“Shabbos in a regular household is like a regular dinner. Shabbos with Emet is a whole different experience – an experience I haven’t had before. It was my first time and it’s definitely not my last. Emet is like a family.”

Those feelings were expressed by Yevo S. after a Shabbaton spent connecting with the extended Emet family in Kew Gardens this past weekend. Along with Yevo, the warmth was felt by 42 students who are participating in the fall semester of the Forest Hills Emet Leader’s Fellowship. The beginner program provides students from multiple colleges with an introduction to Judaism as well as their first Shabbos experience.

“At Emet, we host Shabbatons all the time, but this Shabbos in Kew Gardens allowed us to open our homes as a team,” said Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Emet Co-Founder and Director. “In addition to my family, Rabbi Mordechai Kraft, Emet’s Co-Founder, and Mrs. Rivka Muskat, Associate Director, live here as well. We were not only able to demonstrate the beauty of Shabbos, but also show the importance of a supportive community in being an observant Jew.”

Students were invited to stay with local families, and they were also joined by an extended Emet team of Sara B., Chava Zaretsky, Rabbi Yakov Musheyev, Rabbi Ari Hertz, and Natan Khafizov. The group attended minyanim at Anshei Shalom Chabad and Ner Mordechai. An engaging and uplifting Friday night dinner and s’udah sh’lishis were held at Chabad, while Shabbos lunch was enjoyed with host families. There were captivating divrei Torah, and a musical Havdalah that left everyone on a spiritual high.

Touched by the Kew Gardens hospitality and relaxed, family-like atmosphere, students were eager to share their personal impressions and the impact of the experience. Tamara T. explained, “I was very hesitant going on a Shabbaton before, because there is always that bit of social anxiety in the back of my head. But going to the Emet Shabbaton made me realize that these people aren’t strangers. They are one big family. I’m so happy I got to connect, learn, experience, and be a part of this family.”

Yevo S. elaborated further: “I’m usually not an open or talkative person, but as a part of Emet I felt like myself. I felt comfortable around those who were next to me and comfortable to speak out loud. I loved getting to know the amazing staff whom I see during the week. The meals were incredible. This is the first Shabbaton I’ve ever been to where our traditional, Bukharian food was served. I was thankful to be given the opportunity to lead the Shabbos songs and be the chazan for Arvit. This Shabbaton is something I won’t forget, and I won’t miss the next time!”

Making friends was an added bonus for Michelle B., who said, “My Shabbaton experience was amazing! I didn’t expect to meet a bunch of familiar people and become friends with new people. It was truly a special experience, and I hope to go on many more and learn more about our religion.”

Gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for Shabbos was key for Sharon R., who attended her first Shabbaton, “This Shabbaton was beautiful and unique. I got to experience Shabbos like never before. It gave me an opportunity to socialize, meet new people, and connect to Judaism on a spiritual level. My host family taught me about the core laws of Shabbos and the reasons behind why we practice Shabbos the way we do.”

Talia Z. summed up the feelings shared by many: “The Shabbaton with Emet was meaningful and memorable. It truly empowered me to strengthen my relationship with Hashem and Judaism.”

For further information about Emet programs, visit EmetOutreach.org. To experience Emet’s comprehensive video library of Torah lectures, visit EmetTorah.com.