Looking for an enjoyable weekend that will make a great marriage even better? The Orthodox Union’s Positive Jewish Marriage Enrichment Retreat, now in its ninth year, will be held from July 11-13 at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. Registration ends Friday, June 27.
“The purpose of the marriage retreat is to help couples in strong marriages gain advice on how to make their marriages even stronger,” explained Rabbi Judah Isaacs, the Orthodox Union’s director of community engagement.
The theme of this year’s retreat is “Creating Closeness” and the weekend will feature workshops and lectures by social workers and psychologists who work inside the Jewish community. Presentations will talk about self-esteem, raising children, intimacy and coping with illnesses. Special guest speakers include Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, and Rabbi Steven Weil, the Orthodox Union’s senior managing director.
Hannah Farkas, the OU’s program manager of community engagement explained, “The retreat is for people who have sound marriages, couples who are happy together and just want to enhance what they have.”
- Alex Bailey, Psy.D. — New Jersey-based clinical psychologist specializing in communication and relationships.
- Rivki Jungreis, M.S. Ed. LCSW — adolescent and child psychotherapist and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)-certified clinician specializing in abuse and trauma and noted lecturer at the Hineni outreach organization.
- Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D. — founder and director of the Adult Development Center in Hewlett, NY, and author of The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures.
- Jonathan Lasson, Psy.D. — a Baltimore-based psychotherapist and creator of the Chosson and Kallah Education and Preparation program.
- Rachel Pill, LCSW — co-founder and co-director of The Long Island Guidance and Wellness Center.
- Marcy Schaffer, Ph.D. — clinical psychologist; founder and executive director of Positive Beginnings, an early childhood program for special needs children in Queens.
- Sylvan Schaffer, J.D., Ph.D. — specialist in family and marital psychotherapy and an attorney in family and employment law.
- Benyamin Tepfer, Ph.D., CSAT-S — licensed psychologist, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist; founder and clinical director of Tepfer & Associates.
The retreat draws between 75-100 couples across a spectrum of religiosity from the fervently Orthodox to the very modern, Rabbi Isaacs said. “The whole gamut of the Orthodox community comes to this event.”
Couples who attend the retreat have also been married for different lengths of time.
“It’s incredibly diverse,” Hannah Farkas added. “Some couples who attend the retreat have been married for 30 years; other couples have been married for just one or two years.”
Dr. Alex Bailey, a clinical psychologist who will be giving several workshops during the weekend, explained that the most important element of a continuing relationship is the ability to compromise. It’s a skill, he explained, that can always be sharpened no matter how long two people have been married. “Learning how to compromise will only enhance a marriage,” he said “Even those who feel their marriage is going really well.”
Another workshop Dr. Bailey will be leading will deal with couples spending time away from each other.
“There should be no fear in spending time apart from each other as long as it’s within the context of wanting to be together,” he said. “When spending time away becomes the default then we start to get worried.”
Dr. Bailey said that he enjoys attending the retreats thanks to the differences in the couples who attend the retreat.
“It’s a lot of fun to meet couples at different stages in their relationships,” he said. “There are veteran couples who bring their experiences to the conversations and lectures.”
A past participant explained that the retreat allows people to talk about things that they usually don’t address.
“It allows people to talk about topics that may have been taboo or that couples were afraid to speak about directly, but they’re brought up by a reputable speaker,” she said. “The atmosphere is very nurturing.”
Licensed clinical social worker Rachel Pill has been attending the marriage retreats in her professional capacity for the last seven years. This year she will be giving talks on conflict resolution, dealing with in-laws and intimacy. She says she ensures that her schedule is free so she can attend the retreat.
“It’s nice to be someplace where couples are happy and want to learn more and gain more, but not because they’re in crisis, or trouble,” she said. “They have good marriages and they want to make them better. As a therapist, I don’t get to see that much.”