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The Theme at the Park? Completely Pesadick!
"It's amazing," commented Stern, who visited the Jackson, N.J., amusement spot last Sunday for the "Chol Hamoed Passover Spectacular," sponsored by the Etz Chaim chapter of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, based in Teaneck, N.J. An outreach organization sponsored by the Orthodox Union, NCSY serves more than 18,000 Jews nationwide with programs aimed at the unaffiliated, as well as those with a deep Jewish identity.
During the event Sunday and Monday, the park was flooded bearded men, women in long dresses and little boys with peyot. Some 15,000 Jews participated in the Great Adventure trip over the two-day span, according to Rachel Feldman, development coordinator and office manager at NCSY.
The visitors did not have to break any of the rules associated with Pesach while at the park, as caterer Ruben's Glatt Spot was brought in to sell food like hot dogs and hamburgers, featuring a special "Passover bun." Along with having small stands scattered around the park, the caterer offered a hefty kosher menu at the Old Country Picnic Grove, an expansive grassy area with outdoor tables.
"Passover is a difficult holiday to go on a trip with your family," said Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, regional director at NCSY. "Not only was there snacks, but you could eat a whole hot meal. People were very appreciative about the food."
Good to See Friends
Ilana Bloom, 15, enjoyed the opportunity to see so many Jews at the park at the same time.
"Me being a Jew, I feel that it's good that you can actually have a day when you can just see other people of your religion able to come together as one," she said.
Her friend, 17-year-old Robin Lichtenstein, felt a level of comfort going to Great Adventure with other members of NCSY.
"We know a lot of people here because it's all pretty much people that we went to school with or that we see at NCSY events anyway," said Lichtenstein.
Although many liked the tall looping roller coaster ride, 14-year-old Iva Mittelman preferred Musik Express, which plays pop music as it quickly whips riders around in a circle.
"It goes around fast, so it's fun," she replied.
One thing that some of the males had to sacrifice was keeping yarmulkes on their heads, as many removed them before subjecting themselves to the lightening speed of a roller-coaster, fearing that they might fly off.
Long lines for rides and attractions have the potential to put a damper on amusement-park fun, but during the NCSY event, the wait was lessened somewhat. Since the first day of the event fell on Easter Sunday, Great Adventure was open only to NCSY members and season ticket-holders, leading to smaller lines for the most anticipated rides. At one of the park's signature roller-coasters - the Great American Scream Machine - a sign showed only a 15-minute wait, but in actuality proved closer to just five minutes.
Kristin Siebeneicher, public-relations manager at Six Flags, was happy to bring the group to the park, and even happier that they got to enjoy a sunny day that topped out at around 70 degrees.
"We lucked out this year with really beautiful weather," she said. "I hope it allowed a lot of families to come out and enjoy a great day at the park."