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History

Seaside Jewish Community began in 1997 as a result of an advertisement in the Cape Gazette looking for people who were interested in celebrating Passover together. Peter Wise, owner of Pierre’s Pantry in Rehoboth Beach, let his thoughts be known that there might be other Jewish people in the area wishing to share this holiday as a community.  Nearly 100 people responded and the first- and second-night Seders were held in his deli.

In June 1997, Harvey and Allyn Fruman, residents of Rehoboth Beach, invited the Jewish families who had attended the Seders to their home. From that gathering, Seaside Jewish Community was started with Lynn Chichi becoming its first president. Among the founders were: Harvey and Allyn Fruman, Myra and Al Sachs, Cheryl and Marc Fruchtman, Lee and Sam Mussoff, Sy and Dorothy Brecher, Joe and Nancy Green, Sylvia Diehl, Alfred and Sue Gross, Seymour Abensohn, Lynn Chichi, Michael Krausz, Miriam and Bob Zadek, and Annette Annenberg.

In the early years, services were held in members’ homes before moving on to the Parish Hall at All Saints Episcopal Church and Bethel United Methodist Church in Lewes. Click below to listen to an early NPR interview with some of Seaside's founders.

In 2002, a religious school was started with just two students. Through an invitation from the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, Seaside found a permanent home at its present location on Holland Glade Road. Click here to see an article about our building from The Jewish Voice from May 10, 2002. Seaside purchased the building in 2006.

Seaside continues to maintain strong relationships with the local faith houses. It remains an unaffiliated, egalitarian, and inclusive community that embraces all levels of Jewish observance and promotes a sense of extended family among members.

The religious leadership transitioned over the years from member-led services and guest rabbis to the start of Beth Cohen’s position as Seaside’s first part-time religious leader in 2009. In January 2016, Cohen was ordained as a rabbi through the ALEPH program.  Click here to read Rabbi Cohen's spiritual journey that led her to become an ordained rabbi. Rabbi Cohen retired in 2016, but remains Seaside’s Rabbi Emeritus. Part-time religious leader Cantor Lisa Levine later joined Seaside, and after that, Interim Religious Leader Rabbi Kevin Bernstein led the congregation until the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, in 2019, Seaside’s lay-led leadership began to evaluate its needs and how to meet the expectations of a changing and growing congregation. Members were surveyed. The result was that in 2020, Seaside’s building in Rehoboth Beach went through a $1.4 million expansion and modernization project, and a search for a full-time rabbi began. By the end of 2021, Seaside’s congregation had grown to more than 600 members.

As of January 1, 2022, Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan, PhD, began as Seaside’s first, full-time religious leader in its 25-year history.

Click here to see a timeline of Seaside history - 1997-2022 

Mon, September 26 2022 1 Tishrei 5783