As the Jewish community continues to spread its wings into the suburbs, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is committed to these local communities. Throughout the area, Federation sponsors community festivals, days of mitzvot and other programs and celebrations.
According to Roberta Matz, director of the Bux-Mont region, which recently held its eighth annual community festival, this type of event "creates a strong sense of Jewish community. There was incredible spirit."
Held at Montco Community College in April, thousands attended "Savor the Flavor" with the theme of Jews around the world.
Matz attributed its success to a collaborative effort of the Kehillah of Bux-Mont, nine area synagogues and multiple Jewish agencies and organizations. "With every age and generation present — and rocker Rick Recht as a featured entertainer — community pride was palpable," she said.
It drew young families, as well as the elderly, with rides, games and activities galore. More than 40 vendors offered arts-and-crafts, and kosher food like falafel, Jaffa oranges, knishes and water ice.
"All of the area rabbis are active participants, and never miss a festival," said Matz. "The sentiment expressed by the community is that 'I want to be around Jewish life.' "
In Bucks County, the story is similar. Debbie Rosenberg, board chair of Bucks County, which held its 12th annual Jewish festival in June at Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, said that "it's a wonderful gathering of all things Jewish — food, people, vendors, activities, games, rides, storytelling and more."
Rabbis from every county synagogue were present, along with representatives from Jewish organizations and a multitude of vendors. Rosenberg has no doubt that the event, which also drew thousands of people, strengthens Jewish identity, draws together residents from a wide region and attracts the unaffiliated.
Lynne M. Glasser, Federation's Jewish Community Relations Council director of the Main Line, Delaware County and Chester County Regions, reports that the annual spring Chester County Day of Mitzvot enables people to express their Judaism through social action.
A variety of projects are selected each year by a committee, which includes representatives from the six Chester County synagogues. Responding to community interests, this year's event included a blood drive, maintenance and gardening projects, a visit to a nursing home, mural painting, a food drive and a cook-in.
"In an expansive area like Chester County, some Jews can feel isolated," explained Glasser. "A day like this brings Jews together and connects them with the larger community. They get a feeling of accomplishment by helping those in need, both Jews and non-Jews."
On Sunday, Nov. 5, the Chester County and Delaware County Jewish Festival will take place at Franklin Commons in Phoenixville. Previously organized by the JCC Without Walls, this year it falls under the auspices of Federation.
"We are so excited about the festival," said Shelley Rappaport, director of Federation's Chester County and Delaware County Regions. "It offers everything Jewish under one roof, and it's a wonderful opportunity to showcase the diversity of the synagogues and agencies."
To learn more about the upcoming Nov. 5 festival, call 610-578-9000.