Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sukkot Pilgrimage To Hershey Park 

On Monday, October 13, one of the intermediate days of Sukkot, between 9,000 and 12,000 Jews will descend on Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The event serves as an important fundraiser for a number of Jewish organizations, and is one of the largest Jewish gatherings to be found in the United States on Sukkot.

Due to the park's convenient location, visitors from at least five east coast states - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland - attend, particularly from well-known Jewish communities, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Silver Spring, Teaneck, Flatbush, Passaic, Monsey, and Lakewood. There is also a contingency from Long Island.

Each year on #JewDay, as it is known on Twitter, the amusement park opens for the public with all its rides, as well as Jewish entertainment. Two sukkot are built, only kosher food is available, and there are multiple prayer services.

Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries can be seen offering those who have not had the chance to say the blessings over the lulav and etrog. In addition, local hotels partner with the event's coordinators and even build sukkot for overnight guests.

The day attracts many different types of Jews. From the Modern Orthodox, to the Hasidic, to the secular - all can be found roaming, enjoying the park, and taking advantage all it has to offer. The differences are visible from different styles of dress - there are people wearing shorts and jeans, as well as a full range of Hasidim, in their particular garbs.

Even language is not a given with Yiddish, English, and Hebrew co-mingling. But, the mix of different kinds of Jews enjoying themselves together, brings something special to the air and adds to the celebratory joy of the holiday.

What sets the event aside is the fact that almost all the visitors are Jewish, especially on a day that deviates from the park's regular season - Memorial Day to Labor Day. Jew Day serves as a model for unity and cooperation between the diverse Jewish communities in the United States.

 “It’s crazy, said Rabbi Ari Matityahu of the National Council of Young Israel, which helps publicize the event, told Tablet Magazine. “They shut down the park just for us.”


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