2 years ago The Connections Staff 0
Shai Fichtelberg// CTeen Sonoma County, California
For this week’s “Travel Thursday,” we are taking a voyage to Mexico to bring you…CTeen Cancun.
Fourteen years ago, Mendel and Rachel Druk made the 3,300 mile move from New York to Mexico to start a Chabad. Once it was established, Rachel created various programs for her local community, such as “Mommy and Me” classes and a Hebrew school. But there was one thing missing: a teen presence.
Rachel’s passion for working with teens led her to reach out to local parents in 2015 to convince them to let their teens go on the 2016 CTeen International Shabbaton. “I took four teens to a truly life-changing experience in New York,” she said, and immediately formed a CTeen chapter after getting home.
Today, CTeen Cancun is made up of 14 to 16 Jewish teens, and Rachel was able to take 10 of them to 2020’s INTL Shabbaton. Though their chapter events are always exciting (her fave is their annual Chanukah event), she says that “there’s nothing like the International Shabbaton experience.” That’s something we can all agree on!
“The Shabbaton is where teens can live and breathe Judaism on a whole different level,” Rachel says. “It is just the most incredible life-changing experience for the teens, and it makes them so proud to be Jewish.”
Lisa Plotnik, a teen from CTeen Cancun, shares her first experience with CTeen, “On the Shabbaton, I got to meet all these amazing people from around the world…It was so amazing.” After attending the Shabbaton, Lisa went home to Mexico excited about CTeen, but then COVID-19 began to spread…
While COVID-19 has created many new challenges, Rachel took these hardships and used them to create more Zoom programs like teaching her teens Hebrew or having weekly game nights with chapters from New York and New Jersey. Lisa explains that “Corona happened but I still joined all the Zooms for CTeen and it changed me. I got more into Judaism and the Jewish community and learned what it means to be a Jewish teen.”
Joining CTeen changed Lisa’s view of the Jewish world and showed her how she can be part of the Jewish community even if she is “just a teen.” We can all learn from Lisa, the power we hold as Jewish teens is so important and we should continue to keep spreading our light even if we can’t be together right now.
While Cancun may have a small Jewish community, they are definitely strong. Mendel and Rachel greet thousands of tourists throughout the year and have been able to share their passion for Judaism within their community. We wish nothing but the best for CTeen Cancun and, G-d willing, next year they will bring all the Jewish teens of Cancun to the INTL Shabbaton!
FYI: The Druk family invites every CTeener to come visit them in beautiful Cancun!