A Dream of Teen Shabbatons

Ella attended a family shabbaton two weeks with the Jewish community from Poltava. Ella goes to many programs in her community ranging from teen programs, Sunday school, and Shabbat activities that are funded by both the local Hesed and the Progressive Jewish congregation Beth Am Poltava.

Ella is also a fantastic basketball player. She arrived at the shabbaton late because her basketball team beat the second best team in Ukraine for her age. Actually she beat the second best team. The final score was 60-30, and she had 40 points.

The shabbaton was a wonderful weekend where we celebrated b’nei mitzvah of two teenagers, Alexei and Anna, concurrently with a teenager in the twin Reform congregation Beth Am in Palo Alto, California. The theme of the weekend was Chanukah and how we can bring Chanukah back home.

We had many programs just as teenagers that were based on Chanukah including a dreidl competition, an acted out version of the story of Chanukah, and a discussion on what the real meaning of Chanukah was. The amount of knowledge and understanding that Ella had about the holiday was surprising, as Poltava does not have a Jewish day school or many Jewish organizations but her understanding, and many others, of the holiday was no less than Jews anywhere else in the world.

In our last group session, Ella made an announcement. She loved the weekend, but she would have loved it more, if it was just teenagers. And then she continued, “Let’s have shabbatons only for teenagers, with Kharkov, and Kiev, and Odessa, and Dnepropetrovsk, and every other city in Ukraine.”

Let’s make Ella’s dream a reality.


This year, we are trying to connect Jewish teenagers, like Ella, in Ukraine to each other through seminars and retreats and to BBYO international. Every week, I will be showcasing a different community and their teen club. Help us strengthen the Jewish world by connecting Jewish teens to one another. Learn more by clicking on the following link.



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