It is the most vibrant and powerful demographic, yet it was almost untouched. Overlooked for years by some because of its complex ideology and spirit, teenage outreach was scarce.
According to a Brandeis University study in 2000 and in 2011, only 20 percent of Jewish teens surveyed are actively involved in after school Jewish programming. After a decade, this alarmingly low number remained unchanged.
The Chabad Teen Network known as CTeen was born just a few short years ago with minimal interest; now it has grown into an international network with new locations sprouting rapidly in Europe, South Africa, and Australia.
“CTeen is dedicated to building and growing a worldwide Jewish teen network with roots in every Chabad center across the globe,” says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, chairman of the Chabad Teen Network. “We will not rest until every Jewish teen is not only involved in but also an active participant in Jewish life.
With more shluchim heeding the call to cater to Jewish teens, CTeen has expanded this year in both quality and quantity. Exactly a year ago, the CTeen team sat down with a group of shluchim to map out the year ahead. Now, the team prepares a duch to the Rebbe to report the nachas of thousands of teens around the world who joined Chabad House teen programming and the thousands of teens who joined CTeen regional trips and shabbatons.
While some shluchim deal primarily with teens, many shluchim are juggling the responsibilities of Hebrew schools, camps, and preschools in addition to CTeen. To help accommodate varying communities and interests, CTeen is developing new initiatives geared for all types of teens and shluchim.
“Much thought and input from shluchim was needed to redesign and format the program guides to be both flexible and user friendly. Sample schedules divided the activities into weekly, biweekly, and monthly schedules for shluchim to easily choose from,” explains Rabbi Mendel Perlstein, CTeen’s program director. “No matter how many or what type of teens are in your community, we have something for you to offer them.”
“The guides saves me a lot of time and literally make it possible for me to run my teen program,” testifies Rabbi Shloime Adler of Chabad of Northern Virginia.
The featured CTeen program combines humanitarian, educational, and social aspects to create a unique and incredible teen experience.
Teaming up with international organizations including Chiai Lifeline, The Aleph Institute, and the Wheelchair Basketball Association, as well as local organizations, the teens prepared craft kits, matza packages, toy drives, and puppet show stages, as well as wrote letters to children and visited hospitals and senior centers. And with CTeen’s new humanitarian hour-tracking program, teens are able to keep track of the increasing amount of time they dedicate to others, inspiring them to do even more.
For 2013, we are very excited to announce that CTeen has teamed up with Chabad’s educational arm, JLI Teens, to provide Chabad centers with the best in educational programming for teens. JLI Teens also offers a variety of education-focused programs for teens. Shluchim who participate in both programs will receive a 10 percent discount to apply to toward their registration fee.
CTeen will continue its monthly program package series with the 2013 package entitled “Time Unlocked,” which connects relevant modern-day teen issues, such as bullying, dating, and depression, to timeless mitzvos and themes in Torah. This past year’s program series, “Viewpoints,” explored meaningful life lessons derived from seemingly mundane concepts like sports, money, and board games. A Holiday Connection Corner linked each month’s theme with upcoming yomim tovim.
Reflections, a new program encouraging teens to open up in casual settings such as coffee shops, parks, and lounges to explore topics previously discussed, was met with much enthusiasm. Teens recollect lessons learned during the regular in-house program and voice their opinions in their Reflections Journals.
This year’s international Shabbaton, which takes place annually in Crown Heights, united hundreds of teens from around the world. Rabbi Shimon Rivkin, CTeen’s National Events Director, recalls a shliach commenting after the Shabbaton that it had accomplished more in one weekend than he would have been able to accomplish in an entire year.
With momentum still high after the shabbaton, teens requested more opportunities to meet with their CTeen friends. Maddie Rosen, a teen from Teaneck, New Jersey, messaged CTeen’s Facebook page: “Hi to whoever runs this page! Can we please have another shabbaton sometime soon?? I miss my new friends and the memories of that incredible and inspiring weekend sooo much! It would be amazing to see everyone again and to be able to experience the amazing Shabbat that I had, again.”
With the enthusiasm pouring in, shluchim began arranging regional trips. CTeen of Pennsylvania and South Jersey convened for a Lag B’Omer barbecue, an Orlando overnight getaway is scheduled for next week, and regional trips in Atlanta, Virginia, and California are set, as well.
This past May, CTeen of New Jersey got together for a paintball trip and boating outing. Elliot Finer from Pennsylvania ended up celebrating his Hebrew birthday with 90 other Jewish teens on the trip. After finding the event on Facebook and signing up, Elliot invited two friends to join him and convinced their rabbi to chaperon them.
High School Clubs
CTeen High, a monthly high-school program, is expanding this coming year. The program will walk shluchim through the process of setting up a club within their nearby public school to make it easy for shluchim to keep the connection with the Jewish kids they invested so much into until bar/bas mitzva, as well as meet new ones and attract them to their Chabad Houses.
Six CTeen chapters piloted a teen leadership program that boosted attendance and involvement at local CTeen programs. An online chat room hosted discussions for teen leaders from three time zones, connecting leaders from different chapters. Mrs. Chaya Posner from Rancho Mirage, California claims her teens have benefitted tremendously from their leadership roles. “Melissa and Rachel, two of our teen leaders, are involved in the National CTeen planning. This has really empowered them, giving them additional responsibility at communal events.”
The teen leadership program will IY”H be open for all CTeen chapters this coming year.
With chapters sprouting in distant areas such as Germany, Austria, England, South Africa, and China, the videos and products have had to be translated in foreign languages.
The CTeen website, CTeen.com, has recently undergone a renovation and has grown into a popular site for teens to keep connected between programs. CTeen.com’s Facebook page has doubled its likes in the past six months, becoming an online hotspot for teens to chat, connect with new friends, and be informed about upcoming events and Jewish holidays.
“The thoughtful, stimulating, and inspiring program provided by CTeen has succeeded in empowering our Jewish teenagers and instilling in them a real and active pride in their Judaism,” acclaims Sarah Sherman, CTeen girls division head in Chabad of Las Vegas. “Every one of our teens has enthusiastically attested to how much CTeen has changed and inspired them.”
For more info about CTeen’s programs, see www.cteen.com/register.