More than 500 young and eager Jewish leaders from across the globe began their week invigorated after an inspiring weekend at Chabad Young Professionals (CYP) Encounter Shabbaton, which took place on January 12-15 in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.

What began four years ago as a small and intimate weekend of just 50 participants has quickly surged into one of the young-adult Jewish community’s most awaited weekends of the year, with participants gathering from 100 different CYP communities throughout North America and Europe in this year of Hakhel and Jewish gatherings.

The gathering underscores CYP’s tremendous growth, to what is today the world’s largest network of young Jewish communities, with 218 CYP chapters around the world serving more than 220,000 young Jews.

“CYP’s Shabbaton was full of life!” Salomé Rivka Bouskila, a recent graduate of the University of Montreal, shares with Chabad.org. As a quantitative and computational biologist, Bouskila is naturally a student of the intellect, who often practiced Judaism from a very rational and practical perspective. However, after losing a young and close family member this past year, she has been committed to rediscovering the deeper, spiritual meaning of her Jewish practice. “Encounter opened my heart in new ways,” says Bouskila, “the energy over Shabbat felt so colorful and vibrant. It helped me to connect with the Torah I learn daily on an emotional level like never before.”

As Shabbat came to an end, the energy continued to buzz with a musical Havdalah service and Motzei Shabbat concert with Zusha Band at Sony Hall, joined by 300 additional young professionals from the New York area.

“I had my arm around the woman next to me whom I didn’t even know, swaying together to the rhythm of the music,” shares Bouskila. “Soon, there was a chain of us women with arms linked, connecting through the music. It was beyond words. In that moment, we were supporting one another—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

Participants met on a bright Friday morning in Brooklyn for a day of sightseeing, socializing and exploring the cultural wonders that the Chabad-Lubavitch community of Crown Heights has to offer. - Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
Participants met on a bright Friday morning in Brooklyn for a day of sightseeing, socializing and exploring the cultural wonders that the Chabad-Lubavitch community of Crown Heights has to offer.
Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302

An All-Inclusive Spiritual Weekend

The weekend’s events boasted an all-inclusive schedule—from business networking to speed-dating to Torah learning and kosher dining, Encounter was built to provide an authentic Jewish experience for young professionals.

Participants met on a bright Friday morning in Brooklyn for a day of sightseeing, socializing and exploring the cultural wonders that the Chabad-Lubavitch community of Crown Heights has to offer. The day’s agenda included a trip to Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway; a visit to the library of the RebbeRabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory; and a tour of the Crown Heights Mikvah

After a moving candle-lighting ceremony welcoming in Shabbat together, the guests dispersed across Crown Heights to experience the warmth and comfort of a Shabbat dinner with different host families in the community.

Throughout the weekend, the CYP group participated in thought-provoking and open conversations with some of the Jewish world’s top leaders in their fields.

The day’s agenda included a visit to the library of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. - Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
The day’s agenda included a visit to the library of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302

“Seeing today's younger generation not only participating in Jewish experiences but inspired to take the initiative and become leaders in their communities back home is truly what these Shabbatons are all about,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice-chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, and chairman of CYP International. “The positive impact reverberates across the globe.”

 At the historic World Lubavitch Communications Center (WLCC), Chabad.org’s Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone described how the Rebbe encouraged the spread of Judaism through the most up-to-date technology. - Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
At the historic World Lubavitch Communications Center (WLCC), Chabad.org’s Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone described how the Rebbe encouraged the spread of Judaism through the most up-to-date technology.
Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302

A Moving Reminder of the Rebbe

Jennifer Jay, who joined CYP’s Shabbaton for the first time this year from Washington D.C., had not been to Crown Heights since she received a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe as a little girl. Growing up in a family that practiced Conservative Judaism, her memory of the day was fuzzy, and the Rebbe remained what she calls “a distant memory of a tzaddik” to her for many years.

However, to celebrate the anniversary of a life-saving brain surgery Jay underwent eight years ago, she chose to celebrate with CYP’s Encounter Shabbaton and ended up reconnecting with the Rebbe in a new way.

“Walking the Rebbe’s path, visiting his home and davening at the Ohel suddenly made the Rebbe more tangible. I could finally feel him,” says Jay. “I realized that the Rebbe was closer than ever, reminding us to spread our light onto the world and in our own communities back home.”

After a candle-lighting ceremony welcoming in Shabbat together, the guests dispersed across Crown Heights to experience the warmth and comfort of a Shabbat dinner with different host families in the community. - Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
After a candle-lighting ceremony welcoming in Shabbat together, the guests dispersed across Crown Heights to experience the warmth and comfort of a Shabbat dinner with different host families in the community.
Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302

For Jay and many others on the Shabbaton, this was one of the biggest takeaways. As young Jews committed to living a meaningful life in today’s modern world—whether through business deals, hosting Shabbat meals or creating new Jewish programming for their communities back home—they have the power to inspire.

“In hearing stories of the Rebbe,” says Hank Ebner of Houston. “I was amazed by his ability to give such individualized attention to each and every Jew while still being the great leader that he was. We need to remember the impact of having someone who believes in us and be that person for others.”

Lighting Shabbat candles. - Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
Lighting Shabbat candles.
Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
Singer Alex Clare led the Havdalah ceremony. - Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
Singer Alex Clare led the Havdalah ceremony.
Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
The gathering underscored CYP’s tremendous growth, to what is today the world’s largest network of young Jewish communities, with 218 CYP chapters around the world serving more than 220,000 young Jews. - Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302
The gathering underscored CYP’s tremendous growth, to what is today the world’s largest network of young Jewish communities, with 218 CYP chapters around the world serving more than 220,000 young Jews.
Photo by Mendel Mayteles/Merkos 302