By Rita J. Egan
The eighth annual Jewish Summer Festival at West Meadow Beach Aug. 9 brought together members of the North Shore Jewish community for a night of family fun.
Chabad at Stony Brook hosted the event that is co-directed by Rabbi Motti and Chaya Grossbaum. The rabbi said the festival was originally organized to celebrate Jewish pride and community, and like the Chabad, is open to all members of all sects of the religion. He estimated about 500 people attended this year’s festival including local residents outside of the Jewish community.
“We focus on what unites us not what divides us,” Rabbi Grossbaum said.
This was the second year Jennifer O’Brien from Hauppauge attended the festival with her family, she said, and it was the first time she brought her 16-month-old son Everett to a Jewish cultural event. She enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces at the festival after attending other Chabad events this past year.
She said she admired the efforts of the Grossbaums and Rabbi Cohen of the Chabad regarding the festival and the religious organization.
“No matter what your Jewish affiliation is or how much or little you are involved, the Grossbaum and Cohen families welcome everyone with such an overwhelming warm and loving sense of acceptance and togetherness,” O’Brien said. “They go above and beyond in all of their community efforts and take pride in building relationships with each individual and family.”
Tracey Mackey of Port Jefferson Station said she was unable to attend last year but her family did. She said after hearing about it she was looking forward to seeing friends and meeting new families. She said her daughter Ava, 11, helped out at the Chabad’s camp this summer and the children were so happy to see her.
“It was so wonderful because they had camp all summer, and they worked together on their crafts, and it was kind of a celebration that you get to see someone you really created a bond with,” Mackey said.
Mackey echoed O’Brien’s sentiments about the feel of the festival and the Chabad.
“That’s what Rabbi Motti likes to do — bring everyone together as a community,” Mackey said, “And when you’re there, you know you belong.”
The evening included performances by the popular Jewish rock band Soulfarm, and the high-energy group Industrial Rhythm. Children were able to get their faces painted and play in a bounce house, and kosher barbecue, cotton candy and ices were served. Mackey said the event was perfectly timed to witness the sunset at the beach. Grossbaum was grateful for the various local businesses that sponsored the festival and “without them we would not be able to produce such a beautiful event.”
The rabbi said he hoped attendees left the festival feeling inspired and empowered about the future of the Jewish community on the North Shore of Suffolk County.
“We’re a minority but when we all come together it gives everyone a sense of pride and a sense of positivity that we could be a more active community while living here,” Grossbaum said.