“Without a doubt, Tuesday night is my favorite part of the week,” Avishua Stein, age 15, told me. “The overall feeling of being there makes me feel amazing,” agreed David Storfer, age 19, a fellow Chabad Teen Network member.

These teens – on average 25-30 each week, with an overall membership around 100 – meet weekly, led by Rabbi Michoel Goldin, to hang out, eat pizza – and volunteer.

“I started off with six teens – two I knew, and they brought friends. They were shocked, excited, they had never seen something like this. A Rabbi to them is this big guy who doesn’t really relate down to their level, talk their language.” The teens testify to Rabbi Goldin’s skill: “Michoel Goldin is such an amazing person. He really is the cause for teens wanting to do good deeds, and feeling great about themselves afterwards. He is the reason for the good feelings, good times, and strong friendships that come from doing good,” said Yona McGraw, also age 15. Avishua Stein put it simply: “He’s the coolest Rabbi ever.”

Their volunteer project locations agree: “Rabbi Goldin is awesome, has so much energy,” said Sharon Horn of the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities (JADD). There is no lack of praise for the teens, either: “The thing that’s so beautiful about it is they bring inclusion into the community for these people [living in a developmentally disabled home]… Everyone benefits – the teens get to understand people that are different and have challenges, and the people who live in our home are shown that people are interested in them,” continued Sharon Horn.

Chabad Teens with children at an Englewood homeless shelter.  Photo used courtesy Michoel Goldin.

Chabad Teens with children at an Englewood homeless shelter. Photo used courtesy Michoel Goldin.

“They were wonderful, they were exciting, they were fun – they were great. They were lovely people, the kids loved them and so did I,” said Nancy Woods of the Interreligious Fellowship for the Homeless of Bergen County, where the teens ran a carnival for homeless children, complete with a cotton candy machine and prizes.

The children’s carnival has been David Storfer’s favorite volunteer project so far. He’s had amazing times with all of the projects, though. “We were visiting folks in the hospital and giving them Rosh Hashana [Jewish New Year] gift baskets and prayers. While we were there this one patient asked me and one of my friends to see a dance because she heard we were really good. So on the spot me and my good friend Phil just started dancing together to absolutely no music and we looked ridiculous but the smile on her face and the joy in her heart made it one of the best experiences of my life!”

Chabad Teens making Jewish New Year cards with developmentally disabled=

Chabad Teens making Jewish New Year cards with developmentally disabled residents. Photo used courtesy Michoel Goldin.

It’s these relationships – with one another, and with the people they help – that keep bringing the teens back. “I got involved with Chabad through some friends, and I’m glad I did because it really transforms you, and makes you think about all the things that you could do to make different people smile, for different reasons,” Yona McGraw explained. She continued, “I go to Chabad because of the people- those whom you work with, and those whom you work for… When you go to Chabad for the first time, you’re welcomed warmly by people your age, your peers, who are there for the same reason as you are. You become so close to these people, and you have fun with them, while brightening someone’s day, who might not have had their day brightened in a long time. It’s hard to explain, as you can see, and maybe imagine, because it’s just such a great feeling. Chabad is a great place.”

David Storfer agrees, and also sees Chabad as a way of developing a lifestyle: “I do Chabad because I think if teens get involved with chessed [acts of kindness] now it will become a very normal part their everyday lives and because of how our joy makes others joyful – it’s just so contagious!”

Chabad Teens distributing matzah at Hackensack Hospital. Photo used courtesy Michoel Goldin.

Chabad Teens distributing matzah at Hackensack Hospital. Photo used courtesy Michoel Goldin.

Rabbi Goldin hopes that all the teens will come away with this lifestyle impact: “The goals are to make the world a better place and to instill self-esteem. One day [these teens will] grow up and create their own clubs or somehow inspire others and create this chain reaction.”

For more information on the C-Teen Network, go to: http://www.chabadhouse.com or contact Chabad of Teaneck at: 201-907-0686.

Know a great volunteer or volunteer organization? Leave me a comment or email me through this link to let me know!

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