(Courtesy of CTeen) Out of hundreds of applicants, Woodcliff Lake’s Shayna Solkowitz has been recognized in the international “8 Under 18: Yisroel Fund Leadership Awards,” which spotlights teens making a difference in their communities.
The eight winners were chosen because of the great impact they’ve had as young leaders of their local Jewish communities.
In her freshman year, Shayna, her three older siblings and their parents moved from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Woodcliff Lake. Friendly and outgoing, Shayna had always been sociable, but starting at a new high school in an unfamiliar city made things difficult for her.
In an effort to help Shayna build a social life, her parents got involved with the local Chabad and Shayna began to attend CTeen programs. It wasn’t until she traveled with her fellow teens, months after her arrival, that she began to feel like she belonged. From there it didn’t take long for the usually proactive and determined young woman to make her mark in her new surroundings.
Her pride in being Jewish brought many conversations her way from Jewish and non-Jewish students and staff. Reacting to her personable nature and trademark friendly smile, people walked away warmed by their interaction. So Shayna kicked it up a notch. She began to make challah every Thursday and would seek out the Jewish kids at school on Fridays to give them the homemade delights and wish them Shabbat Shalom.
It wasn’t enough. Shayna wanted to create a safe space for Jewish kids to connect with each other at school, so she and her friend established Club Chai. Twenty kids showed up to their first event and their numbers grew as the weeks went by.
When COVID closed their school, Shayna was undeterred. She continued to share Shabbat candle lighting times and thoughtful messages on social media, and stayed in contact with the Jewish teens she had met. Her confidence and ability to genuinely connect with people make her a role model whose advice and insight her peers and teachers seek. The youngest of four—her eldest sister gets married this week—Shayna said her family are her biggest cheerleaders.
“I feel I have a mission to make the world a God-conscious place, and that gives me the courage to keep acting in a Jewish way, sharing my Judaism with others, whatever my surroundings,” Shayna said.
CTeen, the Chabad Teen Network, coordinated the list https://www.cteen.com/8under18-2021.
CTeen engages hundreds of thousands of Jewish teens in young leadership programs through its 600 chapters, in 37 countries, on six continents.