CTeen Shabbaton – The Host’s Perspective

by Katie Freedman, Manchester, UK – Merkos302.com

The highlight of my year was always the Shabbaton. It brings the whole CTeen family together as well as creates the best atmosphere and the most enjoyable weekend! Because we are not having a Shabbaton in person this year, I wanted to look at this event from the hosts’ perspective—to see if they are as disappointed as I am! I now appreciate how much time and effort goes into planning the Shabbaton, from arranging the complex sleeping arrangements to deciding what snacks to put in the lunch bags. 

My first Shabbaton was the most thrilling experience and I had the best weekend, and host family ever. As soon as my chapter got to Crown Heights, we went straight to our Rebbetzin’s parents house who welcomed us all with open arms and we had a lovely dinner with their family. If that wasn’t enough, we then went to our own host families homes and were once again greeted with the kindest smiles and warmest hugs! Without them, my Shabbaton experience wouldn’t have been complete and I think many teens can agree with me. Every morning and night they would always say hi and offer me anything! I really miss the generosity and kindness that they offered and I cannot wait to meet more families in my future years as a CTeener.

The Kesselman family has hosted on eight occasions, all for CTeen Manchester! They became a host family because Mrs. Kesselman’s daughter Mushky Cohen, who is now the Rebbetzin in Manchester, once led a CTeen group from the Poconos overnight camp and they needed a place to stay for the shabbaton! “We were so happy to help,” says Mrs. Kesselman. “It was our first time getting to know CTeen and all the beautiful energy it comes with.”

For the Kesselmans, hosting “brings happiness and joy to the house!” They love to see how the teens connect to the Torah and mitzvot and see how proud they are to be Jewish. I asked what they will miss most about not hosting this year and they replied, “We will miss all the excitement and the liveliness that fills the streets of Crown Heights. We will miss the beautiful and inspiring Shabbat meals and nightly talks with the teens in our home.”

Mrs Kesselman continued to tell me about her favourite hosting memories. “I love the beautiful stories and songs sung throughout the Shabbat meals and the energetic Havdalah at our home before the teens head off to Times Square.” More specifically, she remembers when the teens would come to her house after a long flight from the UK. Before splitting into groups, they would all recite the bedtime Shema together—it was so powerful!

She said it will be very sad for her and her family not to host this year. “We look forward to it all year!” They will miss meeting all the teens, but she added “We are full of hope that next year will be even bigger and better—and G-d willing in Yerushalayim!”

The Feldman family not only hosts CTeeners but also college students for their Shabbaton. They have hosted CTeeners on four occasions and love the different experiences each group brings. I stayed in their home during the 2020 Shabbaton and enjoyed my stay so much.

Alyson Feldman said that she started hosting because she herself was hosted many times. Plus, she thinks it’s important for her kids to learn about having guests. “I want to show them what an open home looks like,” she says.

Alyson loves to see their guests interact with her kids and watch them all get along. “Teens have a lot of questions, and it’s really nice when they can watch our home in action.” The Feldmans especially like it “when they don’t just come for a meal, but they stay for Shabbos and we can talk to them in the morning.”

Something the Feldman family will miss about hosting this year will be “seeing all the chapters walking down the streets of Crown Heights.” They love to see how happy the teens are and hearing afterward from their Rebbetzin that they were happy in their home. “We’ve met so many different types of teens over the years.”

The Friedfertig family first became CTeen hosts after a neighbor of theirs moved to Montreal and became CTeen Rabbi and Rebbetzin there. Every time teens stay in their home, they “love the excitement and thirst to learn more about Judaism and our life in Crown Heights. It’s always so nice for our family to get to know the teens and really connect.”

I asked Mrs Friedfertig what they will miss about hosting this year and she replied “We’ll miss building a bond with the teens. They are so full of life. Their excitement is palpable, like watching kids in a candy store as some of them are keeping a full Shabbat for the first time.”

One of the family’s favorite CTeen memories has to be welcoming their guests back home after the Friday night dinner along with all of their friends who stay up chatting till the early hours of the morning. “Hearing from the teens about each of their journeys is truly inspiring.”

The Friedfertigs have hosted the same chapter for a few years in a row and can say they have become a part of their family. “They are welcome anytime here. Their beds are always waiting!”

There is no doubt that as a whole, Crown Heights will miss the teens. “Having them here brings a special vibe to the community,” Mrs Friedfertig shares. “Not only can you feel it in the air, but every store, every tree and lamp-post has signs welcoming all the teens from their cities around the world. Yes, it may be the teens’ Shabbaton, but we all get to take some of their excitement home with us too!”

One special thing to remember is that the Shabbaton can bring joy and happiness to every single person—whether they are a teen, a host family, or someone walking past as we sing down the streets.

We all will deeply and truly miss the Shabbaton experience this year but this means that, G-d willing, next year we will all be ready to hop back on a plane, head to New York (or Jerusalem!) and remind the city what we are made of and show everyone our amazing spirit for CTeen!

Tune in Sunday at 2:00 PM ET, for the “CTeen Mega UpLyft Event”, watch live at chabad.org/UpLyft.

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