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The strength of our Jewish community is our membership. We are blessed by so many warm and caring individuals and families that make our community a great place to live and work. Our member Q & A section seeks to tap into that community spirit and find the mitzvot motivation of our members.

Erica Schmidt is a senior at Hollidaysburg Area High School. Born and raised in our community, we have seen her grow to become a thoughtful and beautiful young lady. We wanted to know her perspective about growing up Jewish in Central Pennsylvania.




What Jewish experiences have been most significant on shaping your Jewish identity?

A Jewish experience that has been extremely influential in shaping my Jewish identity is the time I've spent at the Jewish summer camp I've been attending since I was nine years old. Not only have I made the most incredible friends there but I was also able to gain more knowledge about Judaism by going to Shabbat services every weekend saying prayers before and after every meal and participating in different events such as Israeli day. Also two years ago I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to Israel with a group of twenty two other people my age who were all my best friends at camp. The three week trip definitely helped me discover my identity as a Jew and why it’s so important to continue practicing Judaism.  It was one of my favorite and most memorable Jewish experiences.

Your senior year of high school is coming to a close and you are soon heading to college, what aspects of your Jewish identity has been a factor in selecting colleges for consideration?

I tried to pick a college that would have other Jewish students too. It's always nice to find people who have the same values and traditions as you do. I think it's nice when the college has a Hillel or tries to make an effort to meet everyone’s needs. I'm still not sure where I'll go to college yet though.

Do you feel there are any advantages or disadvantages of growing up Jewish in a small rural area with few Jewish peers and classmates?

I never really minded being a minority in our town. I always felt like being different was a good quality that made me special. Sometimes it was harder when I was growing up because I had to miss school activities or days of school for Hebrew school or the high holidays but looking back it was definitely worth it. On a few occasions in high school I have seen swastikas drawn in different places and I find it completely unnecessary and irritating. But for the most part my peers are accepting of my religious background and I'm proud to be Jewish.

How has your experiences in Altoona shaped you thoughts toward a future career or where you may want to live in the future?

I've wanted to be a surgeon since I was little and still do. After I become one I'd like to travel to different areas and help less fortunate people.  I'll go away for college and medical school but as of now I'd like to come back to Hollidaysburg/Altoona after all of that. I liked growing up in a small town and I would come back.

What is your wish for the future of our Greater Altoona Jewish Community?

Our Jewish community needs people to continue participating in our services and traditions. We need young people to continue to learn about our history and heritage and we need adults to teach it to them. Basically people need to stay active and involved whether it's a child attending Hebrew school or an adult going to a Shabbat service every once in a while.
  Past Member Q&A's