Julia Landis, CTeen leader from Manalapan, New Jersey, has a new favorite story to tell after returning home from CTeen’s third annual Heritage Quest. “Life changing isn’t the word. This is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me and my family.”
Connecting Jewish teens to their heritage took on a whole new meaning for the participants of the 2018 Heritage Quest, especially Julia, who was drawn to her immediate family history at the source, on the memorial grounds of Treblinka.
“Treblinka was completely razed after the war. There are memorial stones that commemorate the towns of origin of the Jews who perished there. On the trip, we were asked to pick a town, which we would adopt and ‘bring home with us’ as part of the memory of our trip. The goal was for us to connect with and commemorate the lives from that town that never had the chance to experience life as we do,” Julia shared. Keeping to her assignment, she picked a town—Radom, in Poland—and took a picture to send to her mother.
Upon returning home, Julia’s mother discovered that her photo had much more meaning. Radom was the birthplace of her grandfather, the only survivor of his entire family. “Out of all of the headstones in Treblinka, over 17,000, I picked the one where my family used to live. I get the chills just thinking about it.”
Like Julia, the fifty teens who attended this year’s Heritage Quest, have come home with dozens of stories to share about their incredible experience.
While in Israel, with the assistance of Rabbi Zalman Wolowik of Chabad 5 Towns, the participants were treated to meet with the US Ambassador, Mr. David Friedman.
In his meaningful and engaging talk, Ambassador Friedman stressed, “There are ordinary people, and then there are extraordinary people, each one of you in this room is extraordinary, and have extraordinary potential to change the world. Just by virtue of being on this trip, by exploring your heritage, you’re making a statement about who you are and what you believe in.”
Rabbi Nachman Rivkin, CTeen’s summer coordinator, shared “We’re very thankful for this extraordinary treat. It was a rare privilege for our groups to be welcomed to Israel with a visit to Mr. Friedman’s home.
Teens spent 15 days exploring Israel and visiting holy cities and sites such as the Western Wall, Chevron, and Tzfat. They learned about Israel through hands on experiences, including volunteering at pantry packers, a project of Colel Chabad.
“Our daughter came home singing songs and talking about how proud she is to be a Jew. She is making a Shabbat meal tomorrow night! This wasn’t just a vacation to another land; this was a deeply felt experience that will be a part of the fabric of our child’s identity forever.” shared Lisa Kilion, of Ossining, NY whose daughter Leila attended the trip.
Jack McComb an 11th grader at Brooklyn Latin High School shared: “I’ve never felt more interested or proud of my Jewishness. I’ve come home from the trip with a desire to be open about my Judaism now.” Emily Linick of Waldwick, NJ shared a similar sentiment “I live in a secular community where I am one of the only Jews in the school. This trip has reminded me how I must show my Jewish pride unapologetically and continue to learn about my heritage because I need to pass this on to my children and future generations”
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch shared: “The impact of the Heritage Quest trip reaches far beyond the summer and is a major step in CTeen’s continuous growth to reach and uplift every Jewish teen”
CTeen is grateful to the dedicated counselors and the trip leaders, Rabbi Moshe Rapoport and Rabbi Avremi Schapiro, who ran the boys’ trip, and Mrs. Sarah Sherman and Mrs. Moushkie Volovik who ran the girls’ trip, for making this year’s CTeen Heritage Quest experience the best one yet.