Sea Shul Prepares to Celebrate its Inaugural Rosh Hashanah in Seaside, Florida

Sea Shul Welcomes New Director and Plans Spring Events

Please meet Emily Askinazi, the director of Sea Shul, the first synagogue in Walton County’s history. Founded in 2023, Sea Shul is a new and inclusive modern day Jewish congregation located in Seaside that seamlessly integrates the natural splendor into its mission.

Emily infuses her organizational prowess and creativity into Sea Shul’s operations. Drawing on her background as a producer and casting director, and time on Wall Street, this proud mom of two says she has always been passionate about connecting people to achieve a greater vision.  

“Hiring a director for Sea Shul represents another milestone in our continued growth and in realizing our future planning and expansion,” says Alan Eichenbaum, treasurer of Sea Shull. “The Board of Directors has already seen the tremendous value Emily adds to our synagogue. We are confident that the congregation will greatly benefit from the addition of Emily as director.”

Together with the founding committee and board of directors and with Emily’s hard work, Sea Shul has quickly grown to over 80 members and has gained significant momentum in 2024. 

“We’re excited to unveil many programs aimed at uplifting our community. One program particularly close to my heart is Kesher at Sea Shul, our kids program,” Emily says. Set against the picturesque backdrop of Janet Stein’s Nature School, nestled amidst trees overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay, Kesher, meaning ‘connection’ in Hebrew, embodies the mission of fostering connections to Jewish traditions, their peers and nature.

This spring, Sea Shul proudly presents a lineup of vibrant celebrations, including Purim and Passover festivities, regular Shabbat potlucks, the Kesher Religious School and numerous community-building initiatives. Seaside’s renowned landscapes provide an inspiringsetting for congregational gatherings, promoting spirituality, connection and neighborly bonds in the place many have chosen to call home.

The Sea Shul welcomes inquiries and encourages anyone interested to learn more by visiting seashul.com or reaching out via email at shalom@seashul.com.

How the Sea Shul Community Celebrated Rosh Hashanah in Seaside

How the Sea Shul Community Celebrated Rosh Hashanah

In September, the Sea Shul community came together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

This gathering marked not only the onset of year 5784 in the Jewish calendar but also signified a deepening bond of unity, tradition and fresh starts. Every moment, every melody, and every gathering was a harmonious blend of past traditions and future aspirations.

Originating from a profound need felt by a group of local visionaries, Sea Shul’s formation was a testament to the spirit of community with a vision to serve Walton County while based in Seaside. The early days saw intimate Shabbat dinners, where the seeds of this congregation were sown. These gatherings, initiated by the founders, gradually swelled in numbers, capturing the essence of Jewish culture, shared beliefs, and most importantly, the joy of togetherness.

sea shul event in seaside florida

Recently, the community celebrated the Jewish New Year with overwhelming success. There was an intimate Erev Rosh Hashanah Potluck and Service in the Seaside Assembly Hall, where members gathered under a canopy of twinkling stars in the Lyceum for Shabbat service.

yoga on the beach with melissa davis

Following that came Saturday’s Mindful Morning at the Seaside Pavilion, where meditative rhythms guided spirits and calmed souls as Rabbi Joshua Lesser and Melissa Davis co-led a yoga session.

On Sunday, the Watersound Beach Club, with its serene ambiance, provided an idyllic setting for the New Year, New Tide Service & Evening Celebration at sunset, ending with the blowing of the shofar on the beach and then proceeding to dinner inside the club.

couple standing on the beach for jewish services

Micah Davis, President of Sea Shul, shared, “Sea Shul’s journey is akin to a ship setting its course with the compass of traditions, but always eager to explore new horizons. This Rosh Hashanah, as I witnessed our community knit together in celebration and reflection, I felt a profound sense of optimism for our shared journey ahead.”

Suzin Arce, one of the passionate founders of Sea Shul, was deeply moved by the celebration. “Standing at the shoreline, feeling the embrace of the community, hearing the waves alongside the prayers, I was overwhelmed. The entire event wasn’t just a celebration; it felt like home. It reminded me why we embarked on this journey with Sea Shul – to create these magical moments of togetherness.”

beach service

Guided by the wisdom and warmth of Rabbi Josh Lesser, the weekend was a vivid embodiment of Sea Shul’s ethos – nurturing a kehilla, a sacred community that binds souls, forges friendships and fosters spiritual evolution. As Sea Shul is in its foundational phase, events like this resonate with even greater importance. They are a beacon, illuminating the path forward, underscoring the idea that Sea Shul isn’t just about following traditions; it’s about co-creating a spiritual haven where every voice is heard, every heart is valued, and every soul finds its sanctuary for this beloved Jewish community.

As the community looks ahead, the vision for Sea Shul is not only to uphold and celebrate the rich tapestry of Jewish traditions, but also to evolve as a vibrant hub for learning, connection and spiritual growth. 

For those eager to be a part of this journey with membership, or to support and learn more about the congregation’s endeavors, please visit us online.

Sea Shul Prepares to Celebrate its Inaugural Rosh Hashanah in Seaside

Sea Shul Prepares to Celebrate its Inaugural Rosh Hashanah

Sea Shul, the new, vibrant Jewish community in Florida’s 30A region, is excited to announce the organization’s inaugural Rosh Hashanah celebration: “New Year, New Tide, ” including a beachside service and semi-formal dinner on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Watersound Beach Club.

This event aims to offer an extraordinary experience for community members to engage in the spirit of togetherness. Ilisa Eichenbaum, co-chairperson of the events committee, says, “We’ve been crafting this event with the sole intention of creating a space where everyone can feel at home, a place to welcome the new year with a sense of belonging. Our goal is for all participants to discover and form new connections within our Jewish community.”

Starting at 6 p.m. with a beachside service led by Rabbi Joshua Lesser, the night then transitions into a delightful Rosh Hashanah dinner at 7 p.m. The dinner will feature a range of entrees catering to all tastes, including traditional Rosh Hashanah dishes such as Challah, apples and honey, and wine.

“A Jewish New Year brings with it hope and a promise of new beginnings, and so does the creation of Sea Shul,” Rabbi Lesser says. “Sea Shul emphasizes the importance of community, finding our place, and connecting with people because it nourishes our souls. As we usher in the new year, we welcome new friendships and a sense of belonging. Rosh Hashanah at Sea Shul is not just an event but the foundation of a collective journey.”

In addition to the “New Year, New Tide” event, Sea Shul has organized an array of activities for the Rosh Hashanah weekend, including a potluck dinner on the first night, Mind and Movement prayer service, and Tashlich service that will be open to the community.

“Sea Shul is not just a community, it’s a vibrant catalyst for unity and connection,” explains Micah Davis, interim president of Sea Shul. “As we welcome Rosh Hashanah, we’re not only celebrating a new year, but the start of an exciting chapter for Sea Shul. We’re crafting a dynamic future where every member feels a profound sense of belonging and becomes a key part of our collective journey. Together, we’ll foster an environment that embraces warmth, friendship and forward-thinking growth.”

Sea Shul is delighted to invite everyone to share in the joy and traditions of the Jewish New Year. For more information, please visit facebook.com/seashul or contact shalom@seashul.com. Tickets can be purchased HERE.

Seaside’s Jewish community meeting

How Seaside’s Jewish community came together to form Sea Shul

During the Passover holiday in March, Seaside’s Jewish community came together for a Seder – the traditional dinner held during the first two nights.

The celebratory evening was thanks to Micah Davis and Michelle Hayes Uhlfelder, who have been working together for the last year and a half to establish an inclusive Jewish community.

Micah, who is the son of town founders Robert and Daryl Davis, met Rabbi Jonathan Crane from Emory University while he was vacationing with his family in Seaside.

The Rabbi offered his help and also suggested they start hosting Friday night Shabbat dinners around the community.

The first Shabbat dinner took place at Michelle’s house with 40 attendees and has only expanded from there.

“It became apparent that these gatherings weren’t just an evening of solitary enjoyment but rather a powerful force to bring people together with shared beliefs … and great food, which is of utmost importance in Jewish culture,” Michelle tells the Seaside Times.

As the Friday night dinners grew, Micah and Michelle saw how eager both locals and visitors were for a Jewish community in the area. Whether Atlanta natives are visiting for the holidays or locals are looking for a place to connect, they can now feel immediately at home.

Micah and Michelle ran with the local enthusiasm and worked together to found Sea Shul, the first Jewish congregation in Seaside.

The first ever Passover Seder took place in the Assembly Hall and boasted more than 70 attendees, with Rabbi Jonathan Crane overseeing the festivities. The meal was catered by Kosher Cajun and offered guests classics like brisket, tzimmes, and matzo kugels.

“Due to a lack of local congregations, many Jewish families previously spent Passover isolated, but what a difference it made when they connected with an established group,” Michelle explains. Now, Jewish families are planning to return to spend Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah together.

“Our hope is that by providing a gathering place and regular meeting schedule we can serve a need for Jewish folks living on 30A and help build a vibrant community together,” Micah tells us. “This project is a labor of love spearheaded by passionate individuals.”

And while Micah and Michelle have been making it happen, they have a whole team behind them helping out. “Every member of our founding committee has donated significant time and brainpower to fostering our fledgling community. They do so out of a deep desire for connection and because they understand the importance of spaces where those of like mind and heritage can gather,” Micah says.

Coming up next, Sea Shul will hold services by visiting Rabbis and host lectures at the Chapel or in the Assembly Hall.

If you’d like to get involved, follow us on Instagram @seashul or email shalom@seashul.com.

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