Twelve-year-old Mendel Refson attends the local Jewish day school in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. While his classmates busy themselves with soccer practice and karate lessons after school, Mendel helps his parents prepare for large-scale Shabbos meals and studies for his bar mitzva. A proud shliach in Charleston, the nearest Lubavitcher boys his age live two-and-a-half hours away in Myrtle Beach. Last Shabbos, though, any vestiges of loneliness quickly faded as he connected with twenty yaldei hashluchim at a regional shabbaton six-and-a-half-hours’ drive from his home in Greensboro, North Carolina.
A project of MyShliach and the fifteenth shabbaton of its kind, this one saw bochurim fly into four different locations and drive routes of up to seven hours each in order to pick up yaldei hashluchim from eight cities throughout Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and bring them to the home and Chabad House of Rabbi Yosef and Hindy Plotkin. With nearly all of them attending local Jewish day schools and living far away from likeminded peers, the shabbaton was, as eight-year old Levi Charytan of Kennesaw, Georgia described, “a dream.”
Mivtzoim at a local mall and senior living center got the boys into the shabbaton spirit and set the stage for a Shabbos filled with lively seudos, davening, nigunim and stories. Nine-year-old Mendel Vorst from Charlotte, North Carolina delivered a dvar Torah based on a sicha he learned with his MyShliach chavrusa, Shmaya Hecht, that week. The boys inspired and strengthened themselves and one another to grow in their Chassidishkeit and dedication to shlichus and planted the seeds of new friendships with their “neighbors.” Motzoei Shabbos swimming was followed by a royal melave malka with pizza, fries and late-night shmoozing. The next morning saw the boys travel by stretch limo to a grand bowling trip, only to be climaxed by a spirited Hakhel barbeque that concluded the shabbaton.
“My boys couldn’t stop talking about the fun things they did and the new friends they met,” Mrs. Chana Lieblich, shlucha to Wilmington, North Carolina reported. “A big yashar koach to all the incredible counselors who gave our children this amazing weekend. The impact will last far beyond the time spent together.”
“There’s something special about connecting with fellow yaldei hashluchim living relatively close by,” says MyShliach director Rabbi Mendy Shanowitz. “The boys see and feel that there are others just like them who are living under similar circumstances and together they inspire each other to be strong and proud shluchim. We are so grateful to the Plotkins for hosting this shabbaton and thank the shabbaton coordinators, Zushi Rivkin and Mendel Weingarten, along with counselors Yaakov Dovid Kotlarsky and Meir Shlomo Gordon, for being the catalysts for all this growth.”