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Jewish Summer Festival

By Carin M. Smilk

The overcast skies may have kept some people away July 25, but even a little drizzle didn’t dampen the spirits of attendees at the ninth annual Jewish Summer Festival sponsored by Chabad of Stony Brook at West Meadow beach.

The evening included a kosher barbecue, concert with Israeli singer Yoel Sharabi and entertainment for all. A lively game of “Simon Says” with Steve Max kept adults as occupied as the kids.

The festival may be the last summer gathering before Chabad finishes the construction of a new state-of-the-art building on Nicolls Road in Stony Brook. A 13,000-square-foot facility will open in the coming months.

“It’s an exciting time for the Jewish community in central Suffolk County,” said Rabbi Motti Grossbaum. “We will be able to offer more Jewish classes, programs and events for all age groups, fostering increased Jewish opportunities, services and celebrations for all.”

For more information about Chabad at Stony Brook or to hear about available dedication opportunities in the new center at 360 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, visit www.chabadSB.com or call 631-585-0521 x101.

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Jewish Summer Festival attendees watch the performance with cotton candy and snow cones. Photo by Jim Harrison

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.

A NYC Cirque-tacular Entertainment duo wows the crowd. Photo by Jim Harrison
A NYC Cirque-tacular Entertainment duo wows the crowd. Photo by Jim Harrison

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.”

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Wacky Chad, the stunt comedian, gets some air in the company of West Meadow Beach visitors at last Wednesday’s Jewish festival. Photo by Peter DiLauro

By Carin M. Smilk

It was a real scorcher, according to those who attended the sixth annual Jewish Summer Festival, referring to Wednesday’s, July 29, event at West Meadow Beach in East Setauket in the midst of a heat wave that marked a week of 90-degree weather.

But it also turned out to be the largest turnout yet, with more than 500 people attending of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations.

The festival was sponsored by the Chabad Jewish Center of Stony Brook, which serves the Jewish community on Suffolk’s North Shore from Smithtown to Port Jefferson, and is co-directed by Rabbi Motti and Chaya Grossbaum. On tap was live music in the form of the high-energy Jewish rock band Yellow Red Sky; family entertainment, including a moon bounce, face painting and the award-winning stunt comedian Wacky Chad; and a kosher barbecue with all the trimmings, as well as cotton candy and Italian ices for the kids and grown-ups, too.

“There was something for every generation to appreciate,” said Jodi Casciano of Port Jefferson. “It was an evening full of warmth and connectedness — very good for the soul. The kids all had a blast, and the live music was phenomenal.”

The feeling of connectivity was alive throughout the event. In fact, the band dedicated a song in tribute to the four young women who were killed last month in a tragic limousine crash in Cutchogue: Smithtown’s Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, as well as Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack.

One of the more colorful notes of the three-hour festival occurred when the beach balls were distributed as an event giveaway. They were donated by Gayle Stock of Setauket, owner of TakeStock Inc., who declared the evening “fabulous” and is already planning to return next year.

Marty Gerber, a retiree from St. James, has been involved with Chabad for about a year and went to the festival for the first time. He said he was surprised by the size of the crowd, noting that “the tent area was overflowing.”

There were rows of chairs arranged under the shade of the tent, he described, and some even brought their own to position on the beach. The food was tasty, Gerber said.

“It’s a very good place for kids to have fun, and for the parents to relax and socialize,” Gerber said.

And that was the whole point.

“The goal is simply to bring the community together in unity for an upbeat Jewish experience,” said Rabbi Grossbaum. “It was a ‘feel good’ time for everyone there. A special shout-out goes to the main corporate sponsors, without whom it would not be possible.”

They included Jefferson’s Ferry, the Suffolk Center for Speech, Fairy LiceMothers, 3 Village Wellness, Nguyen Plastic Surgery, Gourmet Glatt, Gurwin Jewish and the Times Beacon Record Newspapers.

The event ended around 8 p.m., with the seasonal sky bringing its own sort of closure: a spectacular sunset over the beach.

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