A Shabbaton To Remember
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CTeen of Singers Hill shares their recap of their EPIC trip to New York for the CTeen Shabbaton.
An early 6am meet up at Birmingham Airport set our jam packed day off to a thrilling start. We all received personalised passport cases from Rachel and had a brief introduction to what the trip would withhold. This was the first time we sat on the floor as a whole group, preparing ourselves for the next few days and anticipating the events which would soon change us forever.
We began our trip after an exhausting 9 hour flight by waiting for a taxi outside JFK international . Little did we know that a white limo would soon pull up, just for us; we were stunned with shock and amazement. We ran towards the limo, took pictures whilst sat on the front and then set off to Crown Heights. During the journey we listened to the CTEEN anthem on full blast and repeat as well as other uplifting Jewish songs. Our first stop was a textiles shop where we got to see how people made many types of Jewish gifts such as Tallis bags and challah covers. Next we went to the basement which we were going to stay at for the next 4 days. Racing into the entrance to choose the best room to sleep in, we settled in and then went straight out to crown heights centre . We walked around the beautiful and welcoming area and saw an array of Jewish shops that sold items from cooking equipment to tzitzit and kippas. The community greeted us with warmth and a sense of belonging (even though it was the first time in NY for all of us). On the first day we also briefly visited 770 for a glimpse of the lively atmosphere however we continued to visit it throughout the weekend. We learned about the Rebbe and the amazing, holy work he did. We saw people learning about our religion and praying at various times of day showing dedication and a sense of unification towards Judaism. The inclusive atmosphere of crown heights allowed us to feel at home and inspired us all. After a quick bagel stop and opportunities to shop and buy gifts for back home, we made our way to sign in snd then back to the basement and got ready to hit the streets of Manhattan. After our first tube journey we excitedly made our way to Sephora, then we walked to Mr Broadway restaurant, all shattered after the long day, and enjoyed delicious kosher meals with Davinas cousin. We thought our day was over, but no, the Empire State Building was awaiting us! After standing in line we finally got to the top of the one and only Empire State Building and were all mesmerised by the fantastic view of New York. We took hundreds of photos of the magnificent sights and then made our way back to the basement in an uber.
The second day was here. Statue of Liberty and 9/11 memorial here we come. We started the day off early in the morning by getting breakfast with all the other teens. We then grouped up with a chapter from Florida, coconut creek, and collected our packed lunches. After Making lots of new friends on the tube, and waiting in long queues, we finally reached liberty island. We walked around the iconic statue, past a group from France jamming and dancing to blasting Israeli music, and took even more tourist like pictures. Then we headed towards the 9/11 memorial. A surreal feeling like no other, all captivated by the unique atmosphere, we had a moment of reflection to think about all the innocent people who lost their lives in the terrible attack. Next we went to Westfield shopping centre,fascinated by the modern architecture, we had time to go round the beautiful building, and Samantha managed to get the air pods she had been longing for. Before Shabbat came in, we made our way back to the basement, got dressed and headed for beis rivkah school where we welcomed in Shabbat with a concert. All the CTEEN girls were dancing and singing and then unitedly lit the shabbos candles in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
We started off the holy Shabbat by attending various inspiring workshops to do with this years theme, ” I matter”. Within a few hours our knowledge of Judaism grew immensely and we had further opportunities to meet and talk to new girls. It was soon time for our shabbos feast.
We were sat with a chapter from Colombia and enjoyed the delicious meat meal, Samantha managed to source some vegetarian options and Davina drenched the French group with seltzer, followed by more signing and dancing as a group. After the meal we attended a few more workshops and then made our way back to the basement after another tiring but unforgettable day.
On Shabbos we woke up and got dressed and went down to breakfast. After that we went to a talk called ‘The secret to Jewish relationships’ by a man called HardCharlie.
He answered and discussed with the group around 10 questions based on relationships and what is important to maintain healthy ones. After that Davina and Maya went to another talk whilst the other girls went down to a banquet hall and met knew people who we all stay in contact with. The speech Davina and Maya attended was by Former Pasteur, Rabbi Yaakob Parisi, it was based around the idea that nothing is an accident, and everything happens for a reason, its G-D’s plan.
His story was inspirational as he helped many people find their way and path. After this we walked to Rachels friend Simcha’s house where we met her and her family and she cooked us a wonderful really tasty lunch. It was very nice to meet her and for her to welcome us all so warmly to Crown Heights. After this Davina, Samatha and I went to a question and answer session led by an panel of rabbis, where we learnt about the just view on various social topics. The others we went back to our apartment and we met them soon after. We all read a story by a former radio DJ and music director Donna Halper. In her story she tells asks the Rebbe about the Woman’s role in Orthodox Judaism and then Judaism’s view on the place of the woman in Jewish life as her herself couldn’t have children. From this we learned that the division of Judaism into “Orthodox, conservative, Reform” etc. is a purely artificial one as all Jews have one and the same Torah given by the one and same G-d, though there are more and less observant Jews but to tag on a “label” does not change the reality and then that she need not feel bad for not being able to fulfil this mitzvah as it was out of her control and she would not be judged harshly. After reading this story some time passed and Shabbat was then over. We got ready quite quickly and left to get the subway to Times square along with loads of other Cteeners. On the subway you could hear people from the nearby carriages chanting the Cteen anthem, an obviously we all joined in. When we arrived at time square it was packed!! There was barely any space to move about but it all added to the amazing electric atmosphere. The concert started and was amazing!! We partied in the heart of the city that never sleeps, it felt surreal but also extremely exciting and filled us with adrenaline we would later need as we arrived back to Crown Heights for dinner via a double decker roofless bus. When we got back we ate, danced and partied for hours.
Finally, the last day…. despite us all going to bed at 2am that day, we woke up at 7 and started to pack and get ready for another action-packed day Rachel had planned for us. As we said goodbye to the host, we walked outside to find ourselves standing in the rain whilst waiting for an uber. We then got to where the coaches were, put our suitcases in and got on to start the journey to the Ohel with a bunch of teens from other chapters. The Ohel is the Rebe’s resting place, many Jews go there to write notes to G-d and the Rebe to ask for many different things, such a good health for their family or questions for example; ask for permission to do a certain act, like getting married. In return you should do a mitzvah. We arrived at the Ohel and started writing our notes, then walked outside to the resting place. We read our notes then ripped them up and put them on the grave of the Rebe in hope and reassurance he will answer our prayers. After the touching experience of the Ohel we went to a food banquet and the finale concert where we met everyone from Cteen for the last time. After we ate cakes and bagels we went to the concert where many teenagers talked about their experience in life and how Judaism helped them. We all felt it was really good and gave us an insight to what some people have to go through. After the speakers spoke we listened to Yaakov Shwekey who is a Jewish music artist and he sang some amazing songs! We had an amazing time and said some sad goodbye’s then got onto our coach and headed to JFK airport for our long flight home
Thank you CTeen, from all of us!