The Southampton Chabad held its fifteenth annual dinner at the home of Janie and Ron Kupferman on Sunday August 21, 2016 at 5:30 PM. This event is the major fundraising happening for an institution that brings Judaism to the Hamptons and raised over $600,000. The synagogue is 22 years old and was started in 1994 by Rabbi Rafe and Chany Kanikov as the first and only shul in Southampton The Kanikov's have an interesting history, with Rafe Kanikov being ordained in 1992 and working for the chabad movement in La Jolla, Austin, Orlando, Venice and Saskatchewan, before settling in Brooklyn.
His grandfather studied with the fifth Lubavitcher rebbe in the famed yeshiva in the Russian town of Lubavitch in the 1890's. Chany his wife, is a petite beauty and powerhouse taking care of eight children while running the summer day camp, Camp Gan, for the past 10 years. She met Rafi on a blind date when she was 20, after earlier working for Chabads in Melbourne and Russia. The shul was started in 1994 with the help of founder Jacqui Ekstein and in 1999 the Konikovs bought their nine-bedroom cottage for $432,500 on 214 Hill Street - where the Chabad currently resides. The wealth of the Southampton Jewish community is unfathomable with billionaire after billionaire inhabiting the small village; and yet, this shul struggles to raise money for its numerous programs.
How unfortunate that so many of the residents choose to give money to a hospital or animal shelter with little room for donations to the rabbi next door. Rabbi Kanikov, 47, is an extraordinary man who has an omnipresent grin on his face welcoming all those who come to pray with open and nonjudgmental arms. His enthusiasm and sincerity is infectious, imbuing the entire Chabad with a warmth and love that the stodgy Hamptons rarely encounters. He and Chany are a power couple whose strength lies in their belief in God and their desire to spread his word and teachings. This Chabad has withstood lawsuits by those threatening to close it down for seeking exception to the zoning laws but continues to thrive despite struggles and setbacks. Tonight was a true triumph for the rabbi, his congregants and the hundreds of people who turned out to pay homage to the synagogue.
After a delectable cocktail hour which featured hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and a silent auction, the guests headed to the tent for a dinner that was held in the backyard of the Kupferman's multimillion dollar Halsey Neck house. Comedian Juston Mckinney and musical superstar Ohad Moskowitz provided the spectacular entertainment. Moreover, a live auction was held where a home cooked dinner for 10 by Rao's chef Dino Gotto, compatible with kosher dietary laws, was auctioned off for $14,000 and won by two bidders. Other items in the auction included tickets to Tony Bennett's 90th Birthday celebration and tickets to attend the Grammy's and afterparty.
The dinner chairpersons were Ruti and Spencer Kupferman, Haley and David Stern and Allison and Josh Zegen. The night's honorees, Stacey and Kevin Kotler, were featured in an expertly produced videotape by Aviva Miller, showing how they met and became involved in Chabad to the background music of "Sex and the City." Kevin is the head of Broadfin Capital, a healthcare focused hedge fund with over $1 billion dollars under management, and is an active member in the Hampton's social scene-I recently bumped into him at the Parrish Art Museum dinner. He and his beautiful wife Stacey accepted their award with a clever skit mimicking Donald Trump's motto with "Let's Make Chabad great again."
While conceding that Chabad was already great they then settled on the axiom "Let's Make Chabad Greater" and reiterated the importance of the summer camp and shul. Janie and Ron Kupferman also received an award with Janie imploring the crowd to "hold its nose" during the Presidential election and vote what was right for the Jewish people - I am assuming she meant Donald Trump. After a dessert of marshmallow and chocolate cake, the crowd began heading home to face the realities of the work week but not before being given a Steve Madden duffel bag worth $120. For $360 I received a delightful dinner, spectacular entertainment, interesting speeches, and a $120 bag - a remarkable deal for a Hampton's night out that I won't soon forget.