GWCK “Shabbos of Inspiration” Brings Community Together

Written by Rabbi Yonatan Zakem, Silver Spring on . Posted in Features

The Greater Washington Community Kollel’s annual “Shabbos of Inspiration” at Young Israel Shomrai Emunah is always an enjoyable and meaningful experience, and this year’s event was no exception. The Shabbat of Parshas Bo (February 3-4) was replete with Torah, ruach (spirit), song and prayer.

Beginning with the melodious and uplifting Kabbalat Shabbat led by guest chazzan Simcha Leiner, the Shabbos continued with a lively catered dinner, open to the community. Dinner was followed by a mini learning session with concurrent classes led by Kollel scholars, followed by a dessert buffet accompanied a zemirot-filled oneg Shabbat.


On Shabbat day, the ruach and inspiration permeated the davening, with the chazzanut of Simcha Leiner and words of Torah from Kollel members. Shabbos afternoon included a class for women with Mrs. Sara Malka Winter and a shalosh seudos (Shabbat afternoon meal) for high school girls at the home of Mrs. Zakem. The shabbaton concluded with a scholarly presentation by Rabbi Yitzhak Grossman between Mincha and Maariv, and a musical Havdalah service led by Simcha Leiner.

Michael Shimoff, President of Young Israel Shomrai Emunah, had a major hand in the planning and execution of the shabbaton. From his perspective, the shabbaton is an occasion for the membership and the community to see what is offered at the shul.

“This shabbaton is a great opportunity for the Kemp Mill community to sample the GWCK programs and take advantage of the excellent educational opportunities they provide,” said Shimoff. Indeed, the shabbaton featured samples of some learning opportunities that take place weekly at Shomrai Emunah.

For some, the shabbaton provided an opportunity to come out for something different. Lucas Druskin, a local young professional, was happy to have a break in his regular Shabbos routine. “I thoroughly enjoyed the well-delivered speeches and interesting shiur topics following the meal. In contrast to my typical Friday night meal which leaves me bloated and sleepy, I left the event energized and more engaged in Shabbos,” he said.

Young Israel Shomrai Emunah is no stranger to enriching programming, which seeks to uplift and inspire its membership, and the Kollel’s shabbaton fits right in to the shul’s mission. Stuart Rosenthal, organizer of YISE’s Meaningful Tefillah Project, has been the motivation behind a series of programs and events geared towards elevating the appreciation of prayer at Shomrai Emunah. The Rosenthals joined for the dinner and took advantage of the divrei Torah being offered. “The Kollel’s ‘Inspirational Shabbos’ was exactly that for me. The tone was set by Simcha Leiner’s leibedik davening, which I find incredibly moving, and carried forward by the many brief, yet meaningful, vorts and drashas,” Mr. Rosenthal said.

From the Kollel’s perspective, the shabbaton is an opportunity for the Kollel to connect with the community in a more intimate way than the regular programming allows.

“While the Kollel cherishes its many weekly and regular opportunities to teach and engage with the Shomrai membership, the shabbaton provided a unique forum to interact in the warm and ruach-filled aspects of spending a Shabbos together–– the meals, singing and tefillos, in addition to the shared learning we did,” said Rabbi Menachem Winter, head of Greater Washington Community Kollel.

“Sitting together for the dinner and at the oneg is a chance for the Kollel staff and members of the community to get to know each other personally. I also had the opportunity to speak with Kollel rabbis I hadn’t met before and see what wonderful people they are,” said Rosenthal. And the feeling is mutual; Rabbi Hillel Shaps, a longstanding member of the Kollel, remarked: “The shabbaton was a great opportunity to kick-start new relationships and nurture existing ones.”

Perhaps above all, the shabbaton brought together participants from many different segments of Kemp Mill. “The people from the community in attendance were from across the communal demographics, representing a true cross section of the community,” noted Shimoff. Empty-nesters and young professionals sat together at the oneg, as well as college students and families with their young children. This is a true reflection of the kollel’s mission to enrich the entire Greater Washington community.