OU’s Marriage Retreat Earns Rave Reviews

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Sweet Table
31 Aug 2011

On July 15-17, 2011, the Orthodox Union held its Sixth Annual Marriage Enrichment Retreat at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Our crack reporter from the “Woodcliff Lake Gazette” sneaked into the retreat at its conclusion and interviewed one of the couples in attendance, Mindy and Seth Berman of Highland Park, New Jersey. We randomly selected this couple, who were in the process of enjoying their 17th meal of the weekend. What follows is a verbatim transcript of the interview:

Woodcliff Lake Gazette: Hi, may we have a word with you?

Mindy Berman: Certainly. We always accommodate imaginary reporters from fictional newspapers who sneak into marriage enrichment retreats to interview the participants during mealtime.

Seth Berman: [inaudible, due to sounds from munching on a falafel ball]

WLG: Thanks. How did you like the retreat?

MB: It was terrific. The retreat included presentations from leading practitioners in various mental health fields. The lectures, many of which were interactive, covered a broad array of issues that married couples deal with on a daily basis – including some topics that are not typically discussed in relationship seminars, but that are crucial to a fulfilling marriage. And the entire program was run over the course of an inspiring and enjoyable Shabbat. We truly appreciate the OU providing this critical and enlightening service to the community.

SB [swallowing]
: And the food was great.

WLG: What made it so terrific?

SB: I’d have to say the variety. There was a buffet table at every mealtime filled with all types of delicious choices. Every dish was prepared . . .

WLG: Um…no, I meant the retreat itself, not just the food.

SB: Oh, sorry. I think the best part of the weekend was the practical information provided during the presentations. We really learned specific, constructive approaches to commonly encountered problems.

MB: And the presenters joined us at the Shabbat meals. We had the opportunity to speak to them informally and gain even further insights into many of the important issues affecting married couples. At the beginning of the weekend, we all received packets with written materials that summarized and elaborated on many of the topics discussed during the retreat.

WLG: Anything else that impressed you?

SB: Yes. The fettuccine alfredo at the melaveh malkah.

MB: I loved how well organized the weekend was. Every last detail – whether related to programming, logistics or the Shabbat – was attended to by the OU and Frank Buchweitz, program director extraordinaire.

SB: We also enjoyed meeting people from other communities. Despite the varied demographics and hashkafot, everyone got along together and enriched one another’s experience. It was remarkable to watch couples married less than a year interact with couples married for 40 or more years – and to hear valuable insights from all of them.

WLG: How many years have you two been married?

MB: Fourteen and a half.

WLG: How did the retreat affect you personally?

SB: I gained three pounds.

MB: Yes, but you also told me that you gained a deeper understanding of the differing perspectives that each spouse may bring to a marriage.

SB: Oh, right. Yes, that too.

MB: We heard some amazing true stories based on the first-hand experience of the presenters. Those stories have stayed with me and helped to further develop my attitude toward marriage and life in general.

SB: To be honest, I was somewhat skeptical going in. I didn’t think that listening to lectures could change a couple’s relationship. But I believe that the retreat had an immediate positive impact on our marriage. Even without consciously trying to “apply” the knowledge that we gained, we have a greater appreciation for each other and for the tools necessary for turning our good marriage into a great one.

WLG: We understand that the melaveh malkah included a “Not the Newlywed Game”, and that you were one of the couples chosen to compete. How did you do?

MB: No comment.

SB: No comment.

WLG: Seth, you mentioned meeting people from other communities. Based on your participation in the various sessions, how do you think it affected the other couples who were present?

SB: Well, it’s difficult to speak for others, but we got a sense of tremendous overall satisfaction with the program. There was such a good feeling throughout the conference.

WLG: Given the demands of orthodox life, how did the retreat provide suggestions to balance those various demands, while nurturing your loving and successful marriage?

MB: Many of the sessions focused on communications skills, which are key to enriching a marriage. By bolstering communication, a couple can better cope with the sometimes overwhelming demands of orthodox life. Also, some of the sessions directly provided tips for time management.

: Any final words?

MB: We applaud the OU for offering programs like the Marriage Enrichment Retreat. We strongly encourage other couples to attend future retreats if possible. We really think you’ll enjoy every moment.

: And every meal.


Seth and Mindy Berman are members of Congregation Ahavas Achim in Highland Park, where Seth currently serves as President. Their three children, Aryeh (age 10) and twins Edie and Gavi (age 7), all attend Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison, New Jersey.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.