Chabad of Atlantic City and the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island both have concrete reasons to celebrate this summer, thanks to new structures.
When Jewish families head down the shore this summer season, they can expect robust, new programming held inside new buildings at two shore shuls.
After eight years of renting a storefront, Chabad of Atlantic County, a Margate fixture for 30 years, will close on a building of its own later this month, said Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport.
The Chai Center, as it will be dedicated on Aug. 9 during a gala evening, will consist of a main building with a sanctuary, social hall and kosher kitchen, and a second building with six classrooms for the Hebrew school. There are plans to transform the courtyard into a sukkah courtyard.
The community, Rapoport noted, is active year-round, but “we step up our offerings to make the summer fun, enjoyable and also Jewish.”
It all begins with an evening of comedy on June 28 featuring comedian Joel Chasnoff and schmoozing with friends over cocktail and other refreshments. Each year the event sells out, according to Rapoport, who said, “God willing, next year we’ll have a lot more space to fill up.”
Throughout the summer season, Chabad of AC offers challah-baking classes for families, hosts a Gefilte Fishing Club with deep sea fishing excursions in July and August, and an adult education class called Whiskey, Wings and Wisdom. Torah study takes place every Sunday morning and Shabbat services during the summer season regularly attract more than 100 worshippers.
The season will close out with the Jewish Summer Festival and Concert on Aug. 23 on the beach at the Ventnor Library.
“It’s a great way to celebrate being Jewish on the Jersey shore,” Rapoport said of the festival that includes rides, crafts and kosher barbecue.
Fifty or so minutes north, the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island is gearing up for a marathon of events planned for this summer’s season.
The independent congregation dedicated a new building in summer 2012 — just months before Hurricane Sandy hit. Fortunately, the new building along 24th Street was built above the floodline and did not sustain major damage.
“We weren’t allowed back on the island for six weeks,” said Rabbi Michael Jay, who received ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2012 and joined the congregation shortly thereafter. “On our first Friday night back, we praised God that our building was OK. Then, I said, ‘We need to find the architect and the engineer and hug them.’ ”
Rose Valentine, the synagogue’s immediate past president, described the new building and its blue-gray-white color scheme as “peaceful.”
“It’s very light in feeling —no velvet or usual things you would find in a city synagogue. It feels very much like you’re at the beach,” said Valentine.
Kabbalat Shabbat services on the beach, a favorite tradition, will be held July 17 and August 24 this season. The first will be hosted near the synagogue and the second will take place in Loveladies, just south of St. Clare’s Church, on the other end of the island. Jay reported that the services regularly attract 125 to 150 people, with last year’s services drawing a record-breaking high of close to 200 participants.
“When we do the beach service, I like to tell folks that at the time of creation, God created three different realms. In the creation story, He has heaven and the earth and the seas, and the only place where the three meet is the beach,” said Jay. “It just makes the beach such a special place. Where else can you go to services where you can wear shorts and sandals and still get called up for an aliyah?”
Shabbat services are held each week, and a drop-in Havdalah that starts at 9 p.m. on Saturdays is quite popular. The rabbi freely admits that the kosher s’mores probably help attendance.
Other summer offerings include zumba, yoga and mah jongg take place each week, and the annual Bazaars will be back on July 8 and Aug. 12 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with vendors filling the inside of the building and spilling out into the parking lot.
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