It’s Judaism to the end (of Long Island, that is)
During the work week, it’s difficult for Seth Bender, senior vice president and associate general counsel for HSBC Securities in Manhattan, to find time to connect with his Jewish identity. But when he escapes the hot city for his vacation home in Montauk, N.Y., at the easternmost tip of Long Island, he seeks more than a vacation. He views it as a chance to enrich himself personally by networking with other Jewish professionals and getting closer to his Jewish roots.
Bender was looking for an opportunity to memorialize his uncle, who had passed away in April, so when he heard that Rabbi Aizik and Musia Baumgarten would be launching Chabad of Montauk this summer, he stepped up to offer his support, making a donation in memory of his uncle, Barry Papermaster.
“I believe the Baumgartens’ initiative in Montauk will be well-received,” Bender, who is 37 and single, tells Chabad.org. “Young Jewish professionals are going out there not only for vacation, but also for culture, for networking and for seeking Jewish partners. I hope other people understand how valuable it is to have Chabad-Lubavitch in Montauk, which I view as a Jewish networking and cultural center for Jews of all dominations.”
Montauk, 120 miles east of Manhattan, used to be a quaint and sleepy fishing village on the beach. Even when it became a vacation destination, it had a more laid-back vibe than the tony Hamptons to its west. In recent years, its popularity (and real estate values) has soared with renovated motels, upscale boutiques and restaurants, and celebrity-sightings.
Jewish Population Swells in the Summer
While Montauk’s year-round Jewish population is “miniscule,” according to Richard Katz, an attorney who has been going out to Montauk to fish for 40 years and recently settled there year-round, the Jewish population swells in the summer. Katz enjoys meeting new people at Chabad of Montauk. “Even though I’ve been coming to Montauk for years and now live here, at Chabad I met a lot of people for the first time who have also been coming out here for years.”
Rabbi Aizik and Musia Baumgarten live year-round in East Hampton, near his parents, Rabbi Leibel and Goldie Baumgarten, co-directors of Chabad of the Hamptons. “There have been constant requests for us to have a presence in Montauk,” said Musia. “People in the Hamptons travel from town to town for Chabad camps and activities, but for someone coming from Montauk, it takes too long in summer traffic.”
Two summers ago, Aizik and Musia hosted one Shabbat at a private home in Montauk, with an enthusiastic response. Things fell into place this year when they were able to rent a large, well-appointed home in Montauk from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere in a beautiful, tranquil setting. Musia is an awesome cook,” said Katz.
Chabad of Montauk hosted its first-ever Shabbat minyan on June 29. Throughout the summer, they offer family-oriented activities like challah-baking on Thursday afternoons and pre-Shabbat parties on the beach.
The Baumgartens tailor a lot of their programs to the young Jewish professionals, around ages 25-45, who are now flocking to Montauk. For July 4, they hosted a barbecue, “Chill & Grill with Cocktails,” sponsored by Seth Bender, who brought 15 friends. “The rebbetzin is an amazing cook!” he said, echoing Katz’s sentiments. The barbecue was followed by a “Freedom Shabbat,” featuring a menu of all-American classics and focusing on the theme, “What Does Freedom Mean to You?”
A week later, Chabad of Montauk hosted Shabbat with special guest Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, founder of the National Jewish Outreach Program and a rabbi at Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan.
While the Baumgartens will return to East Hampton after Labor Day, they are hopeful that Chabad of Montauk will become an annual summer fixture.
“This is a great opportunity,” said Bender. “They are just gaining traction, and they will continue to have my support.”
By: Tzipora Reitman