Shabbaton Essays

9 years ago Leighest 0

Sabrina Verby, Manchester, England

A few weeks ago I took a trip to a completely new world. Being from England, I had never really been exposed to a large American city such as New York. Even though the trip only lasted a couple of days, it was a life changing experience I will keep with me for the rest of my life. This trip has not only given me confidence and a bunch of new friends, but an experience exploring my Jewish identity and the Shabbaton truly changed my life!

After the long, tiring flight, we finally arrived in The City. Immediately we were settled in to our hosts’ house, a lovely family all prepared for a hectic group of teens. I came with a crowd of girls that I knew but was not too friendly with; however, we instantly bonded and we were soon ready to make new American friends.

As the evening approached we took a short walk around Crown Heights, I felt right at home seeing other Jewish people around, and cteen members. We arrived at the Jewish Children’s Museum (JCM) and had a lovely buffet dinner, before getting on the subway with my new friends and our chaperones to the grand Times Square. We are teenage girls, so we could not wait to enter the vast stores full of beautiful clothing and make-up, whilst in the great city of New York. I had the best sleep after that exhilarating day but was itching for more.

Friday morning came and I felt butterflies in my stomach as I realized I was going to meet hundreds of teens at breakfast. As I walked in I felt overwhelmed as strangers came up to me obsessing over my accent and asking to know more about me, however these people are now close friends of mine who I keep in touch with even though they’re across the world.

We had an action-packed day ahead! After a subway ride with my new cteen friends and a walk through New York, seeing all the different types of people there can be in one city, we hopped on a boat to visit the most talked about monument. The Statue of Liberty. The view from the boat was incredible, not only could we see the immense skyline of New York, but a beautiful lady on the close by island. The next stop was Ellis Island, where we learnt all about immigrants coming into America and some of our ancestors were named here. This was an unforgettable experience as we became close with our elder family members whilst connecting with our friends.

Of course, we stopped for a bite to eat at the JCM, there were so many teens eating with us and I felt I bonded well with so many of them. As we were leaving to prepare ourselves for a magical Friday night dinner, I quickly swapped numbers with my new friends, I could not wait to see them all again! Getting ready for Shabbat with a group of close friends was a great experience with in itself, but arriving at the venue for dinner, lighting candles with many other Jewish teens is a memory to treasure for life.

Alex Clare gave us an inspiring speech about being an orthodox Jew, yet still being able to be a famous musician. All the young Jewish women sang together and danced. Even though we all live across the world, we united through music and quickly learned new songs that we could all sing together. After making Kiddush and Chamotzi, we sat down to a delicious, four-coursed Friday night dinner. In-between each course we chatted with many other young women. These friendships enormously grew during the app game, where we did activities with teens we had not necessarily talked to yet, these friendships will last for life and with the modern technology we are still able to talk on a daily basis. The evening concluded with multiple activities and more bonding sessions.

On Saturday our jetlag hit us, we had an early morning start, but lots of time to discuss our Jewish heritage with our chaperones and time to get ready for a wonderful Shabbos. The discussions with the Rabbis were inspiring; we rarely talked in a big group, so we could give our full opinion and ask many questions. Each Rabbi gave us lots to think about, before mingling with other teens to discuss our thoughts on the subjects. During this long morning, I met new people who I grew extremely close with and chatted to friends I had previously made.

This Jewish involvement continued with a Shabbos lunch at an orthodox family, they were so pleased to have us and extremely hospitable. The food was incredible! We made our way back to the large hall, where a carnival was set up. I played many of the different games with my new friends and I became especially close with some people during these fantastic activities. The day was not over, it had hardly started!

We returned to Times Square, this time with hundreds Jewish teens, the atmosphere was unbelievable. Shabbos was over with a unique Havadalah ceremony; listening to inspiring speeches, and dancing in the centre New York whilst Alex Clare sang, it was an experience like no other.

There were over eight hundred of us walking through the streets of New York to Bowlmor Lanes. Bowling is an extremely fun activity especially with many of your friends, but having a massive bowling centre just to cteen was implausible. As I strolled through the arcade with my American friends, I saw each Manchester girl with other young women from different states; we were all making memorable friendships. However, the evening was not over yet, we rode on buses (I even thoroughly enjoyed this) to a kosher parlour. I love ice cream, but it tastes even better at 1am.

Following the sensational evening, we discovered more about our religion from the Rebbe, by visiting his grave. During this experience I felt a connection with G-d and my Jewish livelihood as I prayed amongst many Jews my age. Our spiritual journey continued with a visit to the local Mikva, it was extremely special to look around one as we will all go one day as young Jewish women.

As we arrived at the farewell banquet, we all felt very emotional as we knew our flight was that afternoon, plus we wanted more time on this remarkable Shabbaton. Even though it was the last time to form friendships, I bonded very well during this last afternoon. The relationships that formed made me feel as if I had known these people all my life. They are not just my friends but my cteen family!

Sabrina Verby 15

Manchester, England


Risa Mond- North Texas- 10th grade

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 these two 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 mitzvots 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 Rebbes 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 his 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 mitzvots that I wrote down, 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.


Richard Cohen, Manchester UK

My name is Richard Cohen and I have been involved with CTeen for 18 months. I came on the Shabbaton last year with my small group of 9 and had the most incredible weekend of my life. I returned to Manchester with my stories and my memories and got so many people involved with CTeen. We have a CTeen program twice a week in which we go to a restaurant and learn more about Judaism.This year we returned with around 3 times as many people and I can safely say without a doubt it topped last year as the best weekend of my life. Over the weekend I felt different, I felt a strong jewish presence like none before. I felt so privileged to be a part of the Shabbaton my group and myself paraded the streets of New York chanting our chants, singing our songs, we had lost our voices but we didn’t care. I had learnt earlier that day about Judaism vs Christianity vs Islam that the Jewish people make up such a minority of the world less than 1% of the population however on Saturday night, we took over Times Square, one of the biggest tourist attractions in New York and we stood proud. We made a good name for Judaism, uniting jewish teens from all over the world. I feel that the Shabbaton was a transitional time in my life. I think that it is the first step into my becoming of a better Jew. Since the Shabbaton I have joined the CTeen leadership program and I can honestly say, from that weekend I felt more connected as a Jew I have a love for CTeen and really hope to go back next year! Thank you CTeen !


Mishan (Mish) Rosenzweig, Teaneck, NJ

Walking in blind, I had no idea what to expect on the CTeen international Shabbaton of 2014. I had never been affiliated with CTeen in the past, but heard about the Shabbaton from my friends so I figured I’d give it a try. Having no idea what I was walking in to, I went in with a semi opened mind, and hoped for the best. I had my doubts such as: what if the people aren’t my type, what if something goes wrong, and so on. Not only were my doubts alleviated, but my all hopes were far surpassed! From arrival at the Teaneck Chabad center, to the departure from Crown Heights, I was in my glory. I love meeting people, especially from all around the world, and CTeen was the place for that. My concern of not meeting cool people didn’t even come in to play, since there were so many people to meet, I was ought to find some cool ones. Not only was no one ‘not cool’, but everyone I met was amazing, each with there own story of how they came to discover the highlights of Judaism. Most of their stories traced back to CTeen, so on Friday morning I started to wonder if I would be able to gleam some of the religious fun. It was always difficult for me to keep all the commandments, since they just seemed to slow me down, and I didn’t see any benefit from them. In fact, all my non Jewish friends would shower me with questions of why I’m Jewish if it’s such a dull religion. The truth is, I always thought of Judaism as a dull religion, until I came on the CTeen Shabbaton. The spirit shared by Jews from all over the world was unbelievable! From France, to Britain, to America, to Israel, everyone was filled with such pride, shown by their enthusiasm during the prayer and meal songs. I began to see that there was a different side to Judaism, one without the burden of rules, but with the enjoyment of unity. What really hit me was Saturday night in Time Square. Living in New Jersey, I often go to NYC to hang out with friends, and I never imagined that the red stair which I passed so often, could be a place of such enthusiasm. Surrounded by close to 1000 Jews in the heart of Manhattan on a Saturday night, really moved me. The energy flow from all these people, most of whom didn’t know one another, encompassed me in a sheet of warmth, that could only be due to the dancers, myself included. Enveloped with the energy from all the people, I realized that Judaism wasn’t just all about rules, but was packed with more spirit than any other religion. No other people would have been so proud to dance with others of their religion, unless they knew the other people. CTeen showed me that people should, and are so proud to be a Jew, and that they recognize everyone else’s shared feeling’s. The recognition allows people to befriend or simply interact with people whom they have no relation to, other than sharing a religion. Because of CTeen, my Jewish pride was greatly enhanced, and I am proud to be able to say the phrase: “עם ישראל חי”!


Zack Horowitz, Willmington, DE

The Cteen Shabbaton was one of the most amazing, fascinating experiences that I’ve ever encountered. Not really knowing what to expect, I packed my bags and hopped into a van with my fellow Cteen members at the Chabad of Delaware. Due to the fact that this was my first sleep-away experience, I was a little uneasy going into it: “What if I’m not religious enough! Do we have to say prayers? In HEBREW? What if I don’t make any friends? These and many other questions began popping into my head as we began the drive to New York City for the unknown adventures ahead.

My worries quickly faded away as we arrived in the beautiful town of Crown Heights, Brooklyn where I immediately felt at home. Jews were EVERYWHERE! I had never felt so comfortable and welcomed in my life! We quickly unpacked our bags at our houses where wonderful Chabad families welcomed us in before going to a much needed meal at the Jewish Children’s Museum. Everyone was extremely welcoming, and within the first five minutes I was already meeting new people.

There were so many phenomenal experiences, but my favorite one was in Times Square, NYC. It is difficult to describe this experience in words, because you really had to be there! The red steps in the center of Times Square were cleared and reserved for Cteen, as was the big screen. Over 1,000 teens packed the area, joining together in singing and dancing with each other. Jewish pop sensation Alex Clare lead a massive spiritual havdalah service, and sang his hit song “Too Close” for the crowd. This experience, along with many others, changed my life and the way I think of things. It has also made me want to get more involved in the Jewish Community. I am so thankful for this experience. If you are a Jewish teen, I highly recommend participating in Cteen and the Shabbaton.



Moshe H Voronin, Daytona Beach, FL

For my experience at this year’s CTeen Shabbaton, I figured out my true identity. I made so many new friends that I now have friend requests everyday on Facebook from teens that were at the event. I had the best experience going to this event.

Last year, I went to the Shabbaton 5773. My Rabbi asked me to go for the experience in learning about how Jews are and live. There was so much fun going on with everyone. Only bad thing was that I had a sprained ankle, so I couldn’t do much. I didn’t get to sleep well, I didn’t get to dance, and I didn’t even get to do anything on the boat ride besides watch. I was sad. Near December 2013, I planned to go to this year’s Shabbaton (2014.) Only problem was about money. Thankfully there were sponsors that paid for all of it. I thank them in every way. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be typing this. Starting my day in Crown heights on Feb 28th, 2014, I went to a small synagogue to receive a bris. I am now proud to say my Jewish name is Moshe. Even though I was very tired from flying and waking up 6:40 A.M. for the bris, I was ready for the day. By the time Shabbos came along, I was so tired to the point I can barely stay awake, but I fought through it by eating, then passing out in the comfy bed my host provided for me. In the morning on Saturday, I was rested and ready for the amazing adventure waiting for me. I looked for my Rabbi most of the morning to figure out he was davening. He was actually looking for me to get called to the Torah to do the blessing, sadly I missed it. My group and the rest of Florida’s group went to my Rabbi’s parent’s home where we had farbrengen. After Shabbos was over, we went to Time Square for the most amazing time in the world! Before lit the candles, I was talking to them people inside the costumes that want money for a picture. Out of everyone I went up to and that came up to me, only one of them didn’t ask for a picture was a Jewish Joker. He didn’t even care about the money when he came up to me. He saw a Jew and we had a conversation. After having a great conversation with a fellow Jew, the candles were lit and we started to dance, sing, and party so hard that G-d can hear us over the busy streets of NYC. I met two people that completely changed my view on so many things in a short bit of time. These people are Archie and Loryn. We had an educational talk. We ate, danced, sang, and party like there was no tomorrow. They influenced me want to study the Torah. I am proud to say that I am studying a lot more since the trip than I ever have before. I plan to go around my town to find Jewish Teens to let them know what they are missing out. This trip has truly made me find my true self. I have been trying to do this for years! Just in three days, it came to me. It was sad for me to leave because all of this excitement that happened in a short period of time. I wish it would of last longer. Oh, I almost for one more thing! I met Alex Clare!! I was next to him when he held the Torah. I guess you can say I was “Too Close” to him. I want to thank whoever reads this. If I win this, I will be happy, but it won’t make a difference for the main reason why I did this. I did this to talk about my experience that started my journey.




Noah Gichan, Pittstown, New Jersey

So before I came to the Shabbaton I was writing every person I had met in the previous shabbaton and the cteen extreme to make sure i could see them again and share in the great spiritually enlightening experience together. I came in expecting that this was the one place where I could truly be myself and be happy to express my Jewish Pride. My big highlight was being able to meet up with friends I made the previous year and over the summer while making new friends from around the world. Before the shabbaton i was starting to lose connection with my judaism and would not pray every week and would start to do activities without thinking about god and why i should be thankful. So after this my judaism was rekindled and I will start tying my teffilin at least twice a week and start to learn hebrew a bit better. There are few experiences in this world that cannot be put to words due to the fact that they transcend our vocabulary and just put us in awe, this Shabbaton was one of those moments that i will cherish and remember forever. Baruch Hashem.