By Merkos 302 news blog
Boys Photos by Mendy Goorevitch
Girls Photos by Chaya B Photography
One month of extreme sports, extreme learning and extreme fun came together for the ninety teens, and twenty staff members that made up this years CTeen Xtreme travel camp. From zip lining, and white water rafting, to nights around the fire exchanging inspiring stories, this on the go camp had everything to offer for the diverse groups of campers who came together for a summer they’ll never forget. From the get go, this year’s trip, which debutted with CTeen’s first girls camp, was set out to be the best one Xtreme has seen yet. A jam packed schedule with trips and travels all across the country, from Denver, Colorado, to Los Angeles, California. The 15 hour drive was broken up with activities and lodging all along the way. It was a trip of a lifetime.
From city to city, from activity to activity, the teens learned about Judaism, and took in what it really means to them. As the days drew on, they became more and more connected to their roots, many of them taking on mitzvos to continue once they arrived back home.
William Munoz, a teen from Woodcliff Lake, NJ, expressed his gratitude and love for Judaism upon arriving home: “I wasn’t serious about Judaism before camp, now I am thinking about my Jewish future, about Jewish marriage, which is a first. Now Judaism will play a critical role in my life.” Another teen, Vidal Ahmedov from Los Angeles, excitedly shared the mitzvos he will be taking on, strengthening his connection: “Today I spread wearing tzittzit and kippah throughout my family and I did morning and evening prayers with my dad! It’s such a blast!”
For Adrien Fraser, CTeen Xtreme was more than just a fun camp to meet up with new friends and have unforgettable and fun experiences; it’s where he learned where he truly belongs. Adrien, a teen from Newport, OR, came from a semi-traditional Jewish family, that occasionally, though not often, celebrated Shabbos and Holidays. As he grew older, he wanted to connect more to his Jewish roots, and so, after his Bar Mitzvah, he began to don tefillin and become involved with Jewish learning via Jnet. His mother was referred to the CTeen camp by Mushky Shemtov, Jnet’s women coordinator. Adrien signed up for camp on a whim. His life will never be the same.
“Near the end of camp, I realized that I hadn’t had a complete bris. So I decided that I should get the final blessing done. The day of my flight I got it done and I added Shalom to my name. I am very proud to say now that my name is Eliahu Shalom. And it couldn’t be done without CTeen.”
Texting his counselors at the airport, Adrien had a final word on the matter: ”Found my place in the airport as well as my soul I am a Jew and couldn’t be more proud. Thank you so much for everything.”
Rabbi Nachman Rivkin, Xtreme’s director, shared that preparing and planning the complex itinerary paid off when seeing the teens Davening daily, keeping Shabbos, learning about and taking on mitzvos.
Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302 said: “The impact this trip is having is exponential. Each teen that participated has returned to their respective cities empowered to grow their local CTeen chapter . Many of them are taking on leadership roles in their communities and are kickstarting local CTeen chapters. We look forward to creating more such opportunities for the Chabad Teen Network.”
Rabbi Yosef Konikov, shliach of South Orlando, who lead the boys camp, had high praise for this years teens and staff: “The most inspiring thing was witnessing the bonding between teens, and the friendship between staff and teens. This was not your typical camp; this group became like a real family, or an army unit, who for the rest of their life, will remember the important times they shared together.”
The girls division was just as vocal with sharing their love and appreciation for camp. Risa Mond from Plano, Texas said the trip was the best days of her life, during which she learned more about what her Jewish identity means to her. “It’s not a part of me, it is who I am”.
Rebbetzin Sara Alevsky’s voice was radiating with happiness when she spoke about her experience leading the CTeen girls division: “CTeen Xtreme was an incredible experience for us all: the counselors, support staff and campers. Testing our limits both physically and spiritually was the theme of the camp, and everyone benefited from the challenges: whether it was spending Shabbos cellphone free or taking the plunge on the zipline, everyone utilized this opportunity to grow. The girls bonded with each other and the staff and I am sure lasting friendships were forged on CTeen. I look forward to keeping in touch with the girls, starting with a CTeen reunion at my home this shabbos!”
Perhaps just as exciting as hearing from the teens themselves, was receiving feedback from proud parents. Doryss Amar, a parent of two campers from Gaithersburg, MD was ecstatic when she shared news of her daughters’ continued progress: “Alison is praying every morning. Lara is eating Kosher (no more food without OU) They had so much to tell us about the trip! I never saw them so HAPPY! Thank you! Todah Rabah!” Beth Giffin, a mother from Wilmington, DE, also shared news of her teen’s continued advancement in Yiddishkiet: “ “She is now humming Jewish tunes, singing prayers, shutting her phone off (voluntarily) for Shabbat… things she would NEVER have done previously!”
Michaela from Amissville, VA, gave an inspiring and touching speech at this years girls banquet. Her words ring true for every teen who attended CTeen Xtreme this year: “ What I learned is that Judaism is not just something you’re born with, but that it is an honor and blessing; something that you have to devote yourself to. I learned that because I’m Jewish I will never walk alone.”
CTeen is very grateful to Rabbi Yisroel Engel of Chabad Colorado for his assistance. Special thank you to all the Shluchim who hosted the travel camp along their journey:
Rabbi Dovid Mintz of Chabad Vail, CO, Rabbi Shanowitz & Rabbi Metal of Chabad Summerlin Rabbi Y. Shuchat of Or Bamidbar Chabad Las Vegas, NV, Rabbi Dov Wagner of Chabad USC, Rabbi Chaim Mentz of Chabad Bel Air, CA and Rabbi Baruch Hecht of Chabad Brentwood, CA.