In recent years, Emet’s leaders have noticed that as students grow and advance in Torah knowledge and halachah observance, many require higher-level programming to keep their momentum going. Students thirst for more challenging shiurim to increase their knowledge and help strengthen their commitment to observance. For an outreach organization, this is a “good” problem – being so successful, students have outgrown the current curriculum.
For several years, Emet’s “Step-It-Up” program for girls has addressed this need for its female students. Now Emet has created a new division of advanced programming for boys known as Torat Emet. The division is led by Rabbi Nissim Musheyev, in conjunction with Rabbi Michael Fuzaylov and Rabbi Eliyahu Maksumov.
Virtually all Torat Emet students entered Emet with no yeshivah background and little exposure to true Torah observance. After completing Emet’s fellowship for beginners, many students become interested in Torah observance. A number become so committed that they’re ready for more advanced learning and a spiritually inspiring single-gender program designed to help foster growth and commit to keeping Shabbos.
Rabbi Musheyev says he believes that Torat Emet can accomplish many amazing goals. “In the short term, the goal of Torat Emet is to give boys the opportunity to learn on a higher level in the best possible atmosphere,” he explains. He adds, “In the long term, our ambitious yet realistic goal is to send each boy to learn in yeshivah in Israel for a minimum of three months, followed by continued part-time yeshivah study while they’re in college.”
A Taste of Yeshivah
Torat Emet’s flagship program is its weekly Beis Midrash Program at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim. Students enjoy a catered meal, followed by small-group learning with Emet rabbis or members of Chofetz Chaim’s kollel. After group learning, an Emet staff member or guest speaker addresses the entire group. The program was founded almost four years ago by Rabbi Fuzaylov and quickly became very popular. Now it has become incorporated into Torat Emet, which has taken things to an entirely new level.
Campus Coordinator Rabbi Reuven Kigel is an integral part of the beis midrash program. In addition to leading a learning group, he gives a shalom bayis class to married attendees at the beginning of the program each week. He says that when students want to learn, he simply cannot say no. “I feel an obligation to allow students who don’t have a set learning seder to continue to learn and spend time in the beis midrash, and maintain a connection to Emet and Torah learning. I’m so happy they want to stay connected.”
It’s not easy for Rabbi Kigel, who lives in Passaic, to come to Queens each Wednesday evening; but he says it’s rewarding and worthwhile. “I’m going after a full day of Queens College fellowship. I feel like there is no better favor I can do for a student than to give them this opportunity.”
Trips and Shabbatons
In addition to weekly learning, there are two Shabbatons per semester, in Passaic, Far Rockaway/Lawrence, or Monsey. Each Shabbaton is centered around a local yeshivah – either Sh’or Yoshuv, the Yeshiva Gedola of Passaic, or Ohr Somayach. This gives students a taste of yeshivah, which hopefully whets their appetite for further learning.
Torat Emet students attend at least two trips per year, which are a blend of intense learning with fun downtime. Students learn each morning with a chavrusa in an intense analytical way, and the rest of the day is packed with activities. These trips are extremely impactful, because rather than learning for a couple of hours and going back to “regular” life, the students are immersed in a yeshivah atmosphere for several days, and engage in meaningful conversations with rabbis who help deepen their commitment.
In January, students took a memorable trip to Arizona. Each morning, they spent hours in the beis midrash, preparing a sugya in Gemara, followed by an in-depth shiur. They asked questions and engaged in lively debate. For many, it was the first time in their lives that they experienced what it’s like to learn in yeshivah, and they seemed to love every minute.
Rabbi Fuzaylov says that bringing students to a gorgeous atmosphere made it easier to inspire them. “Traveling out of the bitter cold into a sunny 70-degree climate can give anyone a boost. And on a deeper level, bringing students away from everyday life allows them to get away from distractions, and really immerse themselves in learning.“
Tomi, a student who attended the trip, said “Of all the organizations I’ve ever seen and been a part of, Emet, hands down, cares about its students more than anyone else. The staff is so devoted, they gave us everything you can imagine, even when they were literally sick and had fever.”
Since its launch this year, students have embraced Torat Emet, and Emet’s senior staff members expect to see amazing results, including more students learning in yeshivah, and a deeper commitment among students to sh’miras Shabbos, in particular, and keeping halachah, in general. They believe that, as it continues to develop, this exciting initiative has the potential to impact the lives of hundreds and possibly thousands of students.