Local Focus: The Aaronsburg Story; Big Valley Project

The Aaronsburg Story

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In the late eighteenth century, Aaron Levi, a wealthy Orthodox Jew, did an extraordinary thing that has inspired several celebrations in our century. He deeded the town that he had founded to the tiny frontier population of German Protestants and donated a pewter communion service to the Christian church to serve their spiritual needs.

By any standard of measurement, the Aaronsburg "gift" marks a milestone in the quest for tolerance between Christians and Jews. In 1949, the citizens of Aaronsburg recognized the need for this tolerance so soon after the conclusion of World War II, and they staged The Aaronsburg Story to honor Jewish-Christian amity, and indeed to honor the spirit of America that made such tolerance a
cornerstone of its democratic philosophy. The program included a worship service, a public meeting dedicated to religious and racial understanding, lectures and symposium, and an open air pageant, The Issue of an Ideal.

Doris Mamolen took part in the 1949 celebration, and in 1999, fifty years later, she has generously
offered the following photos and the program for the events of that celebration to commemorate Aaron Levi and to recall the spirit that enabled him and his Christian neighbors to live in  peace and

Big Valley Oral History Project

Principle Co-Investigators:

            Dr. B. Richard Page, Associate Professor of German & Linguistics

            Dr. Julia Kasdorf, Associate Professor of English & Women's Studies


            Betty Hartzler, Mifflin County Mennonite Historical Society

            Willard Martin, Lecturer of German

Graduate Assistant:

           Joshua R. Brown

Purpose:  In the 1790s, three Amish families settled the Kishacoquillas (Big) Valley in Pennsylvania.  From those first families descended a variety of Anabaptist posterity, which today spans the entirety of the Anabaptist continuum (ranging from progressive Mennonites to the most conservative Amish group in North America).  Major lifestyle changes in the Valley to language, culture, literacy, education, etc. have occurred in the twentieth century and it is the goal of this project to elicit information about these changes in the Valley.  This project is partially funded by the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at Penn State.