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.