The Hamptons is coming to the Big Apple: thanks to the "Rabbi to the Stars."
After 13 years developing a 500-family Orthodox congregation in Westhampton Beach, Rabbi Marc Schneier has decided to duplicate what he calls the "Shabbat experience of the Hamptons" in Manhattan during the off-season.
Beginning Oct. 24, The New York Synagogue will hold Sabbath services in a hall rented from the New York Genealogical Society at 122 E. 58th St. Services will be held through April 3. A parallel service will continue during that time at The Hampton Synagogue under the leadership of its associate rabbi, Ariel Konstantyn.
"This is about meeting the needs of congregants who have asked in the last few years to bring the energy, dynamism and magic of The Hampton Synagogue to the city," said Rabbi Schneier.
He said that about 90 to 95 percent of his congregants have a home in the city and that the decision to open a Manhattan branch came after the congregation’s cantor, Israel Rand, and choir director, Itzchak Haimov, agreed to join him.
As a result, Rabbi Schneier said, The New York Synagogue will be the only Orthodox congregation in the city with a full-time cantor accompanied at all times by a professional choir.
This is not the first time an off-season branch of the synagogue was considered. Palm Beach, Fla., was considered at one point, but Rabbi Schneier said he and his wife, Toby, abandoned the idea after the birth of their first child, Brendan, in 1999, in order to raise him in New York. But the Palm Beach Post reported at the time that the project was defeated by a door-to-door petition campaign against it. The paper quoted Rabbi Schneier as saying: "We will not build a synagogue on a foundation of divisiveness and polarization."
The Hampton Synagogue itself has become a magnet for celebrities, among them Steven Spielberg, Wendy Wasserstein, Marvin Hamlisch and Tovah Feldshuh. And it attracts well-known speakers, including U.S. senators, Israeli leaders and authors.
Rabbi Schneier said that because the New York Synagogue will be near many upscale New York hotels, including the Waldorf, the Plaza and the Four Seasons, it would also be reaching out to prominent people who would like to enjoy the "Shabbat experience."
Rabbi Schneier, who is fond of saying the key to the success of The Hampton Synagogue are the three words "kiddish to follow," said the New York congregation will hold kiddishes and Shabbat dinners at Mendy’s, a kosher restaurant that recently opened a branch next door to the congregation’s new home.
"We’re targeting the young, professional community," said the rabbi, those who are either unaffiliated or "have not found a spiritual home in New York."