was important to the attendees to give of themselves to others in need too. 

Hearing the individual stories of the Shabbaton’s impact, Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of CYP’s umbrella organization Merkos 302, said, “We are seeing events like these organically cultivate Jewish pride and belonging, which is hard to achieve otherwise. In times when Jewish people face challenges in the workplace daily, feeling connected to your brethren is invaluable.”

The CYP Encounter Texas Shabbaton was made possible by
Rabbi Chaim and Chanie Lazaroff – YJP Uptown Houston
Rabbi Mendy and Mussi Levertov – CYP Austin
Rabbi Mendy and Mushka Plotkin – CYP Dallas
Rabbi Yossi and Manya Lazaroff – Chabad of College Station 
Rabbi Eli Nochum and Tzivia Block – CYP San Antonio
Aishel House Houston
Friendship Circle Houston
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch
Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Executive Director of Merkos 302 
Rabbi Beryl Frankel, Director of  CYP International at Merkos 302
Rabbi Hershy Weinstein, Assistant Director of CYP International 
Dassi Gansburg, Coordinator of CYP’s Met@Chabad Initiative 

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