Article submitted by Rabbi Shmaya Friedman
Forty teens from across the Greater Boston area traveled with the North of Boston Jew Crew led by Rabbis Yossi Lipsker and Shmaya Friedman to New York City on March 28 for their annual Shabbaton. Dubbed “Jew Crew + NYC,” the focus of the weekend was the opportunity to observe Shabbat in Crown Heights, and create new bonds and friendships.
For many, this trip is a very new and eye-opening experience. This year, for the first time the Jew Crew members were joined by fellow teens from Lexington led by Rabbi Avi Bukiet.
Now in its fifth year, the Jew Crew got an authentic look into the different sights and sounds of one of the biggest and most exciting cities in the world. On Friday after arriving in Manhattan they enjoyed lunch at the only Kosher branch of New York’s Bravo Pizza. After lunch they headed to Chelsea Piers, “New York’s Playground” and one of the city’s most popular landmarks, where they enjoyed bowling in the hip Bowlmor Lanes.
Then it was time to meet their host families in Crown Heights and to prepare for Shabbat, which began with a lively, spirited and emotionally charged Kabbalat Shabbat service.
Jew Crew’s presence inspired over half an hour of dancing and singing that had the entire congregation on their feet and bringing in Shabbat with a sense of renewed and newfound excitement for one of Judaism’s most central traditions.
Services were followed by a beautiful Shabbat dinner for more than 50 people. The lavish meal was selflessly hosted by one of the host families. The teens went around the table introducing themselves and sharing tidbits about themselves in a group building exercise.
“The goal of Jew Crew + NYC is to give teens an opportunity to meet fellow Jewish Teens and create really special friendships,” said Rabbi Shmaya Friedman. “Spending Shabbat in Crown Heights gives the teens a glimpse of how spiritual and warm the twenty four hours of Shabbat can be. To see an entire community ‘shut everything down’ and fill their lives and homes with the light of Shabbat--has a lasting effect on the teens.”
Shabbat day began with shul hopping around town, after which the Jew Crew headed to lunch, which was, once again, very generously hosted by a local family.
Over lunch the teens were asked to speak of their thoughts and feelings on what they found unique about Crown Heights. Carly Sontz, of Marblehead, shared how “unbelievably warm and friendly everyone in the community is, complete strangers kept wishing us a “Shabbat Shalom!” as if we were old friends.”
After lunch, Jewish Historian and CEO of Marcus Advertising, Chaim Marcus treated the teens to a talk on Jewish Identity. The teens each had an opportunity to share why they felt that the Jews, although being such a small percentage of the population continue to make such a great impact in the world.
Shabbat was brought to a close with a service of songs and stories led by Rabbi Chezzi Denebeim of Brooklyn’s hippest congregation, Chevra Ahavat Yisroel.
After Shabbat, the teens headed to Dave and Buster’s for some late night arcades followed by a midnight snack at New York’s only Kosher Mexican Fast Food joint ,Carlos and Gabby’s.
On Sunday it was back to Boston, and a return to “normal” life. On the bus ride home, in recapping the trip, Rebecca Mitlin, of Marblehead, said “the trip’s only problem was that it was too short.” She then concluded, “I can’t wait for next year!”
It was Arden Hyte’s first trip to NY with North of Boston Jew Crew. When asked about her experience she said, “It really inspired me to become a more generous person. If someone can open their home up to over thirty teens for lunch, I could give up an afternoon to help someone.”
She continued, “I will treasure the friendships that I made on the trip for a long time, and coming home I had a feeling of peace and happiness. I feel like a fresh new person with a better outlook on life.”