How One Weekend Changed My Life

5 years ago Leighest 0

By Sarelle Franco/Los Alamitos, CA

How one weekend changed my life

The CTeen International Shabbaton is one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever seen in my entire 16 years of living. To watch more than 2,500 high school students share their Jewish pride out loud is something empowering and amazing to witness. Judaism is something that was always a part of my life, but I really felt a connection, until I attended the CTeen International Shabbaton three years ago. Now, I am hooked.

I was known as “the Jew” throughout my life. Everyone in school knew, everyone in my dance classes knew, everyone in every event I went to knew, because I made sure they knew. I consider myself a very prideful Jew, but I always felt alone. I knew that kids like myself existed in the world, but never in my life did I think it was possible to have more than 2,500 kids like me. Whenever I tell people, “I’m from California,” they immediately think “Los Angeles.” In actuality, I am an hour away from LA, and I do see Jews around me, but not a ton especially because I am in public school. When I went to New York for the first time three years ago, I was shocked that there were so many like me. Many people I met had similar stories to me, and I somehow managed to become so close with them even though I barely knew them. Going to New York for these shabbatons were eye-opening experiences for me to know that I am not alone.


Once I began a part of CTeen, I learned what it means to experience truth friendship.I connected with so many more people and was able to have conversations that were so deep after only knowing them for a few hours. I never felt as though I had to prove myself to any of them or alter who I am in order to accommodate any sort of standard. I felt for the first time genuine friendships, and the more years I attended, the more friendships I created. I am not going to lie, most of my peers in public school don’t understand the “hype.” It is impossible to describe what this “hype” feels like. The closest explanation I have is like feeling high from happiness (and exhaustion and losing your voice from singing for much).


I am so thankful to be a part of CTeen. It’s so difficult to truly describe my feelings and the passion I feel for CTeen. When I think about how far the Jewish people have come, and where we are now, I feel hopeful for the future. If CTeen can do what it does, anything is possible.