My Home Away From Home by Chana Pauli

5 years ago Leighest 1

 

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I first joined CTeen in 9th grade, through the chapter in Fairfax, Virginia. Throughout my time in CTeen,  I was able to grow in and understand the true beauty of Judaism and what it means to me. It was always the most comforting feeling knowing that I have a place I can honestly call home. My chapter in Fairfax, Virginia met once a week on Sundays. It was a time for me to escape my secular public school life, to a safe and non-judgmental environment. It was a time for me to get inspired by Rabbi Shloime Adler with his enthusiasm for Jewish learning and his interesting topics he brought to the table every week. It was always a nurturing and encouraging environment for my Judaism.

As I continued to become inspired and learn more about Judaism, I yearned to have a larger involvement in my CTeen chapter. I wanted to be proactive and make a difference in the lives of Jewish teens like me. Since I went to public school, there was so much diversity which provided me the opportunity to other secular Jewish teenagers. I approached my Jewish friends in school and told them about how incredible CTeen was. The majority of them sounded interested but didn’t feel comfortable to make the time commute because it was held at my synagogue, which could be daunting for public school teens. The fact that they displayed interested was appealing to me; they actually want to be involved in their Judaism and I wanted to exploit that. I decided to create a CTeen Jewish Culture Club at my school, which enabled my friends who were interested to have the CTeen experience while being comfortable participating in CTeen. I wanted CTeen to branch out to another location in Fairfax to enhance my experience, as well as my friends.

One of the greatest highlights of my CTeen experience was the Annual International CTeen Shabbaton in Manhattan, New York. It was incredible seeing all of the CTeen chapters from around the world including Austria, Israel, England, and of course America come together for an uplifting shabbos. When the teens from around the world were right by my side, it created such an optimistic environment which helped me spark Jewish connections that will last forever. Whether you keep in touch with the people you meet, or they just have an impression on you for a split second, every moment is impactful. The guest speakers at the shabbatons’ have always been inspiring to me because they are role models for our generation.

My experience in CTeen lead me to an incredible opportunity- a year in Israel. I am currently attending a seminary called Machon Maayan. Four years ago, I never saw myself going to seminary. Wearing skirts all the time was a foreign concept to me and I didn’t really care for Judaism that much. When I joined CTeen of Fairfax, I started learning more and more intriguing things about the daily life of Jewish people and eventually grew a love for the religion as a whole. I found it fascinating the way my Rabbi would explain Jewish concepts to us and show us how it applies in everyday life as well as the secular world. Surrounding yourself with good people is a motto that really helps me through my journey of life. The environment of CTeen pushed me to go to synagogue more, not just for the friends, but also for the davening and the beautiful Shabbat atmosphere. All around Rabbis and mentors were telling me that I’m so fortunate to have an opportunity to go to Israel for a year and just learn. As I became more involved with my Chabad community and with CTeen, I became more religious, slowly but surely. My push to applying to seminary and moving forth with my Jewish growth was CTeen. It was truly a blessing in my life.

I will continue to take all of the lessons, values, and knowledge I gained from CTeen wherever I go in the world. I am constantly applying what I learned from CTeen here in seminary whether I realize it or not. CTeen, especially on the international shabbaton, also created a foundation for my understanding that everyone in the world is unique and to appreciate how incredible it is to see the different individuals G-d created. CTeen is a program that helps form character and healthy traits that you want to keep forever. I know I’ll have it for eternity.

Enjoy CTeen while you still have it and soak in every ounce of inspiration you possibly can. This is your first step towards a meaningful life that you will be able to share with anyone wherever you go.