|Youth Shul founding members Chanan Suiza, Josh Berkman, Aaron Weinstein, Ben Rubin, Aidyn Breiter, Jess Spiro and Levi Todes.|
It all began in January 2011, when some Herzlia Grade 10s were having brunch at Avron’s Place. Suddenly, and almost in unison, we came up with a crazy, brilliant idea — we were going to start the Cape Town Youth Shul (CTYS).
Suggestions flew around the table (as did half-chewed bits of waffle) and eventually, we boiled the concept down to a number of key components: We were going to provide a shul ‘for the youth — by the youth’ — a private youth minyan on Shabbos, of which we, the youth, would have full control: the organising, the davening, the droshas — the works.
We set about establishing the CTYS in a systematic, determined fashion. We began by learning how to conduct Shabbos day services, and then learnt how to conduct the Friday Night service. We could now hold these services on our own!
After Ohr Somayach very kindly allowed us to make use of a large room adjacent to their main shul, we had a place of our own. Food was next on the list, and, following our weekly Friday Night services, we began to organise dinners with various hosts in the community, or at shuls or communal rabbis. Lunches started to come standard with our Saturday minyans, followed by shiurim.
The youth shul in 2011
Slowly but surely our numbers started increasing, but it was not enough — we wanted more people to join, so we set about putting together programmes and Shabbatons. Our biggest success was our Camps Bay Shabbaton, which forty participants attended, and our many other fun events helped us reach our aim of turning Shabbos into a jol!
Arguably our most successful initiative has been the weekly shiurim and iPad raffle. For the entire third term at Herzlia High School, we had shiurim twice a week, which covered the theme of ‘purpose and prayer’ and were presented by Rabbi Johnny Ross. Those who attended on a weekly basis enjoyed our complementary platters of hot chips, and were automatically entered into a draw for an iPad 2. We are proud to say that in total, we had more than 50 different learners attend these shiurim!
We’ve also organised some interesting sessions and discussions with various Rabbis — a particular highlight being our meditational session with the worldrenowned mystical master, Rabbi Daniel Kohn.
Every Sunday evening, the main youth shul boys get together for a part-planning, part-learning session — which you are all welcome to join.
Going forward in 2012
Due to our growth in numbers, Ohr Somayach has kindly allowed us to use a bigger space, so to celebrate our new shul and the return of many of our members from Israel, the CTYS undertook another milestone: reading the Torah!
The forecast for 2012 is looking very promising, with growth in numbers, learning and fun expected, and many functions just over the horizon. We are honoured to be part of the CTYS — an organisation that has had, in just a short time, an incredibly positive effect on the Jewish lives of so many students!
As Chief Rabbi Goldstein said recently: “The Cape Town Youth Shul is a wonderful, new and exciting initiative. Under the dynamic leadership of Joseph Cohen and the CTYS team, our Cape Town teenagers have come forward in ever increasing numbers to take ownership of, and participate in, their very own youth shul. This new shul is a remarkable and dramatic success story and may Hashem bless it with much continued growth in the new year.”
A big thank you to Ohr Somayach for all their support, and to the other shuls, rabbis and individuals who have hosted us.
Thank you to Ryan Jones for designing our logo and posters and to Adam Friedman for making our webpage.
A lot of what we do would not be possible without the financial support of those who believe in the CTYS — thank you very much!
If you would like to find out more about the CTYS, check out our Facebook page or our website at www.ctys.co.za. Alternatively, you can contact the Ohr Somayach office or email email@example.com
Join the revolution!