Tannersville (and Hunter) NY Kosher Jewish Vacation
Introduction to Jewish Tannersville and Hunter, NY
I wrote about the Hunter Kosher Bed and Breakfast previously when I visited a few years ago for a weekend – I finally returned to really check out the Jewish community which was hiding in plain view. The secular world knows the town of Hunter for the Hunter mountain ski slope, but it turns that for more than a century it has been home to a large Jewish community. In fact, Hunter mountain was owned by a Torah observant Jew and it’s still in his family today.
Hunter, NY is a actually a city in New York made of two villages – Hunter and Tannersville. The respective village centers of Tannersville and Hunter are about five miles apart along the same one-lane highway. The population of the 91 sq mile town today (2016) is about equal to what it was in 1840. While founded in 1790 with a tannery, since the arrival of railroad in the late 1800s (demolished in WWII because the metal was needed) there has been a large and continuous Jewish presence. It is “the other Jewish catskills.” While there a ridiculously large summer Jewish community in the Woodridge-Monticello area (about a two hour drive away; ask me how I know that), there is a smaller, but still quite large summer Jewish presence in the Tannersville area.
Where to Daven / Synagogues of Tannersville and Hunter
Tannersville has about four fully functioning synagogues, with one having daily year round minyanim. You can find Tannersville, NY minyan times here. Basically, Shachris is at 8:00am – you won’t find earlier or much later; Shabbos is always a late Shabbos. Tannersville is the summer retreat of the Washington Heights / Breuer’s community. Anshei Sharon (pictured to the right) is a 100+ year old synagogue which was and is still the place of famous Rabbeim from Washington Heights. Right behind it, one can find a new synagogue, Bnai Hayeshivos which, as one would expect, is yeshivish. The building is very modern, large, and could be straight out of Lakewood. I didn’t get to the chassidic shuls, but there are those too.
In nearby Hunter, there is one shul – the Hunter Synagogue, situated very close to the entrance to Hunter mountain. There you’ll find Shachris at 8am as well as a daily Minchah and Maariv, though we had to get some people together for a zman Maariv minyan rather than wait for the late one. Every one of these shuls was very well attended.
Where to Get Kosher Food / Kosher Restaurants
Kosher food is limited to Tannersville where the much larger Jewish community exists. There are now not one, but two kosher supermarkets. You can find an interesting assortment in these supermarkets, both just off the main street. There’s cholov yisroel milk, kosher meat, and a variety of other products including non-food items such as yarmulkes and tzitzis. Country K has tables with service where you can order pizza, ice cream, and some other foods. In the same area they have pool table and ping pong table. All this, including the “supermarket” and “restaurant” are on carpet for . . . a country experience.
Down the road a bit towards the edge of Tannersville and towards Hunter is the Tops supermarket. This is more of a standard supermarket with everything you’d expect from a supermarket minus a specific kosher section.
What to Do with the Family in Tannersville, NY
A house with a pool is all my kids really need for happiness, but it turned out to be too cold on or trip most days … this was in August! It’s in the mountains. In other places we’ve rented houses, they were immaculate. Here, we’re dealing with a rural area full of ‘for sale’ signs making it a clear buyer’s market and an area of relatively low industry and income so the houses seem to be more … rustic and full of character. Still, that has it’s charm too.
Kaaterskill Falls was, by far, the highlight of our family activities and we think it will be yours too. Detailed information is available over here. You can enter on the upper side [GPS coordinates] or lower side [GPS coordinates]. From the upper side you can take a back and forth gravel path (stroller accessible) to a viewing platform, looking down the top part of the waterfall. It’s nice and enjoyable . . . but from the lower side, that’s where the fun is. You have to park in a too small parking lot about 500 feet up the one lane road (I dropped the family off at the entrance first – recommended). Then you see some of the waterfall, but a 1/2 mile trail up and down steep hills, trees, rocks, and stairs brings you to a pond being fed by a high waterfall above you.
It’s really a trail for, say, six years and up but let’s just say with some help and carrying at parts, even four, two, and one year olds love it. (Ask me how I know that.) Further between the top and bottom sides of the falls are a very steep set of staircases and other paths with large “danger” signs where people really have died, including quite recently. We didn’t do that part for some reason.
Hunter Mountain in the winter of course has skiing. They also have year round zip lining. We did the dinky zip lines (100 to 600 feet or so) so the kids as young as eight (60 lbs) could join. They’re short and there’s a lot of waiting. For adults there are 3000+ foot zip lines with 65 MPH travel which are probably amazing, but I couldn’t tell you because I decided to spoil my kids instead.
Hunter mountain also has hiking. There are two ways you can do this – well, three. You can walk up the mountain (ouch). You can take the chair lift to the top of the mountain and hike down. Double black diamonds, it turns out, are easier to ski down than walk down . . . unless you’re a seven year old girl, in which case you’re way out in front of your parents the entirety of the hike. (Ask me how I know that.) So yes, I can say I’ve actually walked down the entirety of Hunter mountain . . . and that my seven year old can do it faster and would have gone back up and done it again had we let her. There are also higher points to start from along the road, such as this five mile hike which was second on my list.
Howe Caverns is about an hour fifteen minutes away. It’s a big cave with walking tour (stroller’s not allowed) and boat ride. It’s worth seeing once and really fun if you’ve never been there. It’s in the middle of no where even by our tour guide’s assessment. Once, I went from there to an Eerie Canal boat ride where they take you in a loch and lower your boat down, and then do it in reverse. The kids loved it, but that’s an extra hour to the northwest. (If you’re on your way between New York and Ontario, however, both are good choices to breakup the car ride.)
Balliwick Ranch is about half hour from Tannersville.
Here they have horseback riding ($65/hr; a bit steep but no reservation required), a farm, and paintball. While the older kids and some adults go horseback riding, the younger kids can see the camels, lions, turtles, goats (lots of goats), and play in a very nice playground with a trampoline and huge sandbox. Be warned – they only take cash and the staff, both times I was there, had something of middos issues but the number of animals and proximity to each other is great, as was the horseback riding.
North-South Lake, right next to Tannersville, is a state park with great camping, swimming in the lake, and boat rentals.
The playground in Tannersville is also known to be quite nice with a lot of fun toys for kids.
One thing we want to do but haven’t had a chance to yet is inner tube riding which can be found in nearby Phoencia, NY, about a half hour away. Problem: minimum age is 12.
There is also a train ride on weekends on a stream train right next to the world’s largest kaleidoscope. I drove past, but sure…it’s… something.
That should be enough to keep you and your family busy! It’s a trip we would certainly do again.
is there any place to stay for a yeshiva Shabbos???
Thank you for your meaningful report about Hunter. You might be interested to know that Hunter had some very Choshuva people who vacationed in Hunter, with some owning homes there. The Rabbi’s Goldstein and Reichel families were there for many years. The Blushever Rebbe and his esteemed family spent many summers there. We had the house next to theirs. These were very memorable summers. We rented houses in the famous Margareten park. The Margareten family were the co-owners of the Horowitz Margareten Matzoh factory. I remember the mother. She was a very religious woman, who came to The Hunter shul every Shabbos with some grandchildren. I knew The Slutzky brothers, Izzy and Orville, the owners and developers of the now famous Hunter Mt ski resort, well. He was a religious man. Hunter is different today, however, still beautiful. The shul can be accessed year round.
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Ruth, I just saw your post (the internet is forever!). My name is Avi Goldstein. In 1970 and 1971, when I was twelve and thirteen, our family spent the summer in Hunter, and these were among the best summers of our lives.
I recall your family well. I remember the Bluzhever Rebbe sitting in front of the shul, on the left side, next to one of the Slutzky brothers. (The Slutzkys were not, to my recollection, personally “frum,” but they were committed to keeping the shul Orthodox.) The shul had a guaranteed minyan three times a day and was packed on Shabbos.
The Reichels and my parents were good friends, and we spent quite a bit of time at their house. In 1971, Aaron Reichel, who was probably around 18, was already working on a biography of his grandfather, Rabbi Herbert Goldstein, and having an interest in editing, I, a thirteen year old, offered to help him! (The offer was declined, but I eventually spent 25 years in Jewish publishing.) The biography, The Maverick Rabbi, was published in 1985.
We had a shiur for the boys almost every day. We also played baseball on sunny days in the public school yard, and we used the lake all the time.
We climbed Hunter Mountain (just the kids, no adults needed!) and took local trips to Howe Caverns and the Baseball Hall of Fame. This was also just when the ski resort was being expanded and starting to gain fame.
Hunter owes its frum fame, I think, to Harry Fischel, the great askan and philanthropist who built the shul and built a summer home there (it is now the wonderful Fairlawn Inn, and my wife and I stayed there in 2019 for a few days).
I recall Rav Dovid Singer, of Boro Park’s Sephardishe Shul, coming up for the month of Av. Other chashuve families were the Michaels, the Grunhuts, the Oppenheimers, and the Perlows. In 1971, we and the Pessin family stayed on the same street, and young Osher Kalmanowitz, now rosh yeshiva of Mir Brooklyn, stayed at the Pessins and was our pal!
It was truly a remarkable group of unassuming families, who opted for the more serene, and I would say more beautiful, side of the Catskills. I truly miss that wonderful era.
Do u know of any very large houses or ajacent houses that have about 13 bedrooms or hotel in hunter or tanners illegal that’s available in December?
Check VRBO.com – that’s where I found a fairly large house in the area.
Is there a kosher B&B open for the weekend of 10/28, is a shul open and are Shabbos meals provided?
Thank you for all the great info. We’d like to be there for shmini atseres/simchas torah. Is there chevra there albeit less than usual?
Is there a house walking distance to the shul with a pool? If yes do u have a number?
Is there homes with pools to rent for weekends, walking distance to shul?
Yes, lots. Check vrbo.com and airbib.com .
We used to do summers in Tannersville and remember there being a Chabad House too, is it no longer there? I’d be very surprised as there was quite a large number of Chabad families that owned homes there for decades.
Yes, there is a Chabad in Tannersville as well.