A new initiative called Conserving/History: Fairmount Park and the Jewish Community in Philadelphia has begun at the Conservancy, the goal of which is to document and share an important piece of Philadelphia’s history and promote increased utilization of Fairmount Park’s resources by a Jewish community that feels a renewed connection to the park.
To view the Conserving History video please click here.
In 2013, the Conservancy embarked on a new initiative called Conserving/History: Fairmount Park and the Jewish Community in Philadelphia, based on the research and writing of Carol Towarnicky that was collected in the enclosed booklet “It Really Opened Up Our Lives”: Fairmount Park and the Jews of Philadelphia, 1920 – 1960. The booklet explored the connection between the Jewish communities in Strawberry Mansion and Parkside to Fairmount Park in the early to mid- 20th century – areas of the park that were once a bustling second home to thousands of people within the Jewish community. At that time, the park and its surroundings functioned as a public gathering place, serving as a ball field, event space, open prayer space, host to family celebrations, neighborhood meetings, and much more. The Strawberry Mansion and Parkside neighborhoods, home to several synagogues and traditional Jewish businesses, were bustling with activity, connection, and community. The decades that followed reshaped both the Jewish community and the neighborhoods where they once lived, and it is this profound gap between past and present that formed the foundation of our new initiative, through which we are working to reconnect the Jewish community to its park once more – a park that is beginning to undergo some incredible positive changes
With the early support of the Adelberg Foundation, and through the guidance of Peter Harnik, author of Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities, the Conservancy has had a unique opportunity to help revive the important historic relationship between Philadelphia’s Jewish community and Fairmount Park by sharing the stories that honor the past while reacquainting the Jewish community with the breadth and beauty of Fairmount Park that was once a place of frequent and significant connection – and can be again.
This is only the beginning of an exciting long-term initiative for the Conservancy, the goal of which will be both to document and share an important piece of Philadelphia’s history and promote increased utilization of Fairmount Park’s resources by a Jewish community that feels a renewed connection to a revitalized Fairmount Park. We wish to cultivate a more rewarding relationship with the Jewish community in the greater Philadelphia area and maintain those relationships for future engagements and involvement with Fairmount Park and the Conservancy.