7 years ago Leighest 0
Archie Weindruch, Quad Cities, IL
I hungered for betterment. I did not feed myself very well.
These statements could very well summarize the earlier portion of the summer of 5773 (2013) for me. I had just finished tenth grade and would be entering eleventh grade at the end of the summer in my public high school. My typical day started around noon and finished at four in the morning. Aside from rolling out of bed and clambering back into it, not much was very noteworthy. I sure chose to spend my time wisely…
My summer began to change when, via separate channels, my mother and father were informed regarding a Jewish boys’ camp called “CTeen Xtreme.” I looked into the basics.
“Welcome to CTeen Xtreme 2013, the ultimate summer outdoor adventure.
CTeen Xtreme is a unique travel camp geared toward today’s American high school student. Our program promises to boost your teen’s self-esteem, with extreme sports instruction, extreme trips, and an extreme love for being Jewish.
For two adventurous weeks, your son will experience the great American Southwest. We will travel through six states and explore the uniqueness of each through extreme trip.”
~ A Note From the Director: travelingjewishteens.com
During previous years, I had been to three overnight camps. They had merits, but I was still looking for an environment where, on a social and spiritual level, I could grow.
CTeen Xtreme was definitely interesting.
Following a few days of questing for more information, I had spoken with the camp director, Rabbi Zalman Notik, and had thoroughly browsed the program’s website. I had a decision to make.
With great thanks to the Rauch Foundation and the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities for generous camperships and the efforts of my parents, two and a half weeks later I was standing at a baggage claim terminal in the Denver airport, making my way to the group.
Was it going to be the right fit? I still was not sure.
When I reached the predetermined meeting place, there were about ten teenage boys already there. With a smile and what seemed like a flurry of names and faces, I introduced myself, and was introduced. I forgot the identities my new companions almost immediately, but I was not concerned, as we would have the entire trip to get to know each other. We spent the next few hours in the airport as more boys continued to arrive. Suffice to say, it was the most enjoyable and fun time I have spent in a baggage claim terminal, as of yet.
I felt such intense and warm positive energy emanating from the group. Being with the other boys and staff felt completely natural. Staffers asked if we had put on tefillin, and offered to help us do so if we had not. One of the staff, who I later learned to be CTeen Xtreme’s Head Rabbi, Moshe Rapaport, was sitting on the floor studying something. When I inquired as to what the something was, he explained about learning daily parts of the week’s Torah portion. I asked to join him, and we began to learn Chumash. Not so much as an hour into the trip, it was already apparent that CTeen Xtreme was a spiritual journey. I set my concerns to ease.
Unity was inspiring on CTeen Xtreme.
A common idea in the world of today is for one to consider oneself to be independent. I cite lack of codified morals a major cause for this supposed isolationism which leads to insecurity, presumptuous judgement, and negativity. With CTeen, things were different. Initially, we connected on superficial levels. Hobbies, interests, inclinations, and experiences were discussed. Within a day, we were working toward deeper connections. We went to each other to examine ourselves. We were striving for greater senses of how to relate to humanity, of self, and of G-d. We learned of morals taught in Torah, and we realized that we can relate to the world and that we are a part of a much broader picture than ourselves.
We helped each other grow stronger.
CTeen Xtreme was a spiritual, mental, and physical voyage through the Southwestern United States. As such, there were many occasions that evoked fears. Some who were afraid of heights balked at the prospect of climbing a ladder up the face of a cliff, others felt panic when considering riding a horse, and some dreaded the thought of displaying their Judaism in public with a kippah and tzitzit. To us CTeeners, however, the qualms of other people was not a source of amusement, nor was it a subject to mock. We supported and encouraged. The members of the group did not use their hands to point and laugh, but instead to help pull someone up from his worries. I found this to be truly beautiful. We reinforced in each other the knowledge that for every challenge G-d gives to us, He also gives the ability to accomplish a successful end result.
Our bus trips were special.
An opportunity to bond, the bus rides, at times, inspired us greatly. While parked, we jumped from our seats and danced in the isle, The bus literally was rocking when we partied to the song “Rabi Nachman”. We felt our souls being stimulated by other songs, such as “Pure Soul” by DeScribe, “Happy Hanukkah” and “One Day” by Matisyahu, and “Hang ‘em Low,” a song about wearing tzitzit by our very talented staffers. We ate, we slept, and we transcended the mundane on that beautiful bus. It became a forum and a continuous farbrengen (Yiddish for gathering of meaningful learning and discussion, commonly in festive atmosphere). At the CTeen Xtreme farewell banquet, we shared our favorite memories of the camp. The bus rides were mentioned fondly and frequently.
The staffers were phenomenal.
Being responsible and managing the well-being of forty individuals can seem a daunting challenge. Thankfully, the CTeen Xtreme staff was more than capable. The organized, smooth, fulfilling and EXTREME!!!! trips, activities, and accommodations are testament to the toils and efforts of our staff. More than the planning and execution of the camp experience, the staffers led effectively, but not by simply demanding obedience. They earned our respect, admiration, and trust. The staffers became our friends, confidants, mentors, and acted with us as peers. One of the most amazing aspects of CTeen Xtreme is that such a wonderful environment of Jewish growth came without being forced. We were not told to pray, to wear tzitzit, to keep Shabbat, or to don tefillin; we were offered opportunities. The staffers’ understanding, gentle, and loving guidance inspired our group to increase in good. They showed us to represent Judaism and G-d in our actions. With their help, we accomplished mitzvot on the Los Angeles beachfront, in national parks, in mountain-high Colorado, and on the Las Vegas strip. We saw the power of doing good and loving our Judaism.
CTeen Xtreme enriched our lives.
The staffers provided amazing insight-insight discerned by the study of Torah, which led to revelation. G-d gave us a moral compass which applies to all situations. We realized that devoting our energy to seeking pleasure does not lead to fulfillment, and it does not result in pleasure either, as shown by much of our dissatisfactions and doubts. True pleasure is a result of being good and seeing good. The many lessons learned on this trip are invaluable. The love and trust between some forty boys acted as a blazing beacon of the flame of Judaism. The light still spreads and illuminates.
The inspiration continues today.
We make efforts to be connected through Facebook, Skype, and by phone. We share good news, we learn, and we relate experiences of Divine Intervention. Posting and browsing pictures or stories of CTeeners doing mitzvot brightens my day. We talk, we encourage, and we continue to grow. The increased confidence and trust built in our group and carried into the world brings joy to my soul. Thank G-d, many of us have changed our daily routines to include more of the way of Torah, and it has benefitted us greatly. CTeen Xtreme opened our eyes to the marvelous good of this world. For that, I am infinitely thankful.
May G-d continue to reveal the light of the good of this world! Moshiach now!