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Jewish Film Festival now screening as drive-in at Gabreski Airport

Ben Schwartz as Scott and Billy Crystal as

Ben Schwartz as Scott and Billy Crystal as Marty in Shout! Studios' "Standing Up, Falling Down" directed by Matt Ratner. Credit: Shout! Studios

Drive-ins have been popping up around the New York metro area at parks, beaches, private lawns, even diners. Now there’s another location to add to the list: Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach.

That’s where the Hampton Synagogue Jewish Film Festival is camping out for the summer. Traditionally, the Westhampton Beach-based synagogue has held its festival at the nearby Hampton Arts Cinema, but the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible for 2020. So, for its 18th edition, the festival is renting space for roughly 75 vehicles at the airport.

“We just had to think out of the box and turn it up a notch,” says Hampton Synagogue Rabbi Marc Schneier.

This year’s festival, which takes place Sunday evenings, runs through Sept. 6. and features Jewish-themed and Israeli movies. “Standing Up, Falling Down,” a recent comedy drama featuring Long Beach icon Billy Crystal, plays Aug. 2; “Aulcie Perry,” about the American-Israeli basketball player, screens Aug. 16; the action comedy “Mossad” closes the festival. Showtime is 8:30 p.m.

“There are many drive-ins – you’ll see ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Back to the Future,’ but this is a very arty festival,” Schneier says. “The films are very thought-provoking.”

A few other things distinguish this drive-in from the others. Each screening begins with recordings of the American and Israeli national anthems featuring the Hampton Synagogue Choir and cantor Netanel Hershtik (son of Naftali Hershtik, the popular Hungarian-born cantor). A kosher food truck, Humble Toast, will be on site to sell sandwiches and snacks. And while patrons are required to wear masks, they are allowed to sit outside their vehicles; loudspeakers will broadcast the film’s audio. (Patrons can also hear it using their FM car radios.)

So far, says Schneier, attendance has been strong, with roughly 200 people at the first two screenings. Though the drive-in nights are primarily for synagogue members, anyone is welcome. Advance registration is required.

“I think we have demonstrated, not only to synagogues but houses of worship throughout New York State, that there are ways for a community to come together and celebrate in the midst of this pandemic,” Schneier says. He adds, “It’s more than just going to see a film, it’s a festive evening, it’s an event.”

For information on the Hampton Synagogue Jewish Film Festival, visit Admission is free but patrons must register in advance by calling 631-288-0534.

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