80 Jewish Teens From Around the World to Visit Poland, Israel as Part of Summer ‘Heritage Quest’ Program
Eighty Jewish teens from around the world will travel to Poland and Israel this month, as part of a program aimed at helping them explore their history, particularly the Holocaust, Chabad.org reported on Monday.
During the 22-day trip, called the CTeen “Heritage Quest,” participants — aged 15-18 — will visit sites such as the Warsaw Jewish Center and the Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. After spending six days in Poland, the group will fly to Israel and tour the country, visiting such landmarks as the Dead Sea, the Western Wall and Masada.
The “Heritage Quest” is divided into two segments — one for boys and another for girls. The 9th-12th-graders, from North America, England, Sweden and other countries, will also do 12 hours of community service as part of the program.
“We hope that the experience will empower Jewish teens with knowledge,” said CTeen International Vice Chairman Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, according to Chabad.org. “Our goal is to give them an educational and meaningful summer trip. We hope that they take away a much stronger connection to their Jewish faith and community, and get more involved once they return home.”
“We want to give our teens an authentic Jewish approach to dealing with tragedy and loss,” said Rabbi Nachum Rivkin, CTeen summer coordinator, “with a focus on rebuilding and rebirth in the wake of what happened in Europe.”
Ahead of the trip, Rabbi Yossi Lew, co-director of Chabad of Peachtree City in Georgia, will give preparatory webinars to participants, counselors and trip leaders. Rabbi Lew will discuss historical aspects of the Holocaust, institutionalized antisemitism, spiritual preparation for the trip and other topics, according to Chabad.org.
“I hope that the teens will come away with a sense of what antisemitism is and what happened there,” said Rabbi Lew. “And specifically, that despite what happened, we’re even stronger now than we were then, and that there’s no end as to what’s able to be achieved today, after the Holocaust.”
The rabbi will also provide the counselors with ideas of how to help teens cope with their experiences on the trip.
“It’s a very overwhelming trip, and things happen so fast. You’re hit with the horror of the Holocaust, and it can be too difficult, very devastating,” said Rabbi Lew. “I want the counselors to be prepared, so that they don’t miss those key moments. And at those specific times when it’s tough, the counselors must encourage kids to get up and speak about their feelings, even if it’s difficult and makes them cry.”