Hershey’s chocolate is not the only kosher food available to residents of Harrisburg, PA. The city’s Jewish community, a 15-minute drive from Hershey, PA, is well-established and has many resources, including plenty of kosher food, in place for its residents.
Congregation Kesher Israel, the major Orthodox shul, counts about 125 member families, including Susan Stein and her husband, who moved to the area two years from Rochester, NY.
“My husband and I moved here with confidence because we trusted the word of some of our friends, who are serious about their Judaism and who absolutely loved the community,” Susan explained. “We love it, too. Harrisburg is a very cohesive community without a lot of the infighting and politics you might see in other places.”
Harrisburg has a mikveh, an eruv, and the local Giant supermarket has an extensive selection of kosher food at very reasonable prices Families seeking kosher treats can visit Bamboo, a frozen yogurt store, or the local Rita’s or Friendly’s. There’s also kosher dining at Hersheypark, which has a dedicated kosher kiosk throughout the summer.
Holly Engelman and her family moved in 2010 from Riverdale, NY, when her husband, a pediatric oncologist, got a job at the prestigious Hershey Medical Center. “We have a 5-bedroom house with a large addition and a backyard for which we paid less than $240,000,” she marveled. “We would have paid more for a 1-bedroom co-op in Riverdale.”
Holly raves about the local Jewish school, The Silver Academy, which has been a community mainstay since 1944. While running under Orthodox auspices, the school welcomes Jewish children with varying levels of observance. “The school is academic and innovative, and has been phenomenal for my two children,” she said. “My older son is on the spectrum, and PA’s Department of Education offers extra services to children with special needs who are enrolled in private schools, like Silver. My children are getting a first-rate education in general and Judaic studies, with small class sizes and reasonable tuition.”
Holly also highlights the abundance of chessed in Harrisburg. “This is an extraordinarily warm community with a deep sense of areyvut,” she said. “There was an Israeli family who stayed here for a long time as one of their children was being treated at Hershey Medical Center, and the whole community took them under their wing. Community members hosted the family, the school welcomed their older daughter, and a local car dealership even provided a car during their time here. People are always looking for ways to help others, and I’m grateful to be raising my children among such models of menschlichkeit.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.