Mequon, WI — The thundering applause that filled the hall as Chazzan Yehoshua Samuels finished his powerful and moving presentation of “My Yiddishe Mamme” said it all.
This past Shabbos Congregation Agudas Achim Chabad held an extraordinary weekend retreat; it was the 11th annual winter Shabbaton at the Osthoff Resort on Elkhart Lake. With a record attendance of 185 guests, an exceptional guest speaker and guest Chazzan, this was a weekend to remember.
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All Friday afternoon the guests arrived, checking into their luxurious suites. Each exquisite suite included a bedroom, kitchen, living room with a fireplace and a private balcony. Candle lighting for the women was in the Palm Garden Ballroom. With close to 200 place settings around the beautiful Shabbos table, the room glowed and sparkled.
Friday night services were held in the Crystal Lake Ballroom, which was set as a magnificent Sanctuary, with the hand-made Aron Hakodesh at the east end of the “Shul”.
Cantor Yehoshua Samuels, a gifted Chazzan and vocalist led the Friday night services. His beautiful and powerful voice filled the room, and the services included wonderful singing, and of course, dancing.
After services everyone gathered in the Ballroom for Shabbos dinner. The shliach, Rabbi Rapaport made Kiddush, followed by many of the dads in the room. Each course was delicious and enjoyable. Gefilte fish, dips, salads, chicken soup, vegetable soup, kneidlach and sauteed chicken breast, kugels, rice and sauces. The spirit of the evening filled the hall, along with singing and conversations with family and friends.
The highlight of the evening was the dessert reception. The children went to the youth programs with their counselors and to enjoy their yummy desserts. The adults went into the parlor for a full spread of coffee, pastries, fruits and nuts. When everyone was seated the Rabbi introduced the guest scholar, the entertaining and brilliant Rabbi Yossi Jacobson. He is one of the most sought after speakers in the Jewish world today. Rabbi Jacobson’s topic this evening was “the Future of the Jewish people.” His talk was eye-opening and energizing; he touched everyone with his humor, wit and intuitive grasp of the human condition.
Shabbos day started with a delicious breakfast of juice, coffee, cereal, fresh pastries and fruit. As breakfast was finished Rabbi Jacobson gave a most interesting and practical talk on the Kabbala of Shabbos, explaining the various dimensions of Shabbos.
Services were once again lively and enjoyable, with Chazzan Samuels’ beautiful singing and cantorial renditions. Rabbi Yosef Samuels read the Torah. The sermon was delivered by Rabbi Jacobson, with an important and powerful message. The topic was “Israel and Anti-semitism.”
The Shabbos lunch was huge buffet of salmon, salads, pasta and dressings, followed by a platters of cold cuts, kugels and cholent. Once again Chazzan Samuels led the singing.
During the afternoon there was special parenting session in the Elk Room led by Dr. Robert Kliegman, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin; executive vice president of Children’s Research Institute; and chairman and professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The talk was well attended and very much enjoyed.
Shabbos afternoon was a chance to relax, spend time with friends and just enjoy the day. After Mincha services Rabbi Jacobson and Chazzan Samuels led a session of “Songs of Soul” until the end of Shabbos. Rabbi Rapaport made Havdalah for everyone.
Saturday night, the game room was busy. Pinball, pool, air-hockey kept the change machine clinging all night. To the delight of the children the machines sucked in the quarters as fast as you can put them in. From the pool came the sound of splashing and fun. Saturday night was also Pizza Party time for the children as well as arts & crafts with their counselors.
For the adults, it was time for a candle-lit dinner in the Crystal Lake Ballroom. A salad bar, soup, falafel and of course a sushi bar. Chazzan Yehoshua Samuels performed some opera, followed by an outstanding performance of “My Yiddishe Mamme” dedicated to Rebbecca Peltz, za’l. The topic for this evening was “Creating Harmony in Relationships,” which Rabbi Jacobson delivered with an abundance of humor. Rabbi Jacobson addressed the challenge of relationships in today’s society and progressive lifestyles. He finished off his talk with a special tribute to Rebbecca Peltz and to all of those who survived the horrors of World War II, and who rose from the ashes to rebuild their lives, their families, their communities and the entire Jewish people.
Sunday morning there was fresh brewed coffee, hot bagels, lox, cream cheeses, a full omelet bar and a delicious selection of fresh cheeses from the Mitzvah Farms. What a way to finish off a fabulous weekend.
Thank you very much to Rabbi Jacobson, Cantor Samuels, Dr. Kliegman, and to every individual who helped make this outstanding weekend so special, memorable and meaningful. The participants would like to especially thank all the ladies who volunteered and helped prepare the more than 1,000 delicious and perfectly prepared meals that were served.