Dakota Zeihen, Features Editor

Cteen is an international youth group for Jewish teens.  Teenagers that are involved with Cteen do events throughout the year in their chapter and with neighboring chapters.  Chapters are groups of teens that do their Jewish activities together. There are thousands and thousands of events that happen throughout the year that are local events. Once a year Cteen chapters from throughout the world come together in New York for annual Cteen Shabbaton.  

The International Shabbaton started February 22nd and ended on February 24th. Teens from around the world all came to New York that weekend to celebrate their Jewish pride.  While there, teens are able to socialize to meet other teens while doing different Jewish events and attending different speakers.

Many teens arrived on February 21st or in the days before that, so on February 21st, there was a boat ride throughout the Hudson River. While on the boat ride, you were able to see many monuments that were near the river. Plus, you were able to meet new people before the official beginning of the Shabbaton.  The next day, all the chapters had different “tracks” they could do. These tracks included a double-decker bus tour, a tour throughout New York City visiting different monuments, going to an illusion Museum, going to the Statue of Liberty and so much more. Then, later that night boys and girls went to their host families and got ready for Shabbat. Boys went to the Oholei Torah and girls went to Razag.  While there, women light Shabbat candles and had a concert. After that, teens were able to attend many different workshops.

These workshops had many different people that shared their stories, some that tied into Judaism and some that did not. These workshops were influential speeches that gave teens a different look on life. The teens then had dinner before continuing with workshops. The next day was pretty much the same, except for towards the end of the day. At the end of the day, around 6:45, all the Cteeners barded the subway and went to Times Square.  At Times Square there was a concert where Yaakov Shwekey performed. It was a very fun event, where teens shared pride in their Judaism and had fun doing so. Teens also played many games during the Times Square “Takeover”.

After the event, the teens boarded double deckers buses to take them to the dinner. The double-decker bus ride back to the Razag. The teens had dinner and then went back to their host families to go to bed. The next day would be the last day in New York for Cteeners. Buses picked up the teens on Kingston Avenue around 10:15. The buses took the teens to Brooklyn, New York where there was a banquet. While there teens enjoyed food and attended the closing ceremony of the International Shabbaton.  The closing ceremony included speeches from many different teens expressing their challenges and things they have done to incorporate Judaism in their lives. Also, since this years theme was “I Matter”, there were many emotionally videos on things some teens had gone through in their life. The ceremony ended with awards and a concert from Yaakov Shwekey.

Lastly, all the teens boarded the bus again and went to their finish destination before the airport, The Ohel. The Ohel has sacred meaning with Chabad Jews. The Ohel is the resting place of the Rebbe. The Rebbe was a very important figure in Chabad. The teens came to the Ohel and wrote letters that were then ripped at the Rebbe’s grave. People do this with the hope that the Rebbe will read it and return the message to G-d. Teens wrote about their hardships and about what they were doing to keep Judaism alive in their lives.  After ripping the letters came the saddest part of the trip; the goodbyes. The goodbyes are the hardest as you’ve spent so much time with the different people you’ve met. At that time it finally clicks in your brain that these people could live across the world from you. You may not see these people in a year or more. After all the tears, it is time to head home. The buses take all the groups to the airport, where they will board their flights and go back home.

This experience is a once in a lifetime experience that it is unforgettable.  I can say this firsthand as I went this year. I have never felt so connected to my Jewish roots as I did at the Shabbaton.  I created memories that I will never forget and meet people that will forever be the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I can say that I have friends all over the world who will meet in New York again next year for one of the best reunions that I yearn for. I have never felt so proud and welcomed to be Jewish.  I’m not ashamed or afraid of my Jewish roots. I’m a proud Jew, that has experienced so many amazing memories in New York. I cannot wait until next year when I get to experience this amazing experience again and see all of the amazing people I have met through this journey.