web analytics
April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Seeing the Shifting Face of American Judaism at Hershey Park

The crowd, though nearly all frum, is nonetheless quite a diverse mix of the entire range of frumkeit, including haredi, chassidic, Modern, and barely.

img_2897-red

Most years on the first weekday of Chol HaMoed Sukkot, my wife and I take our four children to Hershey Park. The park, located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania., is closed to everyone but frum Jews on that day.

Lancaster is not known as a center of frumkeit – it is most decidedly “out of town – but on that day Hershey not only makes accommodations for the visitors but actually reconfigures the whole park to be frum friendly. The food stands, including the kettle corn that draws some of the longest lines, are all kosher. Placards advertise the times for minyanim, and hundreds of men converge to daven at prearranged times or, if they miss the large gatherings, come together in small minyanim abutting food stands or roller coasters.

In addition, the park has sukkot to enable visitors to fulfill the obligation of eating in the sukkah.

Hershey is not the only amusement park to accommodate frum Jews for Sukkot, but it may make the most effort. The two Disney parks, in Florida and California, also typically host Orthodox Jews on this day, though not exclusively, as in Hershey. Disney Orlando allows the local Chabad rabbi to build a sukkah on the premises, outside the ticket taking area. (At Hershey there are two sukkot on the inside of the park.)

Hershey on Chol HaMoed – aka #jewday on Twitter – is also popular because it is in the heart of the Northeast corridor that houses the bulk of the country’s Orthodox Jews. It is a manageable drive from Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and more specifically from Orthodox enclaves in Silver Spring, Potomac, and Reisterstown, Md.; Cherry Hill, Englewood, Teaneck, and Lakewood, N.J.; and of course, Brooklyn, the Five Towns, and Queens in N.Y.

The crowd, though nearly all frum, is nonetheless quite a diverse mix of the entire range of frumkeit, including haredi, chassidic, Modern, and barely. I delight in seeing chassidishe families, notable for their boys sporting long curly peyot and speaking rapid-fire Yiddish, standing on line next to modern jeans-clad teenagers hanging out in “coed clumps.” Though much is written about the divisions within the Modern and non-Orthodox camps, it seems as if Hershey Park, and similar parks around the country that sponsor or encourage special days for Orthodox Jews, have found the magic formula that will unite these oft-times contentious communities – namely, rides.

At Hershey Park, where strangers happily exchange the Yiddish greeting “a gut moed,” we see that despite differences in prayer books (ArtScroll vs Koren), pronunciation (taf vs. saf) and Zionism (silent vs pro), Orthodox Jews are just like everyone else. They are looking for a place they can enjoy a fun day with their families, where their restrictions – kosher food, the need for a minyan and to eat in a sukkah – do not prevent them from sharing in that enjoyment. You can almost sense the excitement kosher-keeping Jews feel at not having to bring their own food to a family fun outing.

Hershey Park helps tell another tale as well. Fifty years ago, American Orthodoxy was being demographically dismissed as a relevant force in American Jewish life; over the last two decades, however, Orthodoxy has grown from its nadir of about 5 percent of the nation’s Jewish population to somewhere between 10 and 15 percent, and the numbers are rising.

About 27 percent of Jews under 18 are Orthodox, in large part because Orthodox Jews tend to marry earlier, have more children and intermarry far less frequently than Conservative and Reform Jews. In addition, Orthodox parents are far more likely to send their children to Jewish day schools or yeshivot, which are key predictors of generational Jewish continuity.

This growing community is in the process of shifting the face of Judaism in America from a cultural, economic and political perspective. The crowd that gathers every year in Hershey is providing a preview of what that changed Jewish community could look like.

Next year, out-of-towners and in-towners alike should consider a visit to Hershey on Chol HaMoed to get a glimpse of the emerging future of American Orthodoxy. And then, when the eight days of chag are over, they can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to work.

About the Author: Tevi Troy is a visiting senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He served as White House Jewish liaison in 2003/2004.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “Seeing the Shifting Face of American Judaism at Hershey Park”

  1. color_mage says:

    dinabr interesting. I didn’t know this.

  2. dinabr says:

    color_mage I didn’t know either :)

  3. DaveZuckerman says:

    The residents of Hershey, PA will be surprised to know that they live in Lancaster, PA, which is 28 miles away.  Hersheypark is in Hershey.  Dutch Wonderland is in Lancaster.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
"Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah." That's his Jihad. What's yours? - An ad campaign sponsored by  the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
MTA Hopes to Change Rule, Ban ‘Killing Jews’ Anti-Jihad Ad
Latest Indepth Stories
israeli-american flags

All GOP candidates will continue seeking – and praying – for Jewish money with greater success.

New immigrants from USA and Canada arriving at Ben Gurion Airport.

The one reason to make Aliyah outweighs all the arguments not to move to Israel.

Keeping-Jerusalem

“We returned to this Land not in order to be murdered, or uprooted. We came here to be replanted!”

Ambassador Danny Ayalon

I don’t fear for the future of our people because I believe Yeshiva University has created an “Iron Dome” of Jewish leadership

Poland’s great Jewish cities where Jewish life had once flourished and thrived, were now desolate

Chief rabbi, Rav Dovid Lau, stated that the Torah community’s turnout in the WZO election is vital.

Iran has at its core the same ideology as that of ISIS but, inaccurately, is thought a lesser threat

An early Yom Ha’atzmaut gathering for Israel’s 67th birthday with Pres. Rivlin of Israel and guests

Israel’s Memorial Day shouldn’t be a day of mourning, it’s a day to honor, not another Holocaust Day

God’s 3 part promise for Israel: to the Avot; a plentiful land; the eventual return home by all Jews

A committed Religious Zionist, he was a sought-after adviser on Zionist affairs around the world.

More important, Mr. Obama is simply acceding to Iran’s position on the timing of the lifting of sanctions.

“Texans share a lot of the same attitude as Israelis, that we say what we think and we think what we say, and that makes it much easier to communicate,” he says.

The fight against terror is a case in point…. The establishment of a collective forum for dialogue in the Persian Gulf region…is long overdue….

More Articles from Tevi Troy
img_2897-red

The crowd, though nearly all frum, is nonetheless quite a diverse mix of the entire range of frumkeit, including haredi, chassidic, Modern, and barely.

Officials in the Obama administration have decided they will be cutting the guest list in half for this year’s White House Chanukah party.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/seeing-the-shifting-face-of-american-judaism-at-hershey-park/2013/10/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: