The Chabad Center for Jewish Life of Merrick-Bellmore has a little something for everyone in the Jewish community. Now, they've added a little something extra for Jewish teens.
Chabad has launched a chapter of their teen network, C-Teen, in our area. A kickoff event was held at Baseball Plus in Freeport on Thursday as teens met, mingled, and even managed a few swings in the batting cage.
C-Teen is the latest program put together by Chabad Center directors Rabbi Shimon Kramer, and his wife, Chanie. Rabbi Kramer said teens have a bit too much free time nowadays, and C-Teen gives them a brand new social outlet.
"Teens are very busy with school, the question is what do they do with their free time," Kramer said. "Having too much free time is not always the best thing."
C-Teen is a three-pronged program for Jewish teens, ages 13-17. The first part is social. On this night there was baseball and basketball, along with a healthy dose of ice cream and candy.
However, the key to the program lies in the other two aspects, education and volunteering. For education, C-Teen events will include guest speakers, who will chat with teens about issues they face in school, at home, and about Judaism.
Also, C-Teen members will volunteer their time and give back to the community. They may write letters to troops overseas. Perhaps visit a nursing home, or perform outreach work for the homeless. It's all meant to give teens a sense of accomplishment, while learning about themselves and spending time with their peers.
"Through them volunteering, they will feel they have a sense of purpose in the world, and that will give them healthy self-esteem, which is important for today's teens," Kramer said.
Itty Barber is running C-Teen out of the Chabad Center. She said the teenage years are where many Jews lose their sense of identity, as peer pressure and the pressure of school take over. She's worked for C-Teen on a national level, and said she constantly hears from parents that this program fills a void that develops, usually after a child's Bar Mitzvah.
"It's such a growing stage, so many things happen," Barber said. "If they have programs and activities where they can grow in their Judaism, why not give it to them?"
C-Teen events are scheduled for once a month, but everyone involved in Chabad hopes as word spreads, so will membership, and along with it, the number of events.
That would be just fine for Devora David of Merrick, who's active in Chabad, and now, in C-Teen as well.
"You get one Jew to come, they get involved, then you get another one...if you make it fun, then a lot of Jews will come," David said.
Fun, with a purpose. And a little junk food thrown in for good measure.
C-Teen is open to teens in Bellmore, Merrick, Wantagh and southeast Nassau. Go to www.ChabadJewishLife.org/cteen for more information about C-Teen.