At the far western end of Brooklyn’s famous Coney Island lies a little-known, gated community known as Sea Gate. Surrounded on three sides by water and with its own private beaches, it is surprisingly rundown, and its mostly single-family homes—in a variety of architectural styles, including some directly on Gravesend Bay—seem rather plain. Still, the neighborhood boasts two of the biggest superstars in the Jewish music world, Mordechai Ben David and Yossi Green, who live near each other in homes that face the water.
While a grand piano serves as the focal point of Yossi Green’s sprawling house, there are no musical instruments in that of his musical counterpart, Mordechai Ben David. There is, however, a quaint shul located in his basement, which he tells me was designed by his son Yeedle, and a professional recording studio right behind it. In the fall of 2012, Sea Gate was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and Mordechai Ben David’s house was inundated by seawater. Today, all that is in the past, and his home is an oasis of tranquility.
Mordechai grew up on the Lower East Side and then moved to the heart of Williamsburg. After that, the family relocated to East Flatbush and then to Boro Park. He describes the family’s lifestyle as “almost nomadic,” due to its repeated moves to different neighborhoods where his father would serve as a chazzan. Nonetheless, having found relative permanence in Sea Gate for the past 38 years, he is now planning on settling in Yerushalayim. He shares with me that he has bought an apartment there, but it isn’t ready yet.
“How are you going to just pick up and leave everything you’ve accomplished here behind?” I ask him.
“We’re not going so fast,” he assures me. “My wife isn’t ready to leave our children and grandchildren just yet, and it will also require a major adjustment, especially since she doesn’t speak Hebrew and doesn’t know her way around. I guess it’ll take time for her to get used to the idea. We’re taking it slowly.”
I ask him again why he would do it, as he seems too much a part of the post-war American Jewish community to simply pull up roots.
“I’ve always dreamed of living in Yerushalayim,” he maintains.
“Do you think you’ll ever be able to do that on a permanent basis?”
“I certainly hope so. It’s something I’d like to explore.”
“There’s a certain feeling of serenity living on the water. I would imagine that it’s conducive to composing music.”