First-ever fair to offer Israeli art, Kosher food, Klezmer
GUILFORD - Judaism is the ancient tradition of a relatively small community of people. It was the first documented religion to hold as its central belief the idea of monotheism: the conviction that there is only one God, an omniscient source of all power who bonded with God's "chosen people" since the days of the biblical forbearers Abraham and Sarah. It is the parent religion for Christianity and even Islam.
Now, Rabbi Yossi Yaffe, director of Chabad of the Shoreline wants to extend elements of this ancient faith and culture to believers - and non-believers with curious minds - by sponsoring the very first Shoreline Jewish Festival on the Green Aug. 13.
"We want the festival to be accessible to all faiths, something anyone can enjoy," says Yaffe. "It's like an Irish festival: I'm not Irish, but I've been to one and enjoyed myself."
Yaffe hopes the festival will also allow Jewish communities to come together and see what the Chabad of the Shoreline has to offer.
"I think this is a wonderful idea," says Yaffe. "This is an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the community and allow people to see all the wonderful things we do."
The Guilford Green was selected for the one-day festival, Yaffi says, because Chabad of the Shoreline is planning to build a new synagogue on Goose Lane.
"We found a piece of land that would be accessible right off of the highway [I-95] at exit 59," says Yaffe. "It was very important for us to be accessible and we were looking for a permanent location."
Chabad of the Shoreline has until now been housed in a rented storefront in Branford. With up to 100 people at a time attending programs and activities, Yaffe says he knows the facility must find a new home.
"We have been looking for a building for the last couple of years," says Yaffe. "We closed on the property on Monday, and we hope to start the process of building a synagogue through the [Planning and] Zoning Commission."
The 1.3-acre lot Yaffe has acquired is situated off exit 59. A three-family ranch presently stands on the top of the property's sloping lawn. Architects Sandra Vlock's and Glen Arbonies' plan calls for moving the house to the back of the property and building the Chabad center towards the front of the property. The new building will be set in the hill, allowing walk-in access on both levels.
Chabad of the Shoreline was launched seven years ago and hosts or operates the Chabad Hebrew School, adult education courses, Shoreline Jewish women (Jewish women's programs), daily study, the Jewish Learning Institute, Camp Gan Israel summer and winter programs, holiday celebrations, an online Chabad blog, synagogue services, hospital and hospice visitations, counseling, "Turn Friday Night into Shabbat" events twice-monthly, Chanukah menorah lightings on town greens, and even an online Judaica store ( Chabad of the Shoreline runs solely on local donations and support. It receives no funding from any central organization or outside source.
The festival will offer a sampling of Jewish cuisine such as pitas and falafels, as well as the Israeli band, "Reva L' Scheva," Hebrew for "quarter to 7."
"It is a summer festival with a Jewish flavor," says Yaffe. "We are also featuring a puppet show for children depicting traditional Jewish tales performed by the 'Small Wonder Puppet Theater' from Brooklyn, N.Y."
Barbara Blumen, member of Chabad and mother of Reva L' Scheva's lead guitarist Lloyd Blumen, says the festival will give visitors a chance to learn about the Jewish community and the opportunities available to them.
"I think the festival is wonderful and everyone in our community is excited about it," says Blumen. "Our Chabad house is a loving atmosphere and anybody is welcome, any time."
Blumen says the community as a whole believes the move to Guilford will only enhance the community center.
"I feel great about it," says Blumen. "Most of us are excited to work with our neighbors and create a place of learning."
Yaffe says the community has created the delicate balance between celebrating Jewish culture and religion so everyone can have something to enjoy.
"In addition to Jewish cuisine, we will still maintain the traditional summer fare of hot dogs and hamburgers," says Yaffe. "The center of Jewish life on the shoreline is primarily in Branford, Guilford, and Madison, and we'll be right in the center of it all."
Because the festival was conceived as a last-minute idea, the house only had two months to bring the events together.
"Unfortunately, Temple Beth Tikvah in Madison was not able to participate, because it takes time to get people organized," says Yaffe. "But it is my hope that this will become an annual celebration of Jewish life."
Yaffe says The Jewish Family Services, Jewish Home for the Aged, and Jewish Federation are a sampling of the groups that will be represented at the festival.
"My son is proud to be representing Israel and its culture and faith," says Blumen. "We hope to find new friends on Sunday."
The festival starts at 12 p.m. and will run until 6 p.m. For more information, contact Chabad of the Shoreline at 488-2263.