Manhattan, Oshkosh ... Allentown: The Best of Both Worlds

By Jodi Eichler-Levine

A few weeks before Passover, I accepted a terrific new job as a professor at Lehigh University. Over spring break, my husband and I flew out to the Lehigh Valley to check out the area: schools, neighborhoods, restaurants and … grocery stores. I stepped into Wegmans and behold, there it was: the biggest display of Passover foods I had ever seen, beneath a glorious blue banner emblazoned with a Jewish star. After eight years in a town of few Jews — my parents drove out to us each spring with a trunk full of matzah — I almost cried. “We’ve arrived!” I said. “Next year in Allentown!”

As I write this, it is next year. Passover is approaching and we are renting a home just a few miles from Wegmans. When people ask my 5-year-old daughter what she likes about Pennsylvania, she answers: “the lox.” Gastronomic Judaism is once again a part of our lives.

Beyond our new grocery store mecca, my family has found much to love in this first year. The Da Vinci Science Center is a fine place for our budding paleontologist to dig for dinosaur teeth. The newly renovated, cozy Parkland Library had a splendid reopening, complete with balloon sculptures and live Celtic fiddle.

We have attended awesome PJ Library events and JCC celebrations. We’ve binged on ice cream at the Hotel Bethlehem in the historic downtown Bethlehem, colored at the Crayola Experience in Easton and spun dreidels at the Jewish Day School in Allentown.

After seven years in Manhattan followed by eight years in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we’ve found the best of both worlds: a cozy but thriving region that is religiously and ethnically diverse, with lively downtowns and all of the bagels — and Indian food, and olives, and sushi, and tapas — our hearts desire.

This year in Allentown, it will be easy to buy matzah. Let all who are hungry come to Wegmans (or Giant, or Weis!).