On Wednesday, October 28, Emet Outreach will begin the newest installment of TorahConnect, the chavrusa-based learning initiative for the Queens community. The program debuted for women back in November 2019 and was designed as a forum where Emet students of varying Jewish backgrounds could be paired with members of the community to connect, share Torah thoughts, and elevate their learning. Women’s weekly learning sessions were held in YCQ, and were followed in February by men’s beis-midrash-style learning at Beth Gavriel Bukharian Jewish Center. After such a promising start, COVID-19 hit in March, but TorahConnect continued to thrive with the in-person learning sessions easily transferring to phone or video conference. The result has been a consistent Torah study experience that has been warmly embraced by Emet students and the Queens community. Now, the organization is ready for year two and is calling on the Queens community to continue its incredible involvement.
“We’re proud to celebrate TorahConnect’s first anniversary, and we are so moved by the commitment our students have shown to Torah study,” said Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Emet Co-Founder and Director. “We have tremendous hakaras ha’tov to our community mentors who have been incredible role models, and we’re hoping to inspire more volunteers to join us.”
For those interested in joining, the TorahConnect program is grouped into eight-week sessions, where each chavrusa selects a topic of study that suits their areas of interest and abilities. For the women, the topics have included Jewish ethics, Jewish history, weekly parshah, T’hilim, and T’filah. The majority of the men have opted for Gemara and have been delving into their very first daf, whereas others are exploring works of musar such as Chovos HaL’vavos. During the course of the semester, Emet also hosts Zoom lectures for the extended group to keep everyone connected.
Over the past year, TorahConnect has attracted participants from a multitude of backgrounds. On the Emet side, the majority are public school graduates who are filling the gaps in their Jewish education. There are undergraduate college students as well as an assortment of young professionals including pharmacists, engineers, dentists, and physician assistants. The mentor side is comprised of established community members ranging from rabbis, teachers and kollel members to business professionals and community activists.
There has been steady interest in TorahConnect during this challenging year, due to a few key factors. The first is that people have been looking to deepen their relationship with Hashem, and have been reassessing their priorities and searching for ways to make their time more meaningful. “We’ve definitely seen TorahConnect become more relevant in the current climate,” said Rabbi Rutenberg. “Torah study gives people a solid foundation for life, and it is incredibly motivating and comforting when life is uncertain.”
The second root of TorahConnect’s appeal is the special care that has been taken to pair community mentors and students who were compatible and on a similar wavelength. “We’ve really spent considerable time and thought in introducing our chavrusa partners. We factor in many things like personality traits and areas of interest,” said Mrs. Rivka Muskat, Associate Director. “More than just wanting to learn and share Torah knowledge, we want our participants to form real relationships and for those relationships to expand beyond the weekly learning. We always hoped that our students would be able to spend Shabbos and Yom Tov with their mentors so they can experience the Torah lifestyle. B’ezras Hashem, we still hope this can happen when things are safer in the future.”
Most importantly, the energized learning sessions have been having a real impact on Emet students. In addition to an increase in Torah knowledge, when asked to list the primary benefits of TorahConnect, most students expressed their “relationship with their learning partner” as their top choice. The chavrusa bond has been invaluable when making a greater commitment to Torah study.
Students have also commonly shared the sentiment expressed by one of their peers, who said, “TorahConnect has been very inspiring. I feel like I’m learning a lot about myself and how to become a better person in a Torah-true way.”
To date, there have been 130 chavrusos in the men’s and women’s cohorts since the program began less than a year ago. Emet hopes to attract even more in the next few weeks.
“We invite and welcome more students and community mentors to participate and grow from TorahConnect,” said Rabbi Rutenberg. “A commitment to Torah study is a commitment to building klal Yisroel, and that is our goal at Emet.”
Anyone interested in volunteering to be a mentor, please visit