More than 500 people stopped by West Meadow Beach last Wednesday evening for the three-hour Jewish Summer Festival.
Entertainment included an acrobatic performance by Cirque-tacular Entertainment, the music of Israeli singer Sandy Shmuely, face-painting and a moon bounce for the children.
That and a kosher barbecue dinner with all the fixings were part of the lure, but the bigger enticement was the camaraderie and friendship the festival offers.
The festival is a creation of Chabad at Stony Brook, and is co-directed by Rabbi Motti and Chaya Grossbaum.
“Seven years ago,” said Rabbi Grossbaum, “I was looking for a way to bring the community together for a public celebration of Jewish life, pride and future here in Suffolk County.” Now in its seventh year, it has become a midsummer classic event that many people look forward to.
The festival has grown every year, he said, gathering new partiers and sponsors as well.
“It’s nice to ‘hear’ your culture,” said Dominique Shapiro of Smithtown, referring to Shmuely’s music, “and to meet people—young, old, Jewish, non-Jewish—and also bump into those you know.”
Shapiro discovered the festival last year and brought her family again this year. Her three children played in the sand, sampled the food and swayed to the sounds of Shmuely’s guitar.
Steve Zalta of Holbrook attended with nine members of his family, including his two young granddaughters who, he said, danced away to the Hebrew music.
The 63-year-old sales rep of Syrian descent moved to Long Island from Brooklyn 30 years ago. He said at first, he used to go back to Brooklyn for Jewish content and connections; now, he has found outlets where he lives.
“We’re all one family,” he said in general. Of the summer event, in particular, “It’s a way for the children to see their heritage.”
Rabbi Grossbaum thanked the crowd for attending, and acknowledged the sponsors for helping make the night a success and bringing the community together. In fact, that’s what drew Elyse Buchman of Setauket to the festival for the second time.
“It’s very community-based,” she said. “No matter what temple you’re affiliated with—or none at all—you get together as a community and share in a good time. There are not a lot of places where you can do that.”
Buchman and her husband Marty are owners of the Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, which opened in June and focuses on bike tours. She pronounced the North Shore “full of history and beauty that often falls under the radar.”
The icing on the festival cake was, as Shapiro noted, a very beautiful sunset, “one of the best on Long Island.”