On the morning of Wednesday, January 1, there was a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air as over 150 Emet students, alumni, staff, and their families gathered in Beth Gavriel in Forest Hills for a delicious breakfast. The occasion was a pre-celebration of the historic 13th Siyum HaShas, where the group would later join over 90,000 fellow Jews at the MetLife Stadium to rejoice as one. As they boarded coach buses to head to New Jersey, there was a palpable sense of pride at being able to be a part of the amazing culmination of 7½ years of Daf Yomi study.
“Our greatest mission at Emet is to be able to share the beauty of our Torah lifestyle with our students, whom we consider to be like family,” said Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Emet Co-founder and Director. “The Siyum, and the cycle of Daf Yomi that led up to it, represents the ultimate commitment to Torah study. It also demonstrates the power of achdus when growing and learning together as part of the Jewish people.”
The moment was particularly impactful for Emet students and alumni, who have made incredible personal commitments to increase their Jewish education and Torah knowledge through Emet fellowships, transformative trips to Poland and Israel, and Shabbos and Yom Tov experiences.
“Attending the Siyum HaShas marks another beginning for me and another highlight in my experiences with Emet,” said Paula Poke, a graduate student at Hunter College. “Emet has been responsible for my Jewish education. I wouldn’t have even heard about the Talmud without Emet. The event was mesmerizing and it was incredible to be a part of the culmination of over seven years of learning.”
Jonathan Shitrit, who attends Queens College, remarked, “I just attended a learning session at Sh’or Yoshuv Yeshiva that was set up for me by Emet. While studying Gemara at this program, I came to understand the magnitude of the completion of Shas. I was excited when I was invited to attend the Siyum, and I felt like I was with my Emet family within the larger family of the Jewish people.”
While temperatures were freezing in the stadium stands, there was a warmth of unity that energized the crowd. “It was amazing to see so many Jews come together from different walks of life for such a beautiful and inspiring event. There was an overall emphasis on Jews from varying backgrounds and levels of observance studying the Daf,” said Jessica Plotnikov, a student at Stony Brook Medical School. “The speakers stressed that any amount of learning is important in the eyes of Hashem. It was also incredible to hear how people’s lives were transformed from studying Shas.”
Jonathan Shitrit elaborated further on the feeling of connection that permeated the crowd, “There was a real sense of unity with everyone coming together and saying the same blessings and singing the same songs. During Minchah, my group was heading to our seats, when we were asked to join a minyan. What struck me is that while it was obvious that we were all from different backgrounds, what really mattered is that we were all connected as Jews.”
While there were many impactful themes discussed by the speakers, Jessica Plotnikov noted the respect that was shown to women. “There were a few aspects of the experience that really moved me. Many of the g’dolim mentioned the important role of women in making learning Daf Yomi possible,” she said. “I will always remember being with my friends and teachers from Emet and the real celebration of Torah learning.”
To the extended Emet family, January 1, 2020, will not only be remembered as the start of a new decade, but also the reinvigoration of their passion to celebrate and study Torah.
For further information on Emet programs and upcoming events, visit www.emetoutreach.org.