Teens Take Jewish Pride to Heart and Home

Teens Take Jewish Pride to Heart and Home

Dovid Zaklikowski

Teens from France enjoy a moment during the banquet of the Cteen International Convention in Brooklyn, NY. Below; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses the teens.

by Dovid Zaklikowski - New York, NY

March 2, 2015

“I could not believe that there were so many Jews in one place without being scared,” Cyril Buchinger, a high school senior from France said in astonishment, as he and some 100 of his peers danced as Jews, Saturday night on Manhattan’s Times Square.

At the CTeen International Shabbaton in New York, Cyril and others among the 1400 teens from countries where Jews are not safe to freely express themselves, were brought to tears by the sheer of joy of an uninhibited display of their identity.

CTeen was created, says its Director Shimon Rivkin, "to harness the incredible power of youth to affect positive change in the world."

The immersive Shabbaton was an empowering experience for the teenagers, who took their pride to the street Saturday night, as the entire group converged on Times Square where 15,000 sq feet of digital signage on the American Eagle Outfitters screens broadcasted Jewish images.

Jewish pop singer Gad Elbaz belted out the lyrics: “Yes I'm a Jew / A proud one too / As bright as day / It's my DNA.”

The experience was further bolstered by greetings from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In his video-taped remarks, aired at the closing banquet event of the weekend, he paid the delegates from France special attention: “The thoughts of us all are with those who have lost family and friends in the recent horrific terrorist attacks in that city.”

The Secretary General applauded “Chabad institutions such as CTeen [which] have a strong reputation for working in the community.” CTeens reaches 10,000 Jewish teenagers weekly, through its 150 chapters internationally.

Jewish political activist Rabbi Yaacov Behrman coordinated the Secretary General's greetings. "He chose the CTeen platform to convey his message to the Jewish community, in recognition of the power of the young generation." 

Jordyn Hazan from the Boca Raton, Florida, Cteen chapter told the crowd that the mission she shares with all Cteeners is to reach out to their peers in their community: “It is you who will determine that no teen will be left behind.” 

The teens were hailed as tomorrow’s Jewish leaders: “We look at you as the future leaders of the Jewish people, because you are the ones that are going to spread the values of what is good and right,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Back at home in Colmar, France, Cyril, a senior at the the Bartholdi Colmar public school, will continue meeting with his Cteen chapter and Jewish friends. “We are scared to go around with any visible Jewish signs,” Buchinger said. “I love America, because everyone walks around proudly with their Jewishness.” 

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