Emet and Events. The two words have been synonymous for over 16 years, since Emet Outreach is known for hosting multiple events and Shabbatons each week. In the Women’s Division, these have included incredible experiences and trips, from Shabbat spent overlooking the Kotel to Shavuot in Lakewood and mother-daughter challah bakes in Queens. These memorable moments were in addition to daily classes and one-on-one learning sessions where relationships blossomed and connections with Torah and Judaism were made. Then came COVID-19, and the in-person dynamic that is the foundation of the organization, shifted to Zoom.
While events and in-person classes were on-hold for months, women’s learning continued to thrive and grow in Emet’s Step It Up program and Ateret Emet seminary. This past semester the girls studied Eishet Chayil with Rebbetzin Tehila Jaeger. They also learned Mishlei and weekly Parsha with Rabbi Yonason Quinn of California, since the virtual format allowed Emet to include educators from beyond the Tri-State area.
“We’ve been so fortunate to maintain consistent Torah study with our dedicated students and inspiring educators,” said Ms. Shira Fendel, Emet Women’s Director. “What struck me the most is that in the midst of so many difficult days, our students still made time to learn Torah and it was both a lifeline and a way to stay connected.”
The young women adjusted to the “new normal,” but no one forgot the warm feeling of just being together. Then an amazing thing happened. As restrictions slowly lifted in the past couple of weeks, with little fanfare and a lot of gratitude to Hashem, Emet’s women were able to come together again. A simple backyard setting with 12 students offered the same wonder of a grander event and an appreciation of the basics of Torah and togetherness.
“We’ve been following the guidelines and we finally felt safe to start small, socially distant shiurim for our girls. It was incredibly emotional and moving to simply be in the same place,” said Ms. Fendel.
There have been two backyard shiurim so far, hosted by Queens families. A highlight of the most recent gathering was when the students shared their personal reflections of the past three months. “It was like each girl shared a beautiful piece of her neshama,” said Ms. Fendel. “I was especially touched when one of the girls got tears in her eyes when she was reunited with the group. They were tears of joy and it was an expression of how strongly we all missed being together.”
In addition to Ms. Fendel, the events were also attended by Rabbi Mordechai Kraft, Emet’s Co-Founder and Educational Director and Sara Benyamin Emet’s Program Director.
One student remarked, “thank you for allowing me to participate. I don’t know if you really comprehend how much a night like this means to everyone. I can’t even explain to you. More often than not I have to hold myself back from crying. Every time I’m at something like this my neshama feels so awakened and alive. It’s always beautiful.”
Emet hopes to hold weekly outdoor shiurim for women as the city and state continue to transition. For further information on Emet programs and weekly class schedules, visit emetoutreach.org