‘Drive-In Shabbat’ Arrives In East Hampton

Independent/Richard Lewin

Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback thanks to the novel coronavirus, but it is doubtful anyone has attended a drive-in Shabbat service before — until Friday, May 29, that is.

The Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton held its first “Drive-In Shabbat” at Main Beach in the village. Social distancing policies in place due to COVID-19 have made it nearly impossible for the Jewish Center to hold its popular Shabbat on the Beach services, so organization leaders came up with a new plan to still have service and go to the beach.

“We have been exploring numerous ways to build community safely while remaining physically distant,” Rabbi Josh Franklin said last week, after announcing the plans for the Friday drive-in. Services had been held through Zoom the past several months. “We have been dreaming up this idea since we realized that we would not be able to hold Shabbat on the Beach beginning Memorial Day this summer.”

Independent/Richard Lewin

The Village of East Hampton gave the necessary approvals for the service, since it is being held in a village-owned parking lot.

“The drive-in Shabbat was a huge success, bringing our community back together physically for the first time since March,” the rabbi said on Sunday. “Despite the foggy and misty weather, we had over 40 carloads of people join us. We’re expecting more next week as the buzz will surely permeate throughout the community.”

Franklin said many of the congregants shared how emotional it felt to come together.

“Both Cantor [Debra] Stein and I felt the joy in the air, and could see it through the windshields of the cars,” he said. “Shabbat offers us moments of reflection, but more importantly, Shabbat offers us the blessing of gathering in community. This experience felt authentically communal even though we couldn’t offer hugs and handshakes.”

Anyone may attend services in Lot 2 at Main Beach. They begin at 6 PM each Friday, at least for now.

Those who attend will be given instructions on tuning into an FM radio station to hear the services. More information is available at www.jcoh.org/prayer/drivein.

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