Emet Outreach hosted an extraordinary reunion when 66 couples, alumni of the Emet Leaders Fellowship, gathered at the LaKota Oaks resort in Norwalk, Connecticut, for a three-day retreat. They were joined by Emet staff members and their spouses for a Torah-infused weekend of meaningful classes and relationship-building activities. “This retreat focused on the theme of ‘Reaching Higher’ in our relationships with Hashem and our spouses,” said Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Emet Co-Founder and Director. “It was also a chance to spend time together and strengthen our relationships with Emet’s alumni, whom we think of as family. We’ve watched many of them grow since they were in college, and we want them to know that we’re here to support them as they build their own Jewish families.”
Upon arrival Friday afternoon, guests enjoyed lunch and were greeted by Emet staff including Couples Director Shay Yonaiev, and Sara B., Program Director. While reconnecting with old friends, there was time for swimming, exploring the scenic grounds, and reviewing the comprehensive program of scheduled classes. “We wanted the weekend to have a warm and comfortable feeling, so we designed the program around a variety of compelling lectures given solely by the dynamic Emet team and their spouses,” said Shay. Mrs. Rivka Muskat, Associate Director, explained, “In addition to the group sessions, the majority of the couples had an invaluable opportunity to meet one-on-one with Emet rabbis and discuss their personal spiritual goals for the upcoming year. I heard often that these meetings were the highlight of the retreat.”
The tone was set on Erev Shabbos as Rabbi Nissim Musheyev spoke about “Bringing Your Unique Light into the World.” Leading up to Minchah and Kabalas Shabbos, there were equally inspiring divrei Torah from Rabbi Eliyahu Maksumov and Rabbi Mordechai Kraft. After candle lighting, the women were drawn to a lecture on “Growing in Judaism” by Mrs. Devorah Kigel.
Rabbi Rutenberg officially welcomed the crowd, while they enjoyed a gourmet Shabbos dinner catered by Simcha Palace. After dinner, Rabbi Reuven Kigel moderated a lively panel discussion on “Reaching Higher” with Rabbi Rutenberg, Rabbi Kraft, and Rabbi Binyamin Yuhanan. An Oneg Shabbos and delectable dessert table closed out the evening.
Shabbos morning dawned with an inspirational Shacharis davening, followed by divrei Torah and a gala kiddush. Guests were challenged to choose from six concurrent learning sessions that included topics such as finding true happiness, staying spiritually motivated, Torah and science, the marriages of our Avos, living with Hashem, and honoring one’s parents.
After an enticing Shabbos lunch, there was more personalized programming. While the men davened Minchah and learned with Rabbi Yuhanan, the women selected from four compelling sessions. Mrs. Rivka Muskat guided on the “Mysteries of the Mikveh.” Mrs. Shonnie Rutenberg inspired with “Discovering Your Inner Super Powers.” Mrs. Leah Maksumov shared “The Battle Within: Tools and Techniques to Overcome Our Inner Struggles.” Rebbetzin Rivka Yuhanan motivated with “Discover Treasures Within Yourself.”
Following S’udah Sh’lishis, there was an emotionally uplifting Havdalah led by Rabbi Kraft. The focal point of the evening was the Motza’ei Shabbos Melaveh Malkah. Couples enjoyed a dairy buffet and an entertaining live gameshow. Sunday brought a final breakfast and a bittersweet farewell with promises to meet again.
As couples were leaving, many shared feelings of gratitude. “The retreat was beautiful. We had the opportunity to disconnect from the world and focus on enjoying Shabbos with an amazing group of people and rabbis,” Michael and Milana Sokol said. “It’s very obvious that this retreat took a lot of effort and attention to put together. We appreciate every little ounce of thoughtfulness that went into making it a reality”
For further information about Emet programs, visit www.EmetOutreach.org. To experience Emet’s comprehensive video library of Torah lectures, visit EmetTorah.com.