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American Hogwarts, Meet Jewish Berkshires

American Hogwarts, Meet Jewish Berkshires

J.K. Rowling announced that the North American school for magic is located in the Berkshires — how many Jewish students are enrolled?

Hogwarts, the famous school for budding wizards from the Harry Potter series, is located in a secluded part of Scotland. This week, author J.K. Rowling revealed that the North American version, the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is situated on a mountain in Western Massachusetts — an area known for its vibrant Jewish community.

In an article on Pottermore (the global digital publisher of Harry Potter) on Tuesday, Rowling explained that Ilvermorny “stands at the highest peak of Mount Greylock” which is located in the town of Adams, in the Massachusetts Berkshires.

As detailed in a recent article published in the Jewish Week, there are strong Jewish ties to the rural region. Travel writer Hilary Danailova wrote that “there’s virtually no area of Jewish interest you can’t indulge [in the Berkshires].”

J.K. Rowling has yet to confirm whether or not there are Jewish students at Ilvermorny. (She did recently confirm Hogwarts' student Anthony Goldstein’s Jewish identity.) However, what is known is that Newt Scamander, the protagonist of the upcoming Potter film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” met Ilvermorny students while visiting New York in the 1920s. During the '20s, Jews made up around 1.6 million of the 5.6 million people living in New York. In other words, around the same time that Scamander met Ilvermorny students living in New York, one out of every four New Yorkers was Jewish — you work out the odds.

If there are Jewish wizards and witches at Ilvermorny, there are plenty of places in the surrounding area for them to get involved in Jewish life. Students at Ilvermorny can take a 30 minute drive north to Williams College, where they can meet some of the non-magical (or muggle, or no-maj to use American magical terminology) students, around 30 percent of whom are Jewish. Looking for prayer services? They can check with Chabad of the Berkshires, which organizes the region’s daily minyan. Or they can drive south to Pittsfield, home to Temple Anshe Amunim, the second oldest Reform congregation in the U.S. Also in Pittsfield is the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, in case the Jewish community of Ilvermorny is ever in need of resources.

The more theologically inclined Ilvermorny students, or maybe even faculty, can attend the Jewish Theological Seminary’s 2016 “JTS in the Berkshires” lecture series (guest lecture by Dumbledore, anyone?). And during the dreaded break between terms at Ilvermorny, when using magic is strictly prohibited, young Jewish wizards and witches can ditch their wands in favor of clipboards — Camp Ramah in the Berkshires is always looking for staff members.

The grounds of Ilvermorny, usually concealed from non-magic eyes through a series of enchantments, can be seen in a trailer released on Tuesday for the upcoming Harry Potter spinoff film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” The movie, written by J.K. Rowling and set in the Harry Potter universe, will open in theaters November 18. Until then, mischief managed.

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