This past Shabbos, Emet Outreach held an impactful and inspiring Shabbos that touched a large cross-section of the community. Over 1,500 people participated in Emet’s first Community Shabbos in KGH. This is part of an ongoing series that Emet has organized throughout Queens to create awareness about the vital work they do. The community was honored to partake in the inspiring shiurim and dynamic speakers all through Shabbos, in 12 different shuls.
Emet is a large kiruv organization that is having a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of unaffiliated college students, young professionals, and couples, and helping to build hundreds of Jewish families. The Shabbos program included a diverse mix of Ashkenazi and Sefardi congregations.
On Friday night, world-renowned speaker Rabbi YY Jacobson spoke at the Young Israel of Queens Valley to a packed crowd, who sat captivated for the entire lecture, which lasted over 30 minutes. Rabbi Jacobson spoke later in the evening at an oneg Shabbos entitled “An Inspired Shabbos, An Inspired Life” at the home of the Glasers.
On Shabbos day, Emet rabbis spoke in ten shuls throughout the community, sharing the vision of Emet and its impact on thousands of young adults, many of whom come from our community. One of the key points mentioned over Shabbos was how Emet develops deep relationships with students that last throughout their lives. The organization has programs and divisions dedicated to young professionals and married couples, most of whom have been part of Emet since their days in college. Throughout its illustrious history, Emet has introduced over 3,000 local college students to a life of Torah and mitzvos. They are on a mission to secure the Jewish future by helping young adults embrace their religion, and giving them continued support as they get married and raise families.
One highlight of Shabbos morning was an impassioned speech during davening from Rabbi YY Jacobson at Ohel Yitzchak. Rabbi Oelbaum gave a warm welcome to Rabbi Jacobson, and the audience was spellbound by Rabbi YY’s weaving of powerful messages, insightful comments, and humor.
During Shabbos afternoon, a large crowd of women gathered at Congregation Ohel Yitzchak to hear a shiur by Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel, popular Emet speaker. Rebbetzin Kigel shared a beautiful shiur in her inimitable, warm way about the role of the Jewish woman. Following this, Congregation Ohel Simcha overflowed with a standing-room-only crowd of men and women eager to hear a shiur by Rabbi YY Jacobson. First, Emet CEO and Director Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg welcomed everyone and shared the vision and goal of Emet. Rabbi Mordechai Kraft and Rabbi Rutenberg founded the organization 15 years ago with the goal to bring understanding and Jewish education to college students with limited Jewish background.
Baruch Hashem, this amazing organization has grown to influence thousands of young people. It includes college outreach, couples’ programs, Poland Experience, alumni retreats, educational trips, mother-daughter events, lectures, mentoring, six campus programs, and 42 Shabbatons per year. Rabbi Jacobson pointed out that Emet becomes a part of the participants’ lives from college through marriage, starting a family, and beyond, and this provides an incredible experience. Rabbi Rutenberg then shared exciting news that Emet plans to begin a new program called Emet Connect, which will offer the opportunity for community members to learn Torah with local volunteers. He shared that the purpose of this community Shabbos was to bring awareness about Emet and to hopefully stir interest within the community in participating in and supporting Emet’s efforts.
Rabbi Jacobson praised the beautiful work of Emet and noted that it is our responsibility to share Yiddishkeit with the Bukharian community. He shared many dramatic stories as he delivered his powerful message that everyone has a unique role or mission and how we view a situation makes all the difference. Rabbi Kraft spoke about Emet at s’udah sh’lishis at Congregation Ahavas Yisroel before the very popular Question-and-Answer session with Rabbi Herschel Welcher.
Shabbos came to an uplifting crescendo as Rabbi Jacobson spoke at s’udah sh’lishis at the Young Israel of Queens Valley to a jam-packed audience of men and women eager to hear yet another lecture. Following a message about Emet from Rabbi Rutenberg, Rabbi Jacobson mesmerized the crowd with powerful stories and messages, truly leaving all in attendance on a high at the culmination of Shabbos.
Hundreds were awe-struck by Rabbi YY’s dynamic and personable charm. One woman shared, “He spoke for an hour and 15 minutes. His humor and speech were one of the best I ever heard. You could laugh and cry and at the same time. The delivery of his speeches left me wanting so much more, and so I joined a huge crowd that went to the Young Israel of Queens Valley to hear him speak again.”
In conjunction with the community Shabbos, Emet hosted a Shabbaton for 35 members of its Step-It-Up higher-level learning program. Young women had an inspirational experience with a catered dinner at the Simcha Palace and a powerful message from Rabbi Jacobson as well as an oneg Shabbos at the Weiss residence. Shabbos lunch took place at individual hosts’ homes, followed by s’udah sh’lishis at The Fuzaylov home.
The weekend culminated with a couples’ melaveh malkah at the luxurious Royal Elite Palace. This lavish affair had all the trimmings, including an electrifying DJ, professional singer, complete dairy buffet, sushi bar, photo booth, and Viennese table. The program was designed for couples, and close to 500 guests enjoyed hearing Rabbi YY share practical advice to treat one’s spouse with respect and feel a deep sense of positive emotion in a relationship. In addition, he cited numerous examples of the miracles that have been taking place around the world, restoring the mantle of Yiddishkeit to many areas where it was uprooted, especially the Former Soviet Union. Rabbi Jacobson said that we see miracles before our eyes, and the great work Emet does is a part of that miracle.
Rabbi Rutenberg delivered a passionate and energetic speech, celebrating the growth of the organization and announcing several new, exciting initiatives being planned to expand even further. Two videos were shown, one a stirring tribute to Mary Libby Schwartz ob”m, whose estate has supported many of Emet’s educational programs, including its Fellowship for beginners, and two yearly Poland trips. The other was a sneak preview of Emet’s upcoming video library (also dedicated in memory of Ms. Schwartz), which will enable people to access Emet’s vast trove of classes and lectures, both on- and off-campus, virtually in real time. Rabbi Rutenberg specifically thanked Elisha and Leah Wellerstein, who connected the organization with Mary Libby Schwartz, and have been extremely supportive of Emet in a number of ways.
World-renowned mentalist Coby Elimelech blew away the crowd with a 25-minute performance. Though it was quite late, hundreds stayed to enjoy his mesmerizing show.
Emet’s leadership was extremely encouraged and energized by the support and warm reception of the extraordinary KGH community. Emet and community leaders and members are looking forward to continuing their joint mission and – with Hashem’s help – enjoy ongoing success.
To learn more about Emet, please visit EmetOutreach.org.
By Susie Garber and Josh Margulies