At the Second Annual CTeen Leadership Retreat, over forty teen leaders came together from around the world to learn the secrets behind what it takes to be a powerful leader. From dynamic workshops and hands on activities, the teens gained all the tools they’ll need to go out into the world and be the leaders of tomorrow. Surely, the inspiration and insight that the teens gained at the retreat will continue to affect their chapters—and their lives—for years to come.
The Chabad Teen Network, also known as CTeen has grown over the years from a small community catering to less than 150 teens, to a dynamic, world known program that reaches thousands of teens. What’s the secret to CTeen’s success? Teen Leadership. CTeen chapters rely heavily on their leadership board, a group of 2-5 teens in their chapter that run and organize their programs, events, and social activities.
Workshops included a time management course, a personality workshop—aimed at teaching teens about how to incorporate the best of many personalities when working together as a group, a marketing session in which teens had a chance to sharpen and engage their skills from writing and editing to photography and graphic design, as well as many other engaging and inspiring courses throughout the weekend. “I really liked the Vent Machine, which was moderated by Rabbi Shais Taub,” said teen leader Sara Bensimhon. “Teens were able to give their input about what is going on in their CTeen chapters and shared ideas on how to improve. It really motivated me to go home and do more for my chapter.”
As Alan Grimberg from Kensington, Brooklyn, NY, who recently became one of the leaders of his CTeen chapter shared: “Because of the leadership retreat, I learned how to be a better leader, how to grow my chapter, and how to make the most of my CTeen time. It was amazing. My goal for next year is to grow my CTeen chapter as much as possible. I want to have 100 members by the next International Shabbaton, and I want to make sure our CTeen chapter is the most unique, the most energetic, and the most lively.”
During a workshop about Chabad on Campus led by Rabbi Yossi & Manya Lazeroff, the teens went around the room and shared their thoughts on why they became CTeen leaders. Almost unanimously, the teens answered: Because they wanted to bring an awareness and enthusiasm about Judaism to themselves and others. As Risa Mond, leader from Plano, TX said: “I wanted to make a difference in other teens’ lives. CTeen is awesome—I didn’t want to keep it to myself!” This workshop was one of the many in which the teens had a chance to speak their minds about the things that are closest to their hearts. In a discussion with shluchim called “Ask The Teens” moderated by Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, teens had the opportunity to share their thoughts on a myriad of topics, from their thoughts on what it takes to be a strong leader, to how they would handle conflict within their chapter. “I gained a lot of insight from this session” shared leader Ben Perez from Stony Brook, NY. “I learned a lot of new information from hearing the other leaders share their thoughts. I walked away with new tools that will definitely benefit my chapter.” In another session called ‘Up Close and Personal with Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky’ the teens learned about the behind the scenes events of CTeen. As Gabby Sharbin shared: “I left that session with a better appreciation for what really happens at CTeen. What happens at my chapter is just one piece in a worldwide puzzle.”
The weekend also included a myriad of fun and games to go along with the hands on material and lessons that were learned. Participants were treated to recreational activities such as archery, swimming, basketball, boating, turning the weekend into a well rounded and relaxing retreat for all involved. On Saturday night, teens visited Have a Hoot, a local indoor recreational gym that included rock climbing, lazer tag, and other indoor sports.
The retreat came to close on Sunday with a high energy celebratory lunch, featuring teen and shluchim speakers who spoke about their experiences at CTeen over the years, and what their looking forward to most in the year coming up. For some teens who recently graduated, such as Sam Hollander, a teen leader from New York, this retreat was the final CTeen event they participated in. It did not disappoint. “What a way to end my years at CTeen,” he shared. “CTeen is my family, and I am so grateful for the time I had as a CTeen leader. I feel very blessed to have been able to call CTeen my second home throughout the years. Next stop: Chabad on Campus!”