Are you bored out of your mind sitting in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? I know many Jews who call their shuls “a torture chamber” because they have to listen to prayers sung by rote, the same speeches about forgiveness year in and year out, appeals for money, meaningless davening while pounding yourself in the chest, etc.
Well, fellow Jews, your life is about to change. Here is the recipe for getting a true Jewish high and life changing experience. And it does not matter if you are Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist or Secular–it doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not. And it does not matter whether you went to yeshiva, public school or afternoon Hebrew school. The absolute best place to spend the High Holidays is in Westhampton Beach at The Hampton Synagogue. I promise you that it will be worth the trip, from wherever you are.
The best way to describe the entire experience is to picture a super hot Manhattan club at 2:00am where the DJ is spinning hits and the crowd is drinking, dancing and pumping energy–and you can actually feel the spirit of the crowd in the air. “The joint is jumpin’,” as we used to say.
Believe it or not, somehow The Hampton Synagogue has managed to create a religious spirit that is akin to a Manhattan club experience through cantorial music, food, drinks, a gorgeous ambiance and a rational explanation of what the High Holidays are all about. Of course it is a respectful atmosphere–but everyone really enjoys it.
This is Judaism to the 10th power, and God himself is cheering the way that this synagogue works. It is the only synagogue where you will find people who cannot read Hebrew and go to synagogue once a year, in the same place with Chasidic Jews who wear big black hats, along with every other flavor of Jew possible.
Just imagine the most incredible spirit with a lot of very friendly people–yet it is a totally religious day. What makes The Hampton Synagogue so special? We think of the Hamptons as a bunch of rich, shallow, snooty, secular people who enjoy expensive cars, polo, jewelry and their Brooks Brothers wardrobe. Well, nothing could be further from the truth at The Hampton Synagogue.
What makes this Orthodox synagogue so unique is that approximately half the shul is not Orthodox. In fact, quite a number of members are so secular that they would never attend any synagogue, if not for the unique, welcoming atmosphere that Rabbi Marc Schneier has created. This is kiruv work at its best.
During the summer just about every important Israeli political figure was a visiting speaker. Many well known senators and congress people, Democrat and Republican, were guests who just had to see our synagogue in action and speak to its members. While Israel experienced such difficult times this summer with the Gaza War, The Hampton Synagogue stood out as the synagogue that raised the most money for Israel in the United States–$12 million.
Most Jews consider it an obligation to go to synagogue at least 3 times a year, and of course say Kaddish for their parents. This is their time to bond in some way with their upbringing, and give thanks to the 2 people who raised them–fulfilling the 5th Commandment “to honor their father and mother.” So why go to a place that is simply close to your home–why not go to a place that is truly meaningful and will inspire you the rest of the year?
It is no wonder synagogue attendance, even on the high holidays, has dwindled dramatically over the last 10 years, with synagogues placing ads and offering free tickets. An existing member pays $1000+ to be bored out of their mind, in a service that has very little meaning, with a rabbi who goes through the same motions, year in and year out. How sad that a truly great religion,with so much to offer, is going through such a dilemma.
This is precisely what separates Rabbi Marc Schneier and The Hampton Synagogue from the rest. The shul’s mission statement says it all: “Making the ordinary—Extraordinary.” How many times have you attended a synagogue for the first time and somehow felt alone? Not at The Hampton Synagogue—probably the friendliest shul around. Everyone makes an effort to speak to new faces at the High Holiday Kiddush luncheons.
But let’s start at the beginning of Rosh Hashanah—the services. One cannot really call it pure davening, because a person can actually get “high” listening to Chazzan/Cantor Netanel Hershtik, a 14th generation cantor, who many consider the greatest chazzan in the world today. Accompanying the cantor is the world renowned Hampton Synagogue Choir, under the direction of Maestro Yitzchak Haimov.
The harmonies are incredible, especially when the cantor and choir use cantorial music written by such luminaries as Yosselle Rosenblatt, Zavel Kwartin, Louis Lewandowski, Moshe Ganchoff and numerous others. Oh, and let’s not forget The Beatles “Adon Olam!” The services bring you to a sort of “out of body experience,” no exaggeration.
With all of the professionalism, many young people participate in various parts of the services, and are enthusiastic and comfortable. How many synagogues alienate their youth by shoving them off to a teenage or alternate service?
For young families there are incredible separate facilities for children, with programming to match, including a Junior Congregation, petting zoo, bee keeper presentation, obstacle course, singing, toys, games and a highly experience staff.
In the afternoon, there are fascinating, meaningful lectures (Proof of God’s Existence; Lessons of The Holocaust; Why Be Jewish?; Judaism and Feminism: Are they Compatible? and others), or–you can just walk around the gorgeous town or beach and enjoy God’s natural gifts to humanity.
There are delicious, 4 course Glatt Kosher dinners at the synagogue each evening before services, including the Friday night right after Rosh Hashanah. Westhampton has many places to stay for families that are budget conscious and most are walking distance to the synagogue. Whether you come with your family or are alone, this will be a Yontif to remember–and perhaps you will become a regular during the summer season next year.
For additional information and to make ticket reservations, please call our fabulous Assistant Rabbi Levi Welton at the synagogue–631 288-0534. The Hampton Synagogue, 154 Sunset Avenue, Westhampton Beach, NY 11978.