Local Jews Worry About Gas Prices


It’s April, which means Margate and Ventnor season is almost here for Jews in Greater Philadelphia.

But shore season is also driving season, and with gas prices hovering around record levels, local Jews are thinking twice about driving long distances…or driving at all.

Yet while they are thinking twice, they are still choosing to fill up the tank and take the drive in most cases, they say.

“It’s not keeping me from driving, but it is getting me to plan accordingly, so I’m not driving unnecessarily,” said Melinda Engel, a Jewish Center City resident.

Engel’s kids attend school on the Main Line, so she’s “constantly driving,” she added. Now, she explained, if she can drive out to the Main Line “once instead of twice,” she consolidates her trips.

Engel has also gotten strategic about finding the best gas prices. On a recent drive through New Jersey to get to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, she drove 2 miles out of her way to find a Costco.

“Because it has the best gas prices,” she said.

At the same time, Engel explained, the benefits of driving still outweigh the costs. She can decide when she comes and goes. She can also get out of her house after two years of COVID-induced isolation.

“We spent so much time being stuck inside and away from the people we care about; I don’t think it’s healthy,” Engel said. “It’s time to come back and start living again.”

The last thing Engel mentioned was that the gas situation had gotten her to at least think about going electric. She called the electric car option appealing because it’s good for the environment, too, though she has not yet considered other factors that make an EV different — like having to charge it back up on a long trip.

Ellen and David Tilman of Elkins Park (he is the cantor emeritus at Beth Sholom Congregation), split the difference between gas and electric with their hybrid cars.

David and Ellen Tilman have gotten strategic about finding the lowest prices when they need to fill up. (Courtesy of David and Ellen Tilman)

The couple gets about 50 miles to the gallon, so they don’t have to fill up as often. But they also don’t have to worry about charging their car on long trips, like to their home in the Poconos or to their son’s house in New Jersey.

At this point, the Tilmans are not forgoing any family trips to the Garden State or to the mountains.

“Those things are important to us,” Ellen Tilman said.

But they are combining errands and gaining a better sense of the gas station map. The couple fills up at their local Giant store, where they get a discount as grocery store members, and near their son’s home in New Jersey, where fuel is cheaper.

“We’re trying hard to make sure we don’t fill up our tank a lot,” Tilman said.

Jerel Wohl of Warrington said that he’s adopted the same mindset.

Wohl and his wife were just looking at colleges with one of their kids in Montana and Idaho, and it was expensive to drive from Montana to Idaho. Back in the Northeast, the family likes to go down the shore in the summer, but Wohl is already thinking about how much it will cost.

You can’t help but notice it when prices are over $4 per gallon, he said.

“In the summer, if you want to go to the shore, yeah, it’s going to cost a lot,” he added.

That said, Wohl takes public transportation to work, and his wife has her miles covered by her employer, so the family is not yet in the position where it has to cut any drives out. Not yet, at least.

“I’m just hoping that it’s temporary,” Wohl said.

Greg Halperin of Dresher is also taking it day by day, hoping that the prices go down. He’s letting his tank run lower and lower before he decides to fill up.

“To see if I can capitalize on a decrease in price,” he said.

But Halperin and his wife, like other area Jews, are not canceling any plans. They still visit their Poconos house almost every weekend.

Unlike Engel, the Halperins are doing more than just considering going electric with their next car. The Dresher resident’s wife has been interested in an EV, he said, but now they are viewing it more as “a requirement” than “a nice-to-have.”

The Tesla Model 3, the most affordable Tesla model, is high on their list, according to the husband. But they also are researching hybrids like the Hyundai Tucson.

“Is it impacting me materially? No,” Halperin said of the price situation. “It’s more of a nuisance. For the first time yesterday, I spent $60 to fill my tank.” JE

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