CTeen Shabbaton Fun By Risa Mond

9 years ago Leighest 0

In the past few years, Chabad has played a significant role in my life. I have worked at Camp Gan Izzy for the last three summers where I met new girls from all around the country. The knowledge I gained about the teachings of Judasim, while at camp, ignited an inspiration that has pushed me to strengthen my Jewish identity. My fellow counselors impacted me so much so that I convinced my parents to allow me to attend Yavneh Academy of Dallas, a modern orthodox Jewish day school. Because of my incredible experiences I had at the Chabad camp, Judaism has become more prevalent in my daily life than I ever deemed possible.


A few months ago, friends of mine encouraged me to attend the CTeen Shabbaton in New York. At first I was very hesitant to sign up, but I took the risk and decided to go anyways. Upon arrival in New York, I immediately realized that signing up for the shabbaton was one of the greatest decisions I had made.


After a five-hour plane ride, I was elated when smiling faces greeted me at the Jewish Children’s Museum. Arriving at our host home at 2 am, our lovely host mom waited up to meet us and ensure that our first night was as comfortable as possible. Residing at a home, rather than a hotel, was very refreshing. It made the weekend more meaningful and gave us a taste of what it is like to be a teenager living in Crown Heights.


On Friday, we had the opportunity to bond with other CTeen attendees on the streets of New York — shopping, eating and exploring the city. Friday night was filled with cheering, laughter, prayers, singing, and words of wisdom from the wise singer and songwriter Alex Clare. Hearing Alex’s story about how and why he decided to become Chabad was very moving. He showed me that with a lot of faith, hard work, and tenacity, you can be anyone you want, no matter what world you come from.


Saturday morning was filled with round table discussions about relationships, prayers, and more. Questions were tossed-around left and right, and it amazed me how the Rabbis (and Alex) could respond so eloquently and immediately. They shared personal stories and spoke with such purpose that only enhanced their credibility.


I enjoyed an hour-long discussion with Alex, who gave his insights on a variety of Jewish topics. Not many teenagers can say they had a deep-conversation with a pop-star. This truly shows how being Jewish can connect us all, whether we have a hit song, ranked number 7, or we are just an ordinary teen attending a Shabbaton.


Saturday night, standing in Times Square on the big red steps, I was in awe. As I looked at more than 1,000 Jewish teens congregating for havdalah in the heart of New York City, a wave of pride came over me. Alex’s voice resonated throughout the crowd as he sang the prayers as well as popular Jewish songs. Photos of teens doing Mitzvot and Jewish sayings were flashing on billboards for all the spectators to view. That havdalah reminded me how far we, as Jews, have come.

I was not expecting to be as sensitive as I was at the Rebbe’s Ohel the next morning. Writing the letter and releasing all my feelings was extremely emotional. While lighting the candle, I felt rejuvenated and like a higher power was surrounding me. After ripping up my letter and throwing it onto The Rebbe’s grave, I felt so much relief. In the crazy world we live in, we get so few moments of true clarity. As weird as it felt, it felt right, like for that second, everything was going to be okay because someone was watching out for me.


At closing ceremonies, when the speaker told us that someone was not able to make it to the shabbaton, I was not expecting what was to come next. My thoughts were surpassed when a fellow CTeener, Phillip, appeared on the video board. When he explained that he has a metastatic brain tumor, my jaw dropped. Even though I had never met him before, I felt connected with Phillip in some way; automatically I wanted to do something for him. At that point I made a promise to myself that I would keep the Mitzvot that I wrote down on the pledge card,, in his honor.


That weekend I experienced a series of emotions — shock, awe, pride, sadness, relief and excitement. But most important, I was inspired to make a difference in the world. I was truly shown the power of youth and how we are the next generation. It is up to us teens to carry on the Jewish peoples’ customs and make a good name for Jews all around the world. Even though some were competing for best chapter, leader, or director, nobody was a competitor. We are yachad; we are together. We are one in accomplishing the greater mission at hand. If I learned one thing during the shabbaton; I realized that it is not just about saying we will make a difference, it is all about doing.

-Risa Mond (North Texas)