Hunter, New York, in the Catskills mountains has been a Jewish summer destination since World War II. Before the war, it was actually home to a very large Jewish community, having a train line connecting it to New York City. Travel to the mountains waned at that time and the train tracks were ripped up for their metal content and used to make war supplies. The community then become a place of summer houses with one of the original shuls remaining. The Hunter Mountain ski resort is walking distance from the shul and kosher bed and breakfast in town. The ski resort is owned by the Slutsky family, after being granted by the state in lieu of a debt owned for construction. While the family is no longer observant, plaques with the name of the current owners’ grandparents or great-grandparents can be found in Hunter’s synagogue.
Neil Harris operates the “Happy Harris Hunter Hideaway” (pictured to your right). He comes up to the house on the weekends, the house fully having a meat, dairy, and paerve kitchen along with wrap around porch, living room (with DVD player), and of course, a dining room. Upstairs are a plethora of bedrooms split into two sides, each side having it’s own bathroom. The food was also excellent with full accommodations for the gluten free diet of one of our party. There is no mashgiach, but the Vaad of the Capital District (main kashrus organization out of Albany, NY) does attest to the kashrus of Mr. Harris, and the proprietary is an observant Jew who will even ask if you need cholev yisroel before you do. There is no air conditioning, but Hunter is high up in the mountain and fairly cool. Needless to say, we were quite pleased with our stay especially as it is rare to find the combination of getaways which include all of three proper meals a day, good food, and good kashrus.
The Hunter Synagogue, built in the early 1900s, is typical of the synagogues of era . . . rows and rows of pews in a rectangular room with raised bima near the middle and a women’s section above. The shul is lined in wood and the stained class windows are new. You won’t find air conditioning here, however. To the right is a picture from the woman’s section, taken during the second Maariv minyan after Shabbos. During the summer, there are regular minyanim, though there is no permanent community (for that, you’ll need to go to Woodridge or South Fallsburg). There is no mikveh in Hunter, as it is now a pizza store, but not too far away by car you can find a mikveh in Tannersville. While many Chassidim daven in this shul as well, there are sometimes separate minyanim in hotels up the hill from the synagogue where people often stay. Again, this is typically only during the summer months.
If you want to come in the winter (e.g. to be right next to Hunter mountain for skiing), there’s no guarantee you’ll find a minyan. (We asked Mr. Harris on a few occasions, and there might be a minyan if there are enough guests, but then if that’s the case, there might not be enough room for you to stay at the Bed and Breakfast.)
At Hunter Mountain, you can, well, go skiing. If you’re there during the summer (read: minyan season) then at the mountain is a very large zip line course down the mountain. This is lots of fun; can be done tzniously … well, ask your Rav if the activity is a tznious one, but you can put the harness under your skirt if you’re female). If you’re not into that, for $10 a person, you can take the chair ride to the top of the mountain where you will likely run into many other frum Jews doing the same thing. From there, you can see down the mountain, eat your lunch, or go on hiking trails. They even have a chuppah up there. At the bottom of the mountain, they have an 18 hole frisbee golf course. It’s like regular golf except you’re more likely to lose your frisbee. You get to throw a frisbee up a hill, walk up the hill to find it in the trees, and throw it again. After trek up the steep hill a few times (which is really a ski slope) you declare yourself a winner for having found your frisbee, and go home. (We made it to about hole 3).
We also attempted to find the ‘raptor center’ which turned out to be in the backyard of someone’s house and seemed to be a whole lot of not much. In Hunter itself, there is a small library, a book store across the street, and art gallery with what you’d expect – nature-y time artwork.
If you found other activities in the area, please share in the comments to benefit others.