Emet Outreach took the typical Shabbaton to new heights with its annual mid-winter retreat. Thirty-four students from area colleges spent a weekend of solidarity and spiritual connection. It all started early on a Friday morning when the group gathered at the Emet Center for breakfast. Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Emet’s Director and Co-Founder, gave an uplifting class to add a Torah perspective to the retreat, which was themed “Mind, Body, and Soul” to encompass all the religious and fun activities.

First on the list was a visit to High Exposure in Northvale, New Jersey, for indoor rock-climbing and team-building activities. Lunch that followed included Torah learning led by Rabbi Reuven Kigel, Emet’s Campus Director.

The students then headed to Passaic for Shabbos, hosted by Rabbi Kigel and his wife Mrs. Devorah Kigel, an Emet educator, a respected dating and marriage coach and a popular women’s speaker. The Passaic community warmly welcomed the students and opened their homes for hospitality. For many of the students, it was the first time they kept an entire Shabbos, and they were able to experience the warmth, commitment, and family-like atmosphere of the Torah lifestyle.

After Shabbos, the invigorating activities continued with a trip to Sport-O-Rama for a spin around the ice-skating rink. Next was a visit to the home of Dr. and Mrs. Mark Rutenberg in Monsey, New York, for a melaveh malkah. Rabbi Rutenberg, along with his wife Shonnie and their family, was there to welcome the group. Rabbi Rutenberg shared a powerful message about how Judaism allows us to uplift the physical word with spiritual experiences. This was exemplified by the beautiful Shabbos the group had just shared.

Sunday morning brought the students back to the Rutenberg home for breakfast and chavrusa learning. The young men studied at Ohr Somayach, and the young women broke into small groups at the house. After an enjoyable lunch, everyone was ready to hit the slopes for snow tubing at Campgaw Mountain.

The weekend came to a meaningful close with a final banquet at the Rutenberg home. As part of the festivities, each student expressed his or her spiritual goal for the upcoming Emet semester. Goals included keeping Shabbos, putting on t’filin, and not letting school get in the way of their Judaism.

“Emet’s winter retreat was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It’s the perfect experience to get closer with friends and meet new people, as well as to become closer to our Jewish heritage and Hashem,” said Salamon Pinkhasov, a student at Queensborough Community College. “I’m sure all the students who attended would enjoy a reunion Shabbaton sometime this year!”

“The winter retreat, like all our Emet trips, is intended to combine personal connections with spiritual growth and Torah education,” said Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg. “As our students start a new semester at college, we want them to know that we support and believe in them as they balance their secular studies while incorporating Judaism more fully into their lives.”

For further information on Emet programs and upcoming events, visit www.EmetOutreach.org.