If you’ve been to camp, you likely know about Dorney Park. However, that might be all you know about Allentown, a city in eastern Pennsylvania that has a small but thriving Orthodox community. But there is so much more.
People who move to Allentown, located just two hours from New York City, have the ability to spend a Sunday afternoon with family in the New York metro area and make it back home in time to have a barbecue with friends on their decks. While the reasonable pricing of housing and other living expenses is a major plus of this community, residents speak about the close-knit nature and ability to connect with everyone in the community.
“This is a small community where we can make a difference,” said Ally Avraham, a recent resident.
There is certainly a tradeoff raising a family in a city like Allentown, where there is one Jewish elementary school and the classes are small and diverse.
“Our flexible tuition program has a different approach to financial aid,” said Sara Schonbach, director of admissions of Jewish Day School of the Lehigh Valley. “Rather than focusing on a tuition grant or scholarship, the focus is on what level of tuition the family can afford to pay. Tuition for the JDS ranges from $10,600 starting in pre-K to $14,800 for eighth grade.”
The shul in town welcomes all newcomers and fosters a feeling of family that is hard to find in larger communities. As an incentive, the shul offers a 50% discount on membership for the first year.
Kosher food is widely available from local grocery stores, which provide a full line of kosher dry goods as well as dairy and meat. There are several bakeries under local hashgacha, including grocery store bakeries which are under the local vaad.
Kyle Newfeld, a local resident who is actively working to spread the word about Allentown, explained there are also a number of eating options in town. “Muhlenberg College, located in town, has a Jewish population that makes up 30% of the student body,” he explained. “As a result, kosher food, which is available in the cafeteria and is open to the residents of Allentown, serves as a popular eating spot for many.”
There are other food options including an “Around the Table” food truck, bagels from Manhattan Bagel, Menchie’s and Rita’s. A new gem is Pennsylvania’s only kosher winery, Binah Winery. Grapes are grown locally in the Lehigh Valley, and some come from New York. This specialty wine is available in local grocery stores and now on kosherwine.com.
The local JCC is utilized by many in the community, and has an indoor and outdoor pool, Jewish early child education, summer camp and fitness areas.
Major employers in town include two nationally recognized large healthcare systems, St. Luke’s University System and Lehigh Valley Health Network. While healthcare is a major employer, logistics, warehousing and factories are also booming industries. With affordable space and a friendly environment for small businesses and entrepreneurs, Allentown is an ideal location for starting a new venture or working remotely.
“We have resources and can help residents make the right contacts,” added Newfeld.
The Jewish community has seen growth in the last few years with approximately 15 to 20 new families last year alone.
Homes within the eruv range from unique to cookie-cutter. A sample of recent home sales are as follows (Realtor.com):
- 924 N 28th Street: 3 bdrm, 1.5 bath, 1080 sq ft, $244,000 with $3,711 in real estate taxes
- 2311 Liberty Street: 3 bdrm, 1.5 bath, 1920 sq ft, $246,100 with $5,377 real estate taxes.
- 1025 N 29th Street: 5 bdrm, 2.5 bath, 2727 sq ft, $277,000 with $6,721 real estate taxes
According to Newfeld, there are also twin homes, which are two attached houses that may be more affordable and offer the new buyer other pricing options. Of course, if you prefer to check out the area prior to buying, there are rentals in town as well.
The Iron Pigs is the minor league baseball team affiliate of the Phillies, and the Flyers have a minor league hockey team, the Phantoms. While Dorney Park is a big summer attraction, residents also enjoy the Crayola Experience, DaVinci Science Center and The Lehigh Valley Zoo. This is also a very popular area for winter sports
- State income tax*: 3.07%
- Orthodox shuls: 1
- Day schools: 1
- Hours from NYC: 2
- Incentives: 50% off shul membership
- Community mikvah
Information provided by Kyle Newfeld
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