The Shocking Lessons I Learned at the CTeen International Shabbaton

3 weeks ago Shayna Solkowitz 0

I was asked to write about one aspect of the International Shabbaton that affected me the most. The only problem was, how could I choose just one?!

I don’t think I’m like most teens. One of the main reasons I love the Shabbaton is the workshops. Obviously my #1 reason for attending is seeing my friends, but workshops are still one of my favorite parts. One thing I love about CTeen workshops is that they’re about topics that teens are interested in. This Shabbaton was no exception. There were so many lessons that stuck with me.   

There were multiple workshops on relationships. I know that many teens are genuinely curious about Judaism’s views on this topic, so it was interesting to hear rabbis talk about intimacy, how men should treat their wives, and the secret to a happy marriage. What’s fascinating is that I was able to use the lessons I learned as soon as I returned home. I took a lesson on the difference between romantic relationships and friendships, and used it to assist a friend of mine who is struggling in her relationship with her best friend.

Do you know what the difference between love and a friendship is? I do now! In a romantic relationship you’re committed to someone, you have an obligation to make it work. If the relationship is keeping you up at night, if it’s stressing you out, you have a responsibility to work it out…You don’t have that obligation when it comes to friendships. It’s okay to let go of a friendship, people grow apart, and there’s no obligation to grow together in a friendship.

Another worksop I found very interesting was by a 23 year old man who had a long white beard and white hair. No, he didn’t have any sort of medical issue. This man was Christian for years and years. He taught the old testimate (Torah) instead of the new one, and was fired from jobs because of it. Eventually Yaakov Ephraim Parisi immersed in the mikveh, just 23 years ago, and was re-born into Judaism. The Rebbe said that when a convert comes out of the mikveh, that’s his new birthday. And thus, this man with a white beard and white hair, is actually just 23 years old, not even a decade older than us CTeeners. Throughout his journey, he was placed in the oddest places, and because of this he helped many people convert to Judaism, set up Jewish couples, and has inspired people all across the world. It was one of the coolest workshops I attended! So, L’chaim, L’chaim to Yaakov Ephraim.

I can’t write about the CTeen Shabbaton without writing about the awe of Havdalah in Times Square. My chapter and I were on the famous red stairs in the heart of the most popular city in the world. Yaakov Shwekey who was performing that night, started singing his song called ‘Miracle.’ Miracle is about some of the suffering the Jews have gone through throughout history.   Standing on these red stairs, looking at the crowd of over 2,500 Jewish teenagers, listening to this song…it left me speechless. We as a Jewish family have been through so much. We are still facing anti semitism today, and it’s getting worse—yet these thousands of teens can still come together from around the world, missing school, suffering from jet lag, to show the world that we are proud to be Jewish. We showed the world on that night that people can hate us, people can try to degrade us, but that’s just adding gasoline to the fire inside each of our souls. That tiny fire in each and every one of us was burning at the hottest temperature all throughout the Shabbaton. We showed the world: we’re still here, and we’re not going anywhere.

It was so cool to see so many familiar faces, and I can’t believe I’ve made so many CTeen Connections with people. Also, I just wanted to give a little shoutout to not only the best chapter out there, Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, but also, my amazing chaperones, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Orenstein, and the CTeen International staff. Thank y’all for making this one of the most incredible weekends of my life, and MANY other teen’s as well.