Since early this year, a group of congregants has been planning festivities for Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24, to celebrate Seaside Jewish Community’s 25th anniversary milestone.
The congregation, now based at a modern synagogue on Holland Glade Road north of Rehoboth Beach, began with a handful of Jews getting together in each other’s homes for religious services and to celebrate Jewish holidays. An old Cape Gazette newspaper clipping reveals the story of how in 1997, Rehoboth restaurateur Peter Wise brought some 100 Jews together through an advertisement about his interest in holding a Passover seder. He received so much interest, he held two separate seders in his deli Pierre’s Pantry.
Today, Seaside boasts a membership list of more than 600 children and adults. Members not only attend religious services and educational programs, but also participate in interfaith outreach and, in keeping with the Jewish practice of Tikkun Olan (repairing the world), have programs that help others throughout Sussex County.
The highlight of the 25th anniversary weekend festivities will be a concert featuring Six13, the acclaimed New York City-based a cappella band, at 7 p.m., July 24, at Cape Henlopen High School.
“We wanted to bring something special to the area that everyone could enjoy, our members as well as our friends throughout Delaware,” said Marilyn Feldman, 25th anniversary activity organizer. “Six13 performs music that is lively, upbeat and represents a contemporary take on Jewish music. We feel extremely lucky to be able to have brought them to the area.”
Tickets are $36 per person. To purchase, go to seasidejewishcommunity.com or pay at the door.
Saturday festivities include a special Founders Shabbat to be led by Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan at 10 a.m., as well as an ice cream social at 7:30 p.m., when old and new members can gather together.
Planning efforts have meant reconnecting with founders who had wanted to make sure Seaside was a place where all Jews were welcomed, no matter which level of Judaism they practiced. Some of the founders are still active members, and a dozen will gather to participate in the service.
“It’s very exciting to be getting our founding members together,” said Sara Rosen, Seaside board member. “Some haven’t seen each other in a very long time. We wanted them to see how far we have come since those beginning days when they held services in their homes.”
Founding member and Dewey resident Cheryl Fruchtman has been among the event planners and is also helping work on a written history to be published in the commemorative booklet.
“When we moved here, it was important to me and my husband Marc to have a Jewish home for our children, and to have a Jewish identity in Sussex County,” she said. “Today, Seaside not only continues to be a Jewish home, but it also has become an integral part of the local interfaith community.”
Seaside members participate in extensive interfaith initiatives to improve understanding and mutual acceptance throughout southern Delaware. In addition to partnering with Epworth United Methodist Church in its meal programs, Seaside has an active social justice community. Seaside also supports community service projects such as clothing donation drives; assistance for the bereaved, ill and needy; and contributions to many worthwhile local causes. Seaside Jewish Community co-presents the Rehoboth Beach Jewish Film Festival with the Rehoboth Beach Film Society, and offers frequent educational and scholarly programs open to the community.
“What began in 1997 as people gathering for a Passover seder has evolved into a congregation providing spiritual, educational, pastoral and social activities,” said Joel Simon, Seaside president. “I am proud to be a small part of a group with large footprints in our community.”
Seaside Jewish Community’s mission is to support and foster Jewish identity by sponsoring religious, cultural, social and educational activities. For more information about Seaside and to sign up for the concert and other events, go to seasidejewishcommunity.com.