Jewish Festival A First for Shoreline Community
BRANFORD, CT — (August 18, 2006)
By EJ Tansky

n the Guilford Green, where colonial settlers’ cattle once grazed and where thespians from Shakespeare on the Shoreline would take the stage later that evening, Chabad of the Shoreline, CT, attracted a crowd of 1000 to the first annual Jewish Shoreline Festival on August 14.

Festival hopping during summer is a much a part of Shoreline summers as sneakers full of the pebbly sand. Tourists time visits to the Shoreline, where the coastline inhales the Long Island Sound and stretches from East Haven to Old Lyme, to join locals at agricultural, antique, and arts and crafts fairs. “It was a good way to get Jews together, visibly, in a very public place, not on the turf a synagogue,” said Chabad of the Shoreline representative Rochel Baila Yaffe. “People can be so hesitant, anxious and intimidated, but when you introduce yourself, they see you are a normal, open person.”

Like a good funnel cake, Chabad’s festival had another twist. After seven years in Branford, CT, the Yaffes are working on a move five miles or so down the road to Guilford, a classic New England town. Days before the festival, they closed on a piece of property right off of I-95. Not only was the festival the very first time kosher hot dogs were grilled on the Guilford Green, but it was also Chabad’s way of introducing itself to all of Guilford. “We wanted to take the opportunity to allow our new neighbors to find out what we are about, to have a chance to chat and connect with people involved in Chabad,” said Rabbi Yossi Yaffe.

After seven years in Branford, CT, the Yaffes are working on a move five miles or so down the road to Guilford, a classic New England town.

As Lazer Lloyd, formerly of Madison, CT, now of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, set the band shell rocking, his fingers sliding along the frets, playing bluesy-Jewsy electric guitar, his father, Joel Blumen collected compliments and was “delightfully surprised” by the crowds’ numbers and diversity. “There were Jewish folks and not Jewish folks there to enjoy the music, the togetherness,” said Blumen. “People may have come to put a toe in the water, not knowing what to expect or how comfortable they would be… People who stayed seemed to be more empowered and enriched and happy to be part of all this.”

Alongside the band shell, Chabad’s role as community resource came into view.  At Rabbi Yaffe’s invitation, Shoreline Hadassah, Jewish Family Services, Jewish Home for the Aged, Southern Connecticut Jewish Academy and the Rotary Club set up tables at the festival to distribute brochures and inform community members of their services. In between answering questions about the Jewish Family Services programs, attorney and sometime electric guitar player Steven Jacobs of Guilford grooved to the sounds of the Festival’s wall-to-wall music from Lloyd, the Klezmen, Israel’s Reva L’Sheva and Tuvia Bolton. “I really enjoy klezmer music, and I was very impressed with Lazer Lloyd. He is smoking hot.”

The Yaffes and volunteers from the community ensured there would be plenty to keep Festival-goers occupied. When not flocking to watch Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz’s Small Wonder puppet theater shows, kids fiddled with Jewish tile art, painted glass magnets and six more projects with Jewish themes. Ronen Yur of Old Saybrook arranged an artisan craft showcase and sold delicate mosaic mezuzah covers, handmade bags, original artwork, with an emphasis on Israeli goods. Against a backdrop of the Western Wall, Chabad volunteers were spotted wrapping tefilin on amply pierced college student.  

Joyce Saltman, a 39-year Connecticut resident, found herself smiling at, even receiving hugs from perfect strangers, as she browsed through the Jewish books for sale at the festival. “I think it was just the feeling of the day, a joy filled day,” she said. “People were happy to be there and contribute to celebration.”