This past month has seen a constant bustle of activity in Emet Outreach’s Women’s Division. In fact, there have been daily opportunities for beginner to advanced students to fit Torah study into their lives, depending on their varying interests and schedules.
“Our vision for the Women’s Division is to make Torah accessible at any time,” said Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Emet Co-Founder and Director. “This means that we’re continually trying to add classes that appeal to our students and offer both consistency and convenience. We know that students crave stability with the current COVID-19 challenges, so our team is committed to making our classes something they can look forward to and count on.”
November saw the premiere of three engaging programs. Sunday mornings were a celebration of study with the return of the Ateret Emet Seminary. Students in this advanced learning program just marked the completion of a four-week semester. The morning schedule was comprised of breakfast and a shiur by Mrs. Amit Yaghoubi on “Women in Tanach.” This was followed by an engrossing lesson on M’silas Y’sharim with Rabbi Aryeh Sokoloff of Kew Gardens Synagogue. Ms. Chevi Garfinkel concluded each learning session with her dynamic “Insights on Prayer. After a one-week break, Ateret Emet is scheduled to return on December 6, with a ten-week semester that will run throughout the winter. Rebbetzin Tehila Jaeger will also once again add her warmth and insights to the program.
“The most important take-away of the seminary is the unbelievable commitment of the girls,” said Ms. Shira Fendel, Women’s Director. “Ateret Emet is unique in that it is comprised of undergrad students, graduate students, as well as young mothers who all have different backgrounds. They share a determination to start their week with Torah, and many have told me that it sets a meaningful tone and focus for their schedules.”
Monday evenings marked the debut of a melodic program called “Step into Prayer.” This new initiative evolved from the yearning of Emet students to learn heartfelt Jewish songs. “It’s integral to Yiddishkeit to be able to connect to Hashem through song,” said Ms. Fendel. “Our students typically have been missing that aspect of the connection, so we wanted to give them an opportunity to add the musical component. Being able to sing nigunim adds another dimension to their spiritual journey.”
This seven-week program, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Emet Center, starts with a light dinner. Rabbi Binyamin Yuhanan, Emet’s Community Rabbi, then gives a motivational class on the meaning of a specific t’filah. The second half of the class is when the singing begins and the girls are taught an uplifting song connected to the prayer by Emet Mekarvos. In honor of Rosh Chodesh, the girls learned Yaaleh V’Yavo. The group is led by Sara Blatt and Rayna Rabinowitz, with additional musical accompaniment on guitar and bongo drums.
A long-time Emet student commented, “Although I’ve attended Emet classes for a while, this was a completely new experience. I felt such a powerful connection to Hashem.”
“This class has so much ruach, even while singing with masks. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and girls are welcome to just join us without enrolling in advance,” said Ms. Fendel. “We’d love for any girl in the community who enjoys singing to add her voice, especially if she is experienced with nigunim. We’ve added safety measures like Plexiglas and air filters to the office, so participants can feel as comfortable as possible.”
Step It Up, Emet’s flagship women’s program, also just began its first in-person semester since COVID-19. On Tuesday evenings, students are treated to dinner and a lecture by Rabbi Mordechai Kraft, Educational Director. This program is designed to facilitate a sense of connection and community with the girls. Two student role models usually introduce themselves to the group and share words of inspiration. The girls then break into chavrusos to delve into s’farim they selected at the beginning of the semester.
“Baruch Hashem, we are so thankful for the incredible enthusiasm our students have shown for Torah study,” said Ms. Fendel. “We’re planning to keep the weekly momentum going, so please stay tuned for more program announcements.”