A Proud Jew
Zachary Alterescu’s CTeen Story
Zachary Alterescu is a part of the West Suffolk Chapter of CTeen and states his life was “completely changed” by CTeen. He found CTeen when he was assisting his sister, Breanna Alterescu, in a wheelchair at a CTeen event, a year before he officially joined. Zach arrived there and immediately felt out of place, since he knew nobody. “I felt so left out, so much that I didn’t want to go back,” he stated.
Breanna, however, pushed him to go to the first event of the next year. He reluctantly agreed, but he didn’t know that he would love it as much as he did. “I was completely blown away by how amazing it was, it almost didn’t make sense,” Zach explained. “It felt like I belonged, and I began taking my Judaism a bit more seriously.”
Zachary continued to attend the CTeen events and made a lot of friends, and gained a lot of wisdom. This wisdom came from one person in particular, that person being Ken Grotell. “He practically took me under his wing and began teaching me so much about not just Judaism, but life as a whole,” he voiced. “He gave me a completely different mindset on things that often bothered me.”
He didn’t only take part in CTeen events, but began to attend regular services at the Chai Center. He attended for the high holidays, and went about trying to understand the Hebrew being spoken, and what the meaning of it all was.
At one of the CTeen events, Zach was informed about something called a Shabbaton. Zach researched it, and his mom allowed him and his sister to go. They were ecstatic, and began counting down the days.
The day had arrived, and even though there was a bumpy start for Zach, everything was figured out, and the weekend of his life began. This was Zach and Breanna’s first experience with keeping Shabbos, and it had a very odd yet pleasant effect on the two. “It’s unexplainable, how it felt. It really felt like I was getting closer and closer to Hashem,” Zach expressed. Bre also explained her feelings on the situation. “It felt amazing, and I really felt like I was being connected to Hashem, more and more.”
On Shabbos, Ken was able to give Zachary one of the best experiences of his entire life. “It all happened very quickly, Ken was going to get me bar-mitzvahed.” They called Zachary up to the Torah for an aliyah. After he was called up, the audience gave an applause and what followed would be considered bizarre to outsiders. “It was raining Laffy Taffy® and I was put on a chair that was being hurled into the air over and over by numerous people. It truly felt surreal. All eyes were on me, and I had just been bar-mitzvahed,” Zach said.
What was supposed to be the main event for Zachary, which came up just short of the bar-mitzvah, was the attractions in Nickelodeon Universe at the American DreamTM. Zach rode coasters that brought out the inner daredevil in himself. “At 141’ tall with 7 inversions, the TMNT Shellraiser sent shivers down my spine,” exclaimed Zach. Zach explored the park with his new friend that he met on the Shabbaton, as well as his sister and other members of his CTeen chapter.
Before CTeen arrived at the Nickelodeon Universe, they took over the center of the colossal mall known as the American DreamTM. “We were the stars of the show, taking over the second biggest mall in the United States, spreading our Judaism everywhere we went,” stated Zach. “The CTeen Anthem was being screamed louder than you could imagine, and hundreds of people were dancing like there was no tomorrow.”
Zach was not a fan of leaving, but was so happy with the memories he left with. “They’re gonna last me a lifetime,” he expressed. “CTeen strengthened my Judaism, my relationship with Hashem, and my relationships with the people around me, including my fellow CTeeners, and will continue to for the rest of my life. I am proud to be a Jew.”