Heritage Quest, CTeen’s groundbreaking summer trip through Poland and Israel, recently concluded its first annual trip, offering a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Jewish teens from around the world to explore the roots of their Jewish heritage at the source. Teens traveled in time, through the tragic history of Poland, leading all the way to visiting and learning about Jewish life in Israel. The effect of Heritage Quest is one that will go down in history.
The groups spent six days visiting many sites of past Jewish presence in Poland, including the concentration and death camps Treblinka, Chelmno, and Auschwitz. The trip offered teens the opportunity to deeply understand the Holocaust and its long lasting effects on world Jewry. For many of the teens, Heritage Quest was their first real exposure to Holocaust education.
As Ben Bursk, a teen participant from Manchester, England shared: “Seeing these things pushed me to want to continue learning and continue letting my Jewish pride burn bright and come alive.”
From Poland, the groups traveled to Israel where they discovered the significance of the Jewish homeland and contemporary Jewish life. The groups traveled throughout Israel, visiting iconic homeland sites, including Ma’harat Hamachpela, the Kotel, and more.
“After visiting Auschwitz, the camp of pure evil where 1.1 million Jews were torn from their families and murdered, we traveled straight to the airport, took a flight to Israel, and drove directly to the Western Wall,” shared Zack Horowitz from Wilmington, Delaware. “Going from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high was the moment that everything about this trip became real for me.”
In addition to the excursions and activities that camp offered, the teens also took part in several community service opportunities throughout the trip, including the Matzeva Project in Poland, and Pantry Packers in Israel. The daily trips were also jam packed with daily lessons, classes, and opportunities for the teens to learn more about their heritage. The boys’ trip was led by Rabbi Moshe Rapoport of CTeen Mequon WI while the girls’ division was led by Mrs. Rochel Flikshtein of CTeen Wilmington, Delaware.
“Before I attended Heritage Quest, I’m embarrassed to say that I actually hid my Jewish identity,” shared Zachary Cohen, from Dix Hills, New York. “Now, after this experience, I am so proud to be part of this amazing nation and family.”
“Being in Israel, especially after learning about Jewish history in Poland, was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done” shared Talia Abrams, from Princeville, Hawaii. “I’m more inspired and aware of my role in the Jewish nation.”
Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, vice chairman of CTeen shared: “ Heritage quest is a major step in the continuous growth to CTeen, It is clear that summer camp is from the most impactful experiences for these teens.we are confident that their growth will be expontential because of Heritage Quest.”
Rabbi Nachman Rivkin, Director of CTeen summer trips shared: “The remarkable effects of this trip are thanks to the dedicated staff members, who connected very well and invested so much into each teen.”
CTeen would like to thank: Rabbi Yossi Lew of Chabad Peachtree City, GA for his guidance and involvement in preparing the participants for their visit to Poland.
Photos by Bentzi Sasson and Bassie Vorovitch