Hamptons Soul: Raising Children in the Hamptons

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Father Constantine Lazarakis of the Greek Orthodox Congregation, and Jewish Center of the Hamptons Rabbi Josh Franklin offer spiritual and practical guidance for raising children in the Hamptons.

Father Constantine Lazarakis

The East End is an amazing place to raise a family. Access to beaches, woods and farms allow kids to grow up connected to the Earth, understanding our place in God’s creation. Summers, with weekenders filling the streets and beaches are exciting, while the “off-season” offers plenty of elbow room in which children can safely grow and learn. We’ve also got wonderful resources for children—beautiful houses of worship, good schools, museums, scouting, town-sponsored programs, little league, rec centers. You name it!

Raising kids in the Hamptons has its tricky side. As a father of teens, as pastor for the Greek Orthodox Congregation and an active parent in schools, I worry that in spite of having every material thing we need to raise our kids right, somehow, we are missing something essential. It is said that we have worked so hard to give our kids everything we didn’t have growing up, and yet we have forgotten to give them what we did have. In our rush to provide our kids with all of their material needs (and some luxuries as well), we neglect passing down our faith and our values.

I often tell my own children, “I want to be your friend, but I have to be your dad.” Between the facts that our phones steal so much of our time, that our appetite for material “success” is rampant and that parents want to be liked, too, we tend to shy away from instructing our children to, as St. Paul said, “fix [their] minds on what is true, honorable, pure, right and lovely” (Philippians 4:8). Our kids are hungry for faith, for love and for wisdom. As parents, it is our job to make sure that there is room in their lives to learn those things.

Rabbi Josh Franklin

Those who have moved their families out to the Hamptons during the pandemic from New York City have been learning something that locals have known for some time: The Hamptons is a magical place to raise children. My two daughters (ages 2 and 6) are blessed to grow up so near nature’s playground. Yes, we have our traditional parks with swings, slides, monkey bars and the works. But my children generally prefer running in and out of the surf at the beach, rolling down a sand dune, feeding the birds out of their hands at the Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Refuge, or taking a sunset boat ride. They aren’t yet able to  appreciate fully how lucky they are to have a childhood filled with some of the world’s greatest marvels, but I know that I’m giving my kids a childhood that I could have only dreamed of.

Contrary to popular belief, the Hamptons isn’t just a summer community, and there are plenty of great things to do with your children indoors and outdoors when the weather turns cold. My children love the activities at CMEE (Children’s Museum of the East End) in Bridgehampton; they learn about the environment and the species of wildlife at SoFo (South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center); when it’s raining my oldest daughter obsesses about bowling, mini-golf and the arcade at The Clubhouse. Most importantly though, my children belong to a strong community at their schools and at our synagogue, the Jewish Center of the Hamptons. The East End is most certainly a great place to be able to call home.

The last line of Psalm 23 reads: “And I will dwell in the house of God forever.” The previous verses teach us that the house of God is place of “green pastures,” that are along the “still waters.” It sounds a lot like God’s house could be in a Hamptons ZIP code, and our children are blessed to have such a great neighbor.

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