Celebrating 40th year of Sister-city relationship

By on October 26, 2016
Reiner and Marita Henn from Eberbach, Germany

Reiner and Marita Henn from Eberbach, Germany

As twin towns across the ocean, Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and Eberbach, Germany, have much in common.

On Saturday, Oct. 22, the two towns marked their 40th anniversary as sister cities at a Friends of Eberbach celebration at the Ephrata American Legion Post 429.

The Oktoberfest event was originally scheduled to be held at the Smithton Inn in Ephrata, but chilly, windy weather brought the party indoors.

While Ephrata’s population is around 13,516, Eberbach is just a bit larger at 15,138. Most of the Millers, Martins, Burkholders and other German-named families in Ephrata might very well have originated in Eberbach.

“That’s where Johann Conrad Beissel came from,” said Robert Moray of Eberbach. “The history of the sister cities dates back to 1720 when Conrad Beissel emigrated to Pennsylvania and settled in what is now Ephrata. He and his followers founded the Ephrata Cloister.”

Moray has been involved in the Ephrata-Eberbach sister city union since the arrangement began 40 years ago in 1976. He is a member of the Eberbach Council and has visited Ephrata many times over the years.

“I think it may be 12 to 15 times,” said Moray, who has been joined by his wife, several other couples and the mayor of Eberbach, Peter Reichert, on several occasions.

On Saturday, Reichert sent his greetings since he was unable to attend the Oktoberfest.

“I know he wishes he could be here,” said Moray, who was joined by Bill Hecker, Ephrata, who has been involved with the Friends of Eberbach since 1981. Hecker has been to Eberbach three times over the years.

There is one very important difference between the two cities. While Ephrata dates back to 1732 and is a mere 283 years old, Eberbach has a much longer history of 789 years, founded in 1227. That makes Eberbach more than 500 years older than her younger sister.

“Another difference is that Eberbach is on the River Neckar,” added Moray. It’s quite a bit bigger than the Cocalico Creek.

The picturesque city of Eberbach lies at the foot of the Katzenbuckel mountain at 626 meters and is the highest elevation in the Odenwald. They’ve even got three ancient fairytale castles in Eberbach.

“What I think is very much the same are the people,” said Reiner Henn and his wife, Marita, of Eberbach, who wore traditional German clothing, including a dirndl skirt and a wool jacket for Marita and lederhosen for Reiner.

In his speech, Moray celebrated the shared history, community and friendship between Eberbach, Germany, and Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Both Moray and Hecker wore matching ties, depicting the official symbol of Eberbach, a wild boar. In fact, the town’s name means “Boar Creek” in German.

“Our mission is to enrich the relationship between the two sister-cities, which is accomplished through promoting visits and continued communication between the two towns and their surrounding areas,” said Moray.

Hecker reminded the group that the idea for the union was started in 1975, when Shirley Bishoff and a committee of citizens led the Ephrata Borough officials to the German city of Eberbach, the birthplace of Conrad Beissel.

“The partnership has provided numerous exchanges that have benefited participants on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean,” said Hecker, adding that programs included athletic competitions, musical performances, craft events and student exchange programs.

Every other year students from Ephrata travel to Eberbach in the summer, and in the fall, the Eberbach students lives with their host families in Ephrata for three weeks. Sally Wise, who is a German teacher at Ephrata High School and Ephrata Middle School, has coordinated the exchange, which lets the students experience real life in another country.

“When I came here, it looked just like what I expected from American movies,” said Eberbach student Charlotta Lehnhauser.

As Sally Snyder, who helped to coordinate the event, noted, the relationship between Ephrata and Eberbach energizes the historic connection with the birthplace of Conrad Beisel with the community he founded. She and her family have visited Eberbach and her children have participated in the exchange program.

Of course, no German celebration would be complete without a hearty feast of meats, beans and potatoes. There was also beer, of course, for the adults, with Pale Ale Eberbach Society and Kolsch Eberbach Society on tap. Prost!

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