By Erin Levi

Last December, BCTeen, which stands for Bukharian Community Teen, an initiative led by the BJCC’s Shushan and his wife Chani, unveiled its new lounge in the BJCC basement where Jewish teens meet twice weekly.
However, the true highlight came in March 2024, with its maiden, or rather, «menschen,» voyage—an outing, in collaboration with David Zavulunov of Hollis Hills, that gathered around 20 teenage boys from Queens for an unforgettable evening of camaraderie and cultural celebration.
Under both the guidance of Rabbi Shushan and David Zavulunov, the group set out on their adventure, brimming with anticipation and excitement. Their destination? Crown Heights in Brooklyn, a vibrant hub of Hasidic life and tradition, also famous for its nightly dances—fitting for the joyful month of Adar.
«Adar is the month where you’re supposed to increase your happiness,» explained Rabbi Shushan.
But first, food! The boys stopped by Joseph’s Dream Burger, a brand-new establishment in Crown Heights. Over mouthwatering burgers, French fries, and sodas, Rabbi Shushan shared words of Torah, setting a spiritual tone for the evening ahead.
Buoyed by their meal and the camaraderie it fostered, the group made their way to the iconic 770 Eastern Parkway (aka «770»)—the Chabad headquarters renowned for its lively dances. Here, amidst a throng of revelers, the teens immersed themselves in the joyous spirit of Adar, the month of happiness.
As the night progressed, laughter filled the air, and new friendships were forged amidst the swirl of music and dance. For many of the teens, it was a transformative experience—a chance to connect with their Bukharian Jewish heritage in a vibrant and welcoming environment. The outing ended with the teens returning home filled with excitement and gratitude.
«We came back just before midnight and the teens were ecstatic,» said Rabbi Shushan.

A Mission of Jewish Connection and Celebration

BCTeen was conceived as a response to the growing need to engage and support «at-risk» Jewish teens, namely those who may be vulnerable to disconnection from their cultural roots. Rabbi Shushan emphasized that BCTeen operates not merely as a network, but as a familial community, offering support, education, and a sense of belonging to its members.
«Especially in this generation, where assimilation rates are high, it’s crucial to instill in teens a sense of pride in their Jewish identity,» Rabbi Shushan noted. He underscored the broader mission of BCTeen, which extends beyond social outings to encompass a deeper exploration of Jewish heritage and values.
«Our goal is to provide a welcoming environment where teens can rediscover and celebrate their heritage,» Rabbi Shushan explained. «Whether they come from Forest Hills, Rego Park, or attend public schools, all Jewish teens are welcome to join us in reconnecting with their roots, surrounded by supportive peers.»

More to come

Looking ahead, Rabbi Shushan expressed optimism for the future of BCTeen, envisioning expanded programming and opportunities for teens to engage with their heritage. He emphasized that all activities offered by BCTeen are free for regular participants, reflecting the program’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity.
«We invite everyone—every Jewish teen from ages 13 to 18—to join our group every Monday and Thursday in the basement of the BJCC,» said Rabbi Shushan.