Heritage Quest, CTeen’s annual trip through Poland and Israel, recently concluded its fourth year. 90 teens traveled back in time through Jewish history in Poland, and continued with visiting and experiencing Jewish life in Israel. The teens learned about their heritage and their role in the Jewish future at the source.
Both the boys’ and girls’ trips spent six days visiting many sites of past Jewish presence in Poland, including the concentration and death camps Treblinka, Majdanek, and Auschwitz. The trip provided the teens with a deep understanding of the Holocaust, its effects on world Jewry, and the right approach to tragedy, loss, and rebuilding.
“Seeing these things pushed me to want to continue learning and continue letting my Jewish pride burn bright and come alive,” shared Shai Fichtelberg, a 10th grader from Geyserville, California.
The boys’ trip was led by Rabbis Mendy Muskal of CTeen Wellington, Florida and Dovid Weinbaum of CTeen West Suffolk County, New York. The girls’ trip was led by Mrs. Sarah Sherman of Las Vegas Jewish High School for girls.
The groups traveled from Poland to Israel where they spent an additional 16 days, learning and engaging in activities that strengthened their Jewish pride. They visited sites such as Me’arat Hamachpela, the Kotel, Masada, and more. “I definitely walked away with a better understanding of who I am as a Jew and my place in our future,” shared Alex Dow, a graduating 12th grader from Boca Raton, Florida. His mother, Amy, shared, “Alex grew so much from this trip. He gained so many positive, insightful, and life-changing lessons from the experience. He came home saying he wants to live his life as a Jew, rather than a person who happens to be Jewish. The rest is all commentary!”
In addition to the excursions and activities, the teens also took part in several community service projects while in Israel, as well as daily lessons, classes, and enjoyed the opportunity to make wonderful friendships with a community of teens just like them. “This trip has allowed me to meet fellow Jewish girls and connect on a level I didn’t know was possible. Not only have I made friends that will last a lifetime, but I have made sisters for life. I know we will all stay in touch and will forever have a special bond.” Shared Sarah Strent, an 11th grader from Commack, New York.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, chairman of CTeen shared “The Heritage Quest program B’’H has succeeded in educating hundreds of teens coming from many different Chabad houses and enabling them to make major strides in their Yiddishkeit with many alumni continuing on to Jewish Day School, Yeshiva, or Seminary. It is our hope to be able to help many more Chabad houses with this project”.
Since the program’s inception in 5776, while in Poland, each of the CTeen groups have taken the opportunity to stop at the building that housed the Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim in Otwock and learn about the Frierdiker Rebbe’s unwavering leadership during some of the toughest times for European Jewry. Mendel Tenenbaum of Irvine, California and Mendel Weinberg of Manchester, England both counselors on this year’s boys trip shared, “It was an extraordinary privilege for us personally to visit Otwock. Our grandparents were both students there for several years and became very good friends who escaped from Europe together as the sole survivors from their families. Until they’re passing they remained very close, and for us to return to their Yeshiva where it all began was very special.”
“With the new year upon us, we are planning ahead and have confirmed the 5780 trip dates B’ezras Hashem” shared Rabbi Nachman Rivkin, CTeen’s summer trip coordinator. “The inspiring feedback shared by parents, teens, and staff obligates us to open this experience as early as possible and make every effort to reach and inspire many more Jewish teens.”