11 months ago Shai Fichtelberg 0
Rachel Rouhani//CTeen Plano, Texas
Sophie Edelstein//CTeen Milwaukee,Wisconsin
What is TGIS you ask? TGIS stands for “Thank Gosh It’s Shabbat!” This acronym serves as the theme for a weekend in November when many CTeen chapters worldwide host Shabbat programing.Shabbat is what unifies the Jewish people, and gives us strength for the upcoming week. This is why TGIS is so important to CTeeners around the globe – it’s a time to come together as one, spiritually and physically. But this year, it looked a bit different. With the coronavirus striking hard, CTeen chapters were tasked with creating a meaningful Shabbat event that was both safe as well as valuable. Every chapter chose to celebrate differently, and that’s what was unique about TGIS 2020. There is an overarching theme, yet countless ways to bring it to life. We interviewed three chapters about what they did for TGIS this year.
Samantha Hamel, a leader from CTeen Orange County in New York, shares a touching story on how her chapter commemorated TGIS this year. Three years ago, her chapter tragically lost one of their members. They decided to commemorate his legacy with a special event every November: creating tiles with uplifting quotes for kids who need some positivity while in the hospital. Samantha reflects, “even though our friend was not in the hospital, we still wish he knew that there was hope and things do get better.” She explained that her Rabbi and Rebbetzin always remind her chapter that angels join the Shabbat dinner table. “I think of this as our friend joining us from afar, wishing he was still here.” To make the tile-making even more meaningful, she explained how her chapter has an important discussion during the process. “Those of us who knew him before he passed, went around and said something special or something that we remember about him. Those who did not know him but have heard stories, shared a blessing or said something uplifting. We did this so that he knows how important he was to our chapter and our Chabad.” To the CTeen chapter in Orange County, TGIS means creating new memories while still remembering the past.
Evie Sacks, a leader from CTeen Leeds, UK, shares how her chapter spread Jewish light despite not being able to coordinate a TGIS this year. For Rosh Hashanah, England was still on lockdown, so her chapter was unable to spend the high holidays together. In lieu of an in-person event, Evie along with her CTeen Rabbi and Rebbetzin decided to send out Rosh Hashanah packages to 100 teens in the local area. The problem was, her Rabbi and Rebbetzin were quarantined in New York, meaning she had to package them up alone. With the help of her brothers, after a few days everything was all packaged and ribboned. Another problem Evie encountered was that she had no car or license and was still in school, so it was impossible for her to deliver them all. She decided to have them delivered to the local Jewish Secondary school and to be handed out there. As a result of Evie’s dedication to her project, everyone got their Rosh Hashanah package, containing a honey stick, apple, can of coke, biscuits, a candle and a piece of card with all the shabbat/Yom Tov times. “At the time,” Evie says, “it felt like an impossible task but I’m so grateful it all worked out and we were able to reach 100 teens.” To the CTeen chapter in Leeds, TGIS means giving, even when it’s hard and even when there’s no tangible reward.
Sophie Edelstein, a leader from CTeen Milwaukee in Wisconsin discusses how her chapter is being impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, and how TGIS helped make their Shabbat extra special. “As a teen that found much joy, friendship, and comfort in my friends in CTeen, my chapter must now work harder than ever to overcome the negative impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.” She explains that the pandemic has affected the lives of her community in a variety of ways, and practicing their Judaism is no exception. When they are in school, she says, there is an outstanding program where Jewish teens from all walks of life come to the “teen house” to enjoy food with their Jewish peers on Jewish holidays. Though, since her school is virtual, this program could not happen. Therefore, her chapter put together a program called “A Taste of the Teenhouse,” where Shabbat bags full of delicious food are delivered to over 70 homes of Jewish teens who previously attended these teen lunches. Shabbat candles are given to girls in order to fulfill the mitzvah, paired with a Friday afternoon zoom hangout before Shabbat where the teens eat and socialize. “This unique program has allowed my chapter to stay connected in the ever changing world we live in. It gives teens something to look forward to every Friday. TGIS was a kickoff to putting together a memorable year for all teens in a healthy environment while continuing to learn and celebrate our Yiddishkeit.” To the CTeen chapter in Milwaukee, TGIS means staying connected even when we may feel far apart.
The notion of Unapologetic Judaism is when one does not apologize for who they are, what they stand for, or what they believe in. It’s not being shy or embarrassed when inviting your peers to an event. It’s not being embarrassed to call a friend to wish them an easy fast for Yom Kippur, and it is not feeling ashamed to stand tall and represent what our people have gone through over the course of history. Throughout the years, this is what TGIS has represented – it is our unapologetic Judaism that unites us. In Rachel Rouhani’s CTeen chapter in Plano, Texas for example, TGIS was a rare time where a large number of Jewish teens came together for one Shabbat. Around the dinner table, there were familiar and unfamiliar faces, and people one maybe would not expect to see, but that is what made TGIS so special. This year more than ever, we as CTeeners but also as Jews must remember to stick together during these trying times. With our heads held high, we move forward, and move forward together.