“As far as Jewish communities are concerned, Allentown is the best-kept secret on the East Coast,” declares Dr. Moshe Markowitz, a pediatrician and New York native who has lived in the city—one of Pennsylvania’s largest metro areas—for 12 years.
Moshe highlights the thriving Orthodox shul, Congregation Sons of Israel, the eruv, mikveh, Jewish day school and kosher food availability, as well as a vibrant Jewish Community Center that offers a range of programming. Allentown is home to Muhlenberg College, which has a significant Jewish presence on campus (more than 30 percent of students are Jewish), an active Hillel, and two kosher kitchens that are open to the community in addition to students.
Allentown’s Jewish community is small—Sons of Israel has about 50 member families—but it’s steadily growing, and its proximity to Philadelphia and New York compounded by its dramatically lower cost of living means that family and friends are not too far away while affordability reigns supreme.
“The community itself is warm, welcoming and dedicated, and the Lehigh Valley, which includes Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, is one of the best places in the country to live,” Moshe continued.
Moshe’s assertion is backed by hard data: the U.S. News & World Report ranks Allentown in the top 100 urban communities. Lehigh Valley is rich in history—the Liberty Bell was hidden from the British in Allentown during the Revolutionary War—and its culture and sporting options have taken off in recent years, with the addition of an AAA minor league baseball team, AHL hockey team and several major entertainment venues.
Kyle and Daria Newfield moved to Allentown last summer from Skokie, IL so that Daria could take a university job in Reading, about a 45-minute drive away. “Allentown was the closest Jewish community to Reading where we could see raising a Jewish family,” Kyle explained. “We’ve found Allentown to be very warm and cohesive, and there’s a genuine small town feel while being located right near major metro areas and attractions like Dorney Park and the Crayola Experience.”
To underscore the cohesive nature of the community, Kyle points to the fact that community members will often eat at one of Muhlenberg’s kosher dining halls while students will join Sons of Israel for Shabbat services. “It’s a very reciprocal relationship, and makes Allentown a pretty unique Jewish community,” he said.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.