My Experience At The CTeen Shabbaton

8 years ago Leighest 0


Eden Oliel, Montreal, Canada

When you initially think of New York City you think of it as the city that never sleeps. However when I think of it, I think of my spiritual journey with CTeen.

In 2014, my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was operated on and did several rounds of chemotherapy. It broke my heart to see her go through all the treatments. However my grandmother is a strong and beautiful woman, and she never let complained. She was always smiling and cheerful, and ecstatic whenever we came to visit.

That summer we got incredible news that she was in remission. We were so excited. We thought it would all be over. That she had fought her battle and that now it was done.

But in September we were hit with disheartening news. The cancer had spread; all around her abdominal area. She was operated once more, and did several other chemo treatments. All that was left for us to do was to hope and pray that she would get better. And as we waited, life continued.

As a teenager, being Jewish never really struck me as an important value in my life. Yes, I went to a Jewish school and learned about Torah and Mitzvot, but I never truly felt connected to my Yiddishkiet. My Jewish identity had lessened behind schoolwork and social life.

When I first started volunteering at CTeen, I thought it would be a fun way to make community hours. A lot of my friends had been volunteering there and loved it, especially the New York trip.

See, I’ve always loved New York City. The bright lights and strong character of Manhattan always appealed to me. I would dream about going often. So when I heard that there was a CTeen New York trip, I knew that I had to attend.

When Friendship Circle offered me a spot on the trip to represent them, I couldn’t even handle my excitement. I was going to go to New York City! But never did it cross my mind that the trip would be more than just a fun shabbaton, but in fact a huge impact on my life.

Lets start with Friday; my group and I went to see the Statue of Liberty, we met teens from Singapore and became quick friends with them.

Friday night we ate dinner together with all the girls participating in this shabbaton, a girl made a very nice speech, and I met a lot of girls from around the world. The most amazing part of the night was that my friends and I were sitting in a circle and slowly girls started joining. There were girls from all around: Miami, Delaware, South Carolina and France. We were all talking together and becoming friends.

Shabbos we ate at a host’s house, it was really nice being with my group and the host was very welcoming. At night we took the subway to Times Square and there was so many kids from CTeen! When we got to Times Square we immediately heard the music. We walked to the area closed off for CTeen, and joined the area for the girls. We danced and girls I’ve never met in my life just put their arms around me and we danced. I don’t think you will ever see so many teens reunited in one place dancing together even though they don’t know each other. It’s beautiful to see, and to experience how being Jewish connects me to all these people.

Like I mentioned before, I didn’t anticipate for this trip to change me spiritually. But oh boy was I wrong. We heard beautiful dvar torahs from incredible rabbis, we sang and danced, davened and more. I felt such a spiritual connection and realized that being Jewish is such a beautiful and special. Subsequently, Sunday came around.

Sunday we visited the Rebbes grave, better known as the Ohel. A tradition at the Ohel is the write a note to God with a little prayer, similar to as you would at the Kotel. I wrote in my letter that my grandmother should fully recover and be cancer-free. It has always been mentioned in my prayers, so it never intensely crossed my mind that anything sudden would happen. Either way, I left the Ohel feeling emotionally touched.

Leaving the shabbaton was very, very difficult. I didn’t want the weekend to end! I had made so many new friends from all around the world and had such a blast. I will never forget the friends I made and the memories that we shared on the trip.

Two days after I returned home, I found out that my grandmother had had a CT scan. She was officially cancer free. I could not believe it. I was so overwhelmed that I cried of joy. I learned that God is really there for us no matter what and loves us unconditionally. My spiritual high went even higher. I learned that being a Jew is so special.

To conclude, this CTeen shabbaton might seem like just a ordinary trip to New York City, or you might feel like when you go on it its just for the experience of the Big Apple. But really, when you get there and you come back home and everyone asks you how it was, you can’t even find the right words to express yourself on how amazing it was. It’s an unbelievable experience to meet new people, connect with your Jewish roots and enhance your connection with God.