Some 250 Jewish teens from across North American used their energy this weekend to focus on matters of the soul rather than on Super Bowl Sunday. Teens streamed into New York from as far away as Canada as well as 44 states in the U.S.
The three-day affair was sponsored by CTeen, the Chabad Teen network, which counts a membership of 3,000 so far -- and it's growing.
The group is aimed at stopping the bleed of intermarriage which currently stands at approximately 55 percent in the United States alone, according to the 2010 report of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational outreach arm of the World Lubavitch movement, commented the event offered another way to help American Jews hang on to their Judaism.
"An elderly Jewish man was lamenting the decline of Jewish identity," Kotlarsky recounted. "He said, 'My grandfather called it 'the holy, sacred Shabbos,' my father called it 'the holy Shabbos,' I called it 'Shabbos,' my son calls it 'Saturday,' my grandson, 'the weekend.' I shudder to think of what his children will call it.'"
Many of the teens who showed up for the Big Apple event came from areas in which they felt isolated. "A lot of people are not from Jewish communities, so this is a way for us to make our own community," 14-year-old A.J. Mondry of Milwaukee, Wisconsin explained to Lubavitch.com.
"If you are ready, put your hands in the air!" the teens were told as they readied to sail around Manhattan island on the Queen of Hearts yacht. Sporting warm cobalt sweatshirts with the CTeens logo, with VIP passes swinging from their necks, boys were sent to the buffet below, while girls flooded into the upper deck for dancing.
Food was everywhere, with two panini chefs from Cucumber Catering providing top-flight refreshments that ranged from sushi to cheese hors d'oevres. A Florida rabbi juggled a ring of fire, while girls created a tribal African drum circle led by two dreadlocked instructors.
Super Bowl Sunday was spent instead touring the Jewish Children's Museum, visiting the Ohel, as the tomb of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, and his father-in-law, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, is called.
The teens were honored at day's end with a closing banquet, having missed the Super Bowl but having gained spiritual mileage.