12437611266?profile=RESIZE_710xThe CTeen Lounge at the Chabad of Lake Worth provides a safe space for young Jews to gather. Photo provided

By Faran Fagen

The sheer surface of the pingpong table contains a circle with white letters that proclaim, “The Power of Youth.” In the corner of the room, above a card table, is a quote about the importance of generosity. A dart board reads, “Keep your eyes on the goal.”

Positive messaging is at the heart of the new Jewish teen center at the Chabad in Lake Worth Beach. Dubbed the CTeen Lounge and initiated by local teens and supported by the community, it aims to provide a safe space where Jewish identity is celebrated and nurtured.

Teens felt such a safe space was especially necessary in these challenging times for Jewish youth.

“I’ve benefited so much from CTeen and Jewish Learning Institute,” said Kaci McKean, 17, of Boynton Beach. “I’ve made numerous friends and learned so much about Judaism.”

McKean enjoys learning Torah and gathering with friends she met through Jewish Learning Institute. They have a unique bond and see each other almost every weekend, hanging out, learning about Judaism and praying together on Shabbat.

“After services, we go into the teen lounge and play ping-pong, eight-ball, chess, or just sit on the couches and talk,” McKean said. “It’s very special to me to be able to bond with people about Judaism.”

Against the backdrop of rising antisemitic rhetoric online and in school, the CTeen Lounge offers a teen-centric community center for relaxation, bonding and education.

In addition to the curated programs and activities, teens now have a space to meet up with like-minded individuals in their demographic in a safe and enjoyable location.

“Now more than ever, it’s vital to create spaces where Jewish identity can be nurtured and celebrated,” said Leah Rosenfeld, who directs CTeen Lake Worth with her husband,

Rabbi Mendy Rosenfeld. “At a time when many are being attacked for who they are, it’s even more important to learn about your heritage, embrace it, and be proud.”

The March 27 ribbon-cutting event featured donors, politicians, alumni from other CTeen programs and teen leaders sharing experiences and insights, offering a glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of modern Jewish youth.

Plans for the center began before the Oct. 7 Israeli-Hamas war erupted. But after Oct. 7, the teen haven became even more necessary.

“It magnified the need,” said Leah Rosenfeld, who has directed the Chabad of Lake Worth with her husband since 2006. “Us creating this safe space for them is telling them loud and clear how valuable they are to the community.”

The CTeen Loungers, ranging from the eighth to 12th grades, have reciprocated. They’ve attended holiday events on their own, without parents. They’ve taken part in a plethora of community events such as Cookies for Cops and Better Together, which pairs teens with senior citizens to assist them and hear their life stories.

12437611889?profile=RESIZE_710xStudents participating in the fun at CTeen pose for a selfie. Photo provided

The teens have even become self-governing — they created a charity box in the lounge for tzedakah (Hebrew for philanthropy). Anytime people use foul language, they put money in the box.

“It’s more than a lounge,” Rosenfeld said. “They’re showing up in ways that’s so much more than just a physical space. They understand that they can make the world a better place.”

The center is one of 20 such spaces built across the United States throughout the past year, with 10 more scheduled to open in the coming months.

“Despite all odds, Jewish teens like those of CTeen Lake Worth are stepping up to create positive change in their communities and online,” says Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, of Chabad World Headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. “We’re seeing these safe spaces serve as the incubators of that change.” 

As for McKean, the CTeen Lounge has heightened her Jewish learning and made her feel more comfortable with herself.

“I get to know myself more when I am learning Torah, and many of the topics we discuss are very relatable to many people my age,” McKean said. “Chabad is where many Jewish teens are able to express themselves and be proud of being Jewish.”

If You Go
CTeen Lounge at Chabad of Lake Worth, 5801 Colbright Road, Lake Worth Beach
Info: Call 561-649-8468 for hours and other details

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