The CTeen Experience
7 years ago Leighest 0
By Dallen Voronin
Hi, my name is Dallen. My Hebrew name is Moshe.My journey with CTeen began when my soon-to-be Rabbi and his wife contacted me about CTeen on Facebook.
Here is the original message I received two years ago: “Hey Dallen, It’s Didi Konikov- from the Chabad- my husband is Rabbi Shmuel Konikov. We’re starting a Jewish Teen Group so all the Teens can have a Jewish Network of friends. We’d love if you can join us. We have some great trips and lots of fun in store for everyone. We’re having a kickoff meeting this coming Saturday Night- at Rita’s Italian Ices, just as a Meet and Greet. We also have an inter-community even planned, in which we will be meeting up with teens from Orlando to Jacksonville to go paintball shooting… It’s all tons of fun! But we need your help!! Please search for Jewish Teens of Greater Daytona, and ask to join so you can be updated for future events, and spread the word to all your Jewish Friends!! This group is made by you, for you so please join:)!!! All the best, Rabbi Shmuel and Didi Konikov”
This message started my Journey to CTeen and Judaism without realizing it.
After the paintball event, my Rabbi told me about the Shabbaton (2013.) I told him I don’t have money for it, he said we can do a fundraiser for me. I said okay. He kept bugging me so much about the fundraiser. I was getting annoyed; I wanted to know why this Rabbi is bugging me so much about going to NYC. There is a quote people use called, “You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink it.” I never realized what he was doing until after the Shabbaton. When registration was almost up, we didn’t have enough. He then decided to sponsor for me to go. I felt bad because he has a family, and he decided to spend money on me a plane ticket and the Shabbaton.
To this day I still don’t feel like I will ever be able to repay him for everything he has done for me. The CTeen event was more than I expected, and didn’t go quickly as I expected. That is a good thing. I learned a lot about Judaism and had a fun time. Sadly I didn’t get to do as much as I’d like because I had a badly sprained ankle from playing basketball a month before then. I was recovering still.
When we went to the Ohel, my Rabbi said to make a promise (or an hachlata) to take on something Jewish. I picked going to Shabbos once a month…. Like Friday night dinners (since I thought Shabbat was like a few hours long). Not knowing Shabbat went a whole 25 hours until the end of 2014. I kept my promise. I went once a month for like 4 months, then I started going twice a month, then near November 2013, I started going every Shabbos. At the end of December, my father told me that my synagogue has a lot of food on Saturdays. I was a lot fatter and didn’t care what I ate then, so I was going.
January 2014 came, and I moved in with my brother for my own personal reasons. My brother was learning how to be observant and at a much higher level now, but still learning. I asked him if I could live with him and he said, “Sure, no problem.” He was keeping most Kosher Laws. I was so use to eating junk food that I bought that when my brother and sister-in-law were having dinners every night, I was shocked. I wasn’t use to that. Slowly, I started to slip in the shoe of Judaism on the food side of it. (I apologize if that sounds weird or doesn’t make sense.)I use to weigh 260 before moving in. I stopped mixing meat and dairy, I ate what my sister-in-law made. I lost 30 pounds before my second Shabbaton.
My brother Steven said he wanted a bar mitzvah. I felt jealous that he was planning to get one. Only thing is, his bris was never done by a Rabbi. To this day he still hasn’t had a bris and he is about to be 23. I told my Rabbi that I want one, he said, “No problem, we can try either Miami or New York.” Since we were about to be going to New York at the end of the month, we contacted Rabbi Shane to set it up. My Rabbi made way too many jokes about getting a bris. My Rabbi asked me to do one thing when we were in NY; to wear a Kippah the whole trip. I listened.
February, 28th, 2014 was the day of CTeen and my bris. I had to wake up at 6:45 A.M. and had to meet my Rabbi at Kingston and Crown at 7 A.M. I felt this is way too early for me to get a Rabbi to finalize my bris. We went in, waited until the Rabbi finished davening. Once he was done, he did what he had to do. He let my Rabbi do the blessing on my name. When I heard my Rabbi say “Moshe Ben Alexander,” I was starting to not see anymore. My vision was getting blurrier more by the minute. My cheeks started to feel paralyzed. I felt like I was fainting. I was thinking, “What is going on? What did this Rabbi do?!” I started to fall; Rabbi Shane picked me up before I fell. He gave me some grape juice while my Rabbi was finishing the blessing. Once it was over, everything was back to normal. Everyone was confused what happened. Even people davening and my Rabbi and Rabbi Shane got confused what happened. After the trip, I realized my Neshama was awoken. Me picking Moshe as my Jewish name wasn’t my choice, it was G-d’s choice. It was meant to be.
As the day went by, I felt completely different. I was more energetic, more relaxed, and happier. I talked and bugged everyone that was part of CTeen. When Shabbos started, I was about to pass out because I was so tired. That didn’t stop me from having a good time. I met Alex Clare. I noticed he was leaning on the stand a lot, so when he started answering questions I raised my hand. He picked me, and I said, “I think you’re ‘too close’ to that stand.” He was laughing hard when I said that. No one heard, so he said it loud to everyone. They started to laugh. Everywhere I went, he was there. I even thought he was my Rabbi a few times. I was yelling, “Rabbi Konikov!” Alex turns around. I say “You’re a lot easier to find than my Rabbi.” Now skipping to the concert; we all danced and sang to his music and in joy, to be proud as Jews. After the concert, we went bowling. That’s where I talked to my good friends Archie Weindruch and Loryn Voskoboynik. We talked about Judaism, Torah, life, dancing, singing, and everything great about life. A conversation I will never forget. I asked Archie, “Why do you always dance and sing?” He answered, “Because I am letting my neshama out.” I think of that quote so much. That’s what I did in the 2015 5775 Shabbaton.
Before I get to that, I am going to stay at the 2014 Shabbaton. This whole trip I wore a kippah. I never even thought of taking it off. Not once second. To this day, March 11, 2015, I still wear my kippah every day.
After the Shabbaton, my Neshama was on fire. I was ready to do more. While wearing a kippah everywhere, I felt uncomfortable. I wanted to know why. I felt weird wearing a kippah everywhere. On Adar 10 5774, a woman from Georgia named Rashi Minkowicz passed away before a Torah and Tea class. The next day, someone made a page for her called “Mitzvah for Rashi.” I joined and thought long about it. On Adar 12 5774, I did the mitzvah to put on tzitzit for her. Once I started to wear that, I felt comfortable for wearing a kippah everywhere. It was a long journey up to the Shabbaton 5775. I was so attached to the religion that I was doing anything to have the Judaism flame in me. I kept Shabbos, I am eating 95% Kosher, I am learning, I am praying, always putting on tefillin every day.
At the beginning of November of this year, I started to lose it. I stopped going to shul every Saturday. I started to play video games on Shabbos; I was not going to Friday nights. I felt corrupted. I knew the only way I can get back on track is the Shabbaton. I was correct.
The 2015 Shabbaton 5775 was my flick I needed to light my lighter. I felt alone, I felt that no one could help me and no one would ever want to be near me. I saw people that I missed from last year. I made myself become who I knew from 2014 Shabbaton. I was showing my pride as a Jew in Crown Heights. I was less talking to everyone, and more to myself. Making myself more eye with Judaism over socializing. When Shabbos came, I dressed up like I did for the past year. I dressed up like a Yeshiva student, not that I was trying to make myself look like one. I was told that is the proper Shabbos clothing. I didn’t wear a tie either, so everyone thought I was a Yeshiva student. I was pretty convincing since I have a beard and dressed like I am a Chassid. We danced, sang, and prayed. It was something I loved to do with a lot of teens like me, whether they are part of CTeen or Yeshiva students. I was happy with what was surrounding me. I never thought I would lose my voice twice in NY. Saturday night, right after Shabbos we went to Time Square for the concert. This is it. I wanted to see what Gad Elbaz was about. I wanted to see if he can do well that I’ve been hearing. When the concert began, he sang beautifully. He made people from every corner of every store come to the red stairs to see and hear him. To see us let out our Neshama. We should we were together and nothing will stop us. We showed the world that we are Jewish, and we are here. I got hooked on Gad Elbaz’s music quickly. It is catchy, smooth, clean, and Chassidic. It was truly amazing, better than the year Alex Clare was there.
After the event was over, my chapter was in Crown Heights for another day due to flight cancellation. We got to see a few people that were from Daytona that is in Crown Heights now. We got have a good time. By the way, thank you CTeen for the food from Prime Sandwiches. It was amazing. Coming back to Florida was more energetic than my trip back from 2014. I didn’t want to leave Crown Heights in 2014.
This year’s Shabbaton, I was ready to go to spread the light to everyone. Through the whole week, I listened to Gad Elbaz’s music; I was super happy, and super energetic. I am still doing all these things to this day. I have to throw this in here. Before I went to New York, I asked my father to check my car, which I use to drive to school. When I came back, my father told me that my two front tires were actually ready to pop, and if I drove more something bad could have happened while driving. I use the highway a lot to get to where I need. Hearing this news, I realized, not only did CTeen save my Judaism, but they saved my life as well. CTeen is truly amazing and all parents should let their kids go to it. It was the best experience I ever had.
Thank you CTeen for making everything happen. You guys are truly amazing. Thank you for the people that worked so we can have a good time. Thank you for the police for watching after us. Thank you for taking us to the Ohel to see the Rebbe’s gravesite. Thank you to Rabbi Konikov and Didi Konikov for doing all you did for me. You both have been truly inspiring to do what you did for me, and our chapter. I don’t think I can ever repay you both, but I’ll do what I can to make sure I do. I am pursuing to go to a Yeshiva hopefully. I would like to go to a beginner’s school, and then go to Crown Heights once I am on a high level to go there. Thank you for your time and for reading this. G-d willing I come back as a chaperon. May G-d bless every one of you.