Germania Park of New Jersey, Inc.: Sharing German Culture 

by Elsie Walker

 

Germania Park of New Jersey, Inc. has been sharing German traditions and culture for almost 130 years.  A social club located at 56 Conger Street in Rockaway Township, its origins date back to the late 1800s when a large number of Germans immigrated here, and their skills were needed in the knitting mills of Dover.  “Of course, their skills provided them with earning power and helped the economy tremendously in the Dover area,” shared Susan Herleth of Allamuchy, Germania Park’s entertainment chairperson.   Those Germans created a place where they could enjoy comradery, their music, and at the same time provide for the educational and recreational needs of their children.  Things have changed over the years, but Germania Park still celebrates the German culture in a variety of ways.  A person doesn’t have to be German to join.   Dues are $60 a year.  Recently, Herleth talked about the club and what it does.

The club has a GesangVerein (mixed chorus) which rehearses every week.  The chorus has about 24 singers and performs some songs in English and some in German.  As to what they perform, Herleth shared that “a section of it is German-based music but they also do contemporary songs.  They do show songs from some of the existing Broadway shows; they do a variety of music.”  The choir performs at a November Liederabend (evening of song) and at the club’s Christmas party.  It also has a May concert which coincides with the club’s presentation of scholarships to area students.

Each year, the club awards five scholarships, one to a student from each of the following high schools:  Dover, Morris Hills, Morris Knolls, Lenape Valley, and Sparta.  The scholarships go to students who study the German language and have been nominated by their teachers.   The students don’t have to be pursuing degrees in German, just be involved in German language studies at the time to qualify.

Germania Park holds many events, indoors and outdoors, with live music.  There are events open to the public, though some require reservations. Among the events are traditional German ones like the “killing of the pig” with food such as pork and pig’s knuckles and Octoberfest, but there are others that are not traditionally German.  For example, there’s a Hawaiian Night and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  “We celebrate anything possible,“ quipped Herleth.  Members volunteer in various ways to make the events possible.

When asked why she thinks having an organization like Germania is important, Herleth shared that they’re continuing the German traditions while also giving those who aren’t of German descent a taste of it.    As to what being a member means to her, she noted that it’s a connection to ancestors.  She added, “It’s a social club.  It’s the comradery; that’s the important part.”

 

For more information on Germania Park, readers can visit its website at https://germaniapark.com   or its Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/GermaniaPark/

 

  

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