‘There’s no other Andrew’: Northampton teen awarded international award for dedication to Judaism – Bucks County Courier Times

Posted By on July 7, 2021

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Bucks County Courier Times

For Andrew Belder, connecting with his faith each morning is as easy as a phone call. But despite growing up in a Jewish family, it wasnt until his seventh birthday that he heard the spiritual call.

When his great grandfather passed away, the Northampton teen began asking questions about his connection to Judaism and what it all meant. He recalled learning about his grandparents and parents escape from the USSR and arrival in America, grounding him in an awareness of who he is and where he comes from.

Ive always had some kind of inkling to really learn more about my faith, because its not something that is taught in schools, Belder said. Since then, Ive always tried to channel that energy, channel the fact that my parents and grandparents didnt get an opportunity, and people tried to take away that opportunity from them.

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Now, the 19-year-old is being honored for that energy and passion through the Yisroel Fund Leadership Award, which recognizes eight international teenagers under 18-years-old who have exhibited remarkable dedication, engagement, and leadership in CTeen chapters across the globe, according to the CTeen website.

CTeen, short for Chabad Teen Network, is an organization for high schoolers to explore their Jewish faith and engage in social events and programming centered around religious customs and norms.

Belder first joined CTeen before his freshman year at Council Rock South High School, becoming gradually more involved by joining the leadership board. There, he planned events and programs, alongside five other student leaders, for the local groups 40-60 members.

One such program was the annual international Shabbaton, where around 4,000 Jewish teens meet in New York for a weekend and celebrate being proud Jews, Belder said. Through CTeen, he learned not only about his heritage, but about himself and his capabilities.

It was really inspiring to be able to meet with other Jewish kids in our surrounding community, and inspire many others and handle anti-Semitism as it came up, he said. It was just a really great way for me to channel my leadership.

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Rabbi Chaim Shemtov leads the local CTeen chapter, of which Belder is a part, through the Lubavitch of Bucks County synagogue. Shemtov and Belder joined the program at the same time, which Shemtov said is symbolic: We kind of grew this together, he said.

In his four years of knowing Belder, Shemtov said it was Belders dedication and motivation outside of his faith in his swimming, running, and business clubs that made him an effective, contagious leader in CTeen.

The programming speaks for itself, that Andrew really deserved this award, Shemtov said. In my opinion, hes number one under 18. Theres no other Andrew.

With his rabbi and the rest of CTeen, Belder turned to his faith and became more involved in practicing Judaism. For two years now, he has wrapped tefillin black leather that Jews wear for morning prayers and even encouraged his friends to join him at their Sunday Tefillin Club.

Sam Salz, who worked alongside Belder on the CTeen leadership board this year, said he could see Belders energy in his faith and his mission to grow the organization and reach more kids.

Hes just a great dude, lots of energy, just lots of spirit, and a lot of heart, Salz said. He naturally was fit for being one of the leaders.

Mitchel Zilbershteyn, a rising sophomore at Temple University and graduate of CR South, is former and future classmates with Belder, who plans on attending Temple this fall. The two both served on the CTeen leadership board in the 2019-2020 school year.

After moving away from Bucks County and leaving the program, Zilbershteyn said hes proud of how Belder continued to lead CTeen and admires his passion and involvement in his faith.

I think its just natural curiosity for him, he said. I think he definitely did have a passion for Judaism… weve had tons of conversations with (Rabbi Shemtov), and Ive definitely seen him get more and more involved with religious aspects.

After graduating top of his high school class, Belder will start his freshman year at Temple in August, studying finance and business analytics at the colleges Fox School of Business.

When it came to deciding where to go to school, it came down to two things: staying close to family, and finding a Jewish community. But upon visiting Temple and spending Shabbat on campus, his mind was set.

I just opened the door, he said, and it was the most welcoming home.

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'There's no other Andrew': Northampton teen awarded international award for dedication to Judaism - Bucks County Courier Times

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