My Final CTeen International Shabbaton

4 years ago Leighest 0

Alex Andelsman, West Suffolk, NY

“Don’t cry that it’s over, smile because it happened,” some say after an amazing experience comes to end. It is easy to say that when you have not experienced CTeen for five years, gone on four international shabbatons and one domestic shabbaton in D.C. I will admit, I did cry when the shabbaton was over. CTeen was and still is my life. I am a senior in high school and will be moving on to the real world, leaving CTeen behind. It really got to me during my final NYC Shabbaton as a teen.

On Thursday afternoon, when we arrived in Crown Heights, I felt like I was back home, back to a place I feel more safe, and more connected to Hashem. That night, we took a boat ride, where I reunited with teens I had met from previous years. There have been times where I have run into people that I haven’t seen for a long time, but this was much more special to me. I knew that there was a special connection between each and everyone of us. Not because of the we clothes we wore or our taste in music, but because we were Jewish. I felt more comfortable around random Jewish teens at the Shabbaton whom I’ve never met before than some of my everyday friends at home. Nothing can ever come close to that feeling.

On my first shabbaton, I said, “Why would anyone want to pick a day of learning (on Friday) when they can do so many other fun things?” But this year, I decided that I wanted to strengthen my knowledge of Torah, and strengthen my neshama. When I heard that Rabbi Nissan Mangel— a Holocaust survivor— would be speaking, I knew I had to do the education track. Learning about Jewish history is extremely important. Rabbi Weinbaum told me that his workshop would be unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it was. I almost wanted to cry when I heard him speak.

With Shabbat approaching, I turned off all of my electronics with a smile on my face. To me, Shabbat  is about disconnecting to connect-disconnecting from social media and the cyber world in order to connect with Hashem and our Jewish friends and family around us. Every time I keep Shabbat, it gets easier and easier for me. Four years ago, I could not imagine not having my phone for even a minute, but now I can go 25 hours without it, no problem at all. My favorite part about Shabbat was hearing the keynote speaker, Berel Solomon. His story was a tiny bit similar to mine, in the way that when I was younger, I had no interest in Judaism whatsoever. Although I am not completely religious yet, I now take time during each day to think about Hashem. I put on tefillin, and I try my best to do acts of kindness each and everyday. I hope one day that Hashem will guide me to be more religious like Mr. Solomon is.

On Shabbat morning, I had a chance to hear Dina Hurwitz and her story. From her, I learned that no matter what happens in life, no matter how bad anything may seem, it’s all a part of Hashem’s plan. He is always there guiding you every step of the way. I cannot put the feeling of knowing that Hashem is always there for you into words. The love that Hashem has for you is unconditional, like a parent loving his or her own child.

When Shabbat went out, I gathered my things for Times Square. Let’s just say, good thing I brought an umbrella, because it was pouring. But that did not stop us from lighting up Times Square like we do every year. I danced around with my friends, having the time of my life. Singing and dancing with so many people wasn’t even the best part; it was knowing that we all had something in common: being Jewish. That is the one thing that has connected each and every single teen on the shabbaton. It was an indescribable feeling.

During the awards ceremony on Sunday, it started to hit me that this was my last shabbaton. I couldn’t imagine not being in CTeen anymore, but it was now becoming a reality. I coudn’t properly express my emotions until we arrived at the Ohel, when I broke down in tears. I cried for two reasonsl: one was that I knew this was my last shabbaton, and the other was much deeper than that. These past few months have not been the best for me and family. We have gone through some tough times. But going to the Ohel made those problems seem like a distant past. While writing my letter to the Rebbe, I felt like I had spoke to him like he was sitting in the room next to me. For the first time ever, I truly felt connected to the Rebbe. I finally understood why we do all of this: why we pray at his resting place, why he is so important to Jews and even non-Jews. The Rebbe was a special man, one like no other. For this reason, I cried tears of joy, knowing that I will always have a spiritual connection with the Rebbe.

For those of you who are reading this that are just starting in CTeen, keep going. No matter what, even if you feel like you’re shy or if you’re having trouble making friends like I did, push through it. Hashem is always guiding you in the right path. Also, do the Rebbe’s work, and get other people to join CTeen. If every single teen got just one or two other people to join, just imagine how fast our movement can spread. It only takes one person to BE THE CHANGE!