2 years ago The Connections Staff 0
Shai Fichtelberg// CTeen Sonoma County, California
On the border of Central and South America, we find our next stop for “Travel Thursday.” Say hola to CTeen Panama!
Shlomo Poliwoda, who heads the CTeen chapter, is a Baal Tshuva originally from Venezuela, but moved to Panama later in his life. Six years ago, he was given the chance to work with local Panama teens, and knowing how important these adolescent years are, he didn’t hesitate to take up the opportunity.
Since founding the chapter, the goal of CTeen Panama has always been to inspire and help teens discover the power of Judaism. Shlomo shared that he wants his teens to feel proud to be Jewish because “Judaism is for them, and that’s who they are.”
Today, CTeen Panama is one big family; CTeener Sarah Hinkendinker feels at home in the chapter’s welcoming environment. “Something that has surprised me is how fast you can pass from being strangers to being family,” Sarah says.
For Ariel Felsenstein, CTeen Panama has given him a chance to make lasting friendships and great memories. “I could say that CTeen Panama is amazing,” Ariel says. “How big, loving and amazing everyone is makes us one of the best chapters you can find.”
Over the years, the Panama community has seen and felt the amazing impact CTeen has made through their volunteer work. For example, during the COVID-19 lockdown Chabad of Bocas had no tourists. Since Chabad of Bocas relies heavily on tourism to form their minyan, CTeen Panama got together and went for Tishrei to do a minyan in Bocas Del Toro. Go Cteen Panama!
Other community work they’ve done includes gathering donations of food and clothing for the less fortunate; sending out 80 menorahs to homes last Chanukah; and spreading the mitzvah of Sukkot with their mobile Sukkah. They also have a Mitzvah tank, an RV they drive around which helps members of the community fulfill mitzvot. According to Shlomo, the Mitzvah tank has been the highlight of his CTeen career.
As we all know, the power of youth is not to be underestimated and CTeen Panama proves this. They have been able to bring so much light, and we can’t wait to see what’s next. Let’s all follow in CTeen Panama’s footsteps and take on a mitzvah!