More than 3,000 Jewish teens from 30 countries will converge on New York City this weekend for the annual CTeen International Summit, which includes a mega post-Shabbat rally in Times Square and a concert featuring the Jewish rapper Nissim Black.
CTeen, or Chabad Teens, has more than 700 chapters in 54 countries and aims to impart a love of Judaism among middle- and high-schoolers. It also gives young people, many of whom are often the only Jewish students in their class or school, a sense of community.
The teens will experience an Orthodox Shabbat in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., where they will also visit a Jewish scribe, a matzah factory and mikvah, or ritual bath. They will also visit the office of the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson—at 770 Eastern Parkway, the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
“I am shocked by all these young people of my age. Same traditions! Different countries! Different Continents!” exclaimed Boaz Cohen, a ninth-grader from Abuja, Nigeria, home to one of the 70 new CTeen Chapters launched throughout the past year. “I’m proud of my people and proud of my youth.”
This year’s theme is “Meant2B,” geared at addressing teen anxieties through a Torah lens. Teens will share their personal journeys in lectures and workshops on topics ranging from battling cystic fibrosis to years in the foster-care system.
Organizers selected the theme in part as a response to the mental-health crisis affecting young people worldwide. In the last decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked a 60% increase in feelings of sadness or hopelessness among teenage girls, including a rise in suicide attempts, as per data released last week by the CDC.
“The summit is a vital opportunity for Jewish teenagers to connect to their Jewish identity with pride and unity, realizing they are part of the global Jewish community,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, chairman of CTeen International and vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
“The hope is that they will return home empowered to inspire their fellow teens,” he stated. “The power of the youth cannot be underestimated.”
To watch a live stream of the Times Square event, click here.