Friday, November 16, 2018

Dr. Nathaniel Gould, Vermont Physician, and His Patient Rocky Marciano

The noted American boxer Rocky Marciano (born Rocco Francis Marchegiano) received care from Dr. Nathaniel Gould, who had been a member of Congregation Beth El in St. Johnsbury. If the boxer's name sounds familiar, you may be an "oldtimer" who watched his success in the 1950s; or you may have seen Sylvester Stallone portray this American sports hero in the "Rocky" films. Here, thanks to long-time newspaper correspondent Chris Ryan, is the story from the November 15, 2018, Caledonian-Record:

Historian and researcher David Kanell adds the following dates for this family: Nathaniel Gould, MD, 1913-2008; his wife Edith Marion Spiller Gould, 1913-2011; their son John Samuel Gould, MD, 1939-2015.

PS For more stories about Jewish residents of Vermont, including their roots, their businesses (a furrier; St. Johnsbury Trucking; a scrap metal dealer in World War II; women who shaped communities and still do so), browse this blog. If you have a related story or photo to share, please let us know!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Leadership Changes in Vermont and New Hampshire Congregations

From the Upper Valley Jewish Community website, this update:

Rabbi Mark Melamut joined the Upper Valley Jewish Community in August of 2018. Prior to this he was rabbi for ten years at Congregation B’nai Emunah, an egalitarian and conservative congregation in San Francisco. Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, he attended Jewish summer camp at Henry S. Jacob’s Camp in Utica, Mississippi. Mark studied business at Washington University, in St. Louis, Missouri. With a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a minor in religious studies, he moved to Burlington, Vermont, and worked at the U.S. Immigration administrative office doing accounting work. The Green Mountains fed his soul for a few years before he decided to pursue a Master of Religious Studies at the Yale Divinity School. Mark then journeyed to Israel for a couple years to gain experience and study, first in Arad at the World Union for Jewish Students (WUJS) and then in Jerusalem at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, before entering rabbinical school. While at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Mark studied in Israel for two more years, including at Hebrew University. He earned his Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters and rabbinic ordination in 2008.

Rabbi Mark is honored to serve the UVJC. He and  his wife Hayley and two children, Kinneret and Geffen are excited to be part of the Upper Valley community. Mark enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, writing, learning, gardening and hearing live music, especially jazz, whenever he can.
The best way to get in touch with Rabbi is by emailing him at

The Bethlehem (NH) Hebrew Congregation said farewell to Rabbi David Edelson at midsummer, and welcomes Rabbi Eric Gurvis to the High Holiday services, while Sarah Noyovitz, a fifth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew College, leads Shabbat celebrations. The BHC website decribes:

Rabbi Eric Gurvis is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, with a BA in Sociology and Judaic Studies, and was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. Eric has served congregations in New York City; Jackson, Mississippi; Teaneck, New Jersey; and most recently completed 18 years as Senior Rabbi of Temple Shalom of Newton in Newton, Massachusetts, where he is now Rabbi Emeritus. For the past year Eric served as East Coast Manager for Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, where he has overseen all programmatic activity and relationship management in East Coast cities.

Eric has long been deeply involved in youth activities and Jewish camps, interfaith work, as well as Israel programming and education. He was a member of the 4th cohort of the Hartman Institute’s Rabbinic Leadership Initiative and became a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Institute in 2013, where he serves on the Rabbinic Advisory Council. Eric has also completed training with The Mussar Institute, and is a certified Mussar Va’ad leader. He is a blogger and regular contributor to Fresh Day, an online interfaith e-zine.

Eric lives in Newton, Massachusetts with his wife, Laura Kizner Gurvis. Eric and Laura have four children, and most recently, a 15-month old grandson in whom they take great delight.

For Congregation Shir Shalom in Woodstock, Vermont, Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh, who has traveled widely, now splits her time between Mamaroneck, NY, and Woodstock. From the congregation's website, her story is:
Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh, a graduate of Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion, is deeply committed to the cause of liberal and progressive Judaism. She is eager to share her love of Judaism and her spiritual commitment with the greater Woodstock community. In addition to serving the needs of our local long-standing community, she sees her mandate in supporting Jewish life in the area at large.

If you are a resident in Central Vermont, a snowbird or a skier, or just here enjoying the beauty of Woodstock, Killington, Quechee or any of our surrounding areas, please feel free to be in touch with Rabbi Haigh.; (802) 457-4840 or join us for Shabbat Worship on the first and third Friday evening of every month.

Prior to coming to Shir Shalom, Rabbi Haigh served as a student rabbi and sole clergy at North Fork Reform Synagogue in Cutchogue Long Island. She also served as a Tisch Rabbinic Intern at Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport Connecticut. Prior to ordination Rabbi Haigh served for seven years as a chaplain and student rabbi at Sarah Neuman Center/ Jewish Home and LifeCare in Mamaroneck, New York.

She has been the recipient of many rabbinic fellowships and awards including the prestigious Bonnie and Daniel Tisch Leadership Fellowship; The Alexander and Anna Lurie Prize in Human relations; the Michael Chernick Prize in Rabbinic Literature; the Dreyfus award in Human relations and the Weisman Memorial Prize in Homiletics.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Summa Cum Laude she had a very successful 19 year career in banking before deciding to pursue her lifelong interest in Judaism and deep desire to serve the Jewish community.

Rabbi Haigh has lived in New York, Edinburgh, Bangkok, London and Jerusalem. She is married with three wonderful children. She currently splits her time between her homes in Mamaroneck, New York and Woodstock, Vermont.

Harvey Caplan Boxes His Way into a New Decade

The founding families of Congregation Beth El in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, are marking significant milestones, as the synagogue also ages and changes.

This recent article from the Caledonian-Record includes Harvey Caplan, who with support from his wife Patty is finding new ways to stay active in his 80s.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

With the Passing of Lillian Zeller, Memories of a Very Different St. Johnsbury, Vermont

I didn't know Lillian Zeller until around 2002; even then, she was lively, fun to be around, with a "wicked" sense of humor -- and stylish, my goodness yes! Driving her flashy convertible with the license plate LEZ, decorating her home, laughing at the latest news (followed sometimes by a sharp jab of critique for things and people she disapproved of). Visiting with Lillian was never dull! And her chopped chicken liver was "to die for" -- it was one of the foods my husband longed for me to learn how to prepare, and I did my best to match her recipe, but you know how it goes, there's always a little difference. Ah, Lillian!

Here's the newspaper obit. You can also read about the fur business she married into when she married Alfred Zeller and moved to St. Johnsbury (click here). I'll never forget how this chic and feisty woman also paid attention to her garden and the visiting deer, as well as every scrap of news about Beth El Synagogue's community. Glad to have known her.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Community Politics: A St. Johnsbury Memory

Dave Kanell found this newspaper clipping recently, from the front page of the local newspaper, the Caledonian-Record, on November 2, 1992. It was a one-time-only write-in campaign for long-time synagogue leader Harvey Caplan. The campaign failed, but the community sense of humor prospered.

Friday, December 4, 2015

High Holy Days in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, 1921

Records show that the Knights of Columbus acquired rooms in the Citizens Bank (now Union Bank) building, shown here, after the building's catastrophic fire in 1909 led to a new structure. The organization allowed use of its space by the Jewish community in 1921, as described in this local news article:

Caledonian-Record October 8, 1921

Jewish Services In K. of C. Hall

            Several families of the Jewish faith in St. Johnsbury are banded together in solemn observance of the Jewish new year. The service of prayer and fasting which began last week in Knights of Columbus hall will conclude next Wednesday evening. From 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon until darkness spreads over the land Wednesday evening earnest Jews will be engaged in prayer and fasting. Business will be entirely at a standstill.
            The services of prayer in Knights of Columbus hall will be in charge of D. Zabarsky of Barton and I. Lavontil of Montpelier, and the families included in the solemn observances are those of H. Dolgin, A. Nurenberg, J. Arron and B. Goldstine of St. Johnsbury and Maurice Nurenburg of Hardwick. Mrs. Zabarsky and son, Harry, of Barton are here for the celebration of the holy days.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Memories Shared at Her 75th High School Reunion Weekend: Irene Dolgin Goldstein, Part 4

Irene and her cousin Barry, St. Johnsbury, VT, May 31, 2015.
Mrs. Irene Dolgin Goldstein -- "Irene," in the rest of this post -- attended her 75th high school reunion at St. Johnsbury Academy on May 30, and the next day, she sat with me in the dining room at the Comfort Inn and shared more memories. Some, she had been thinking about before her visit; some came with the reunion; and she brought two wonderful items to talk about.

At the Academy this reunion, she met Frank Powers, a classmate of her brother Arnold's (five years older; class of 1935), who had taken part in liberating train cars of Jews at the end of the Second World War. He wore a French croix de guerre, and a medal from the Dutch Queen Beatrice. Mr. Powers lives in Jacksonville, Florida; is now 98 years old; and told Irene, "I'll see you here again in five more years!"

Irene reconnected with three of her own (1940) classmates: Pauline Potter, Dick Cook, and Louella Drown; Louella, like Irene, went to grade school at the Portland Street School. Irene also recalls another close friend from those years, Ruby Page.

Driving around town with her younger cousins, Irene reflected on the neighborhood she saw this year on Elm Street in St. Johnsbury, and what it used to be: Jake Aaron and family lived in the first house past the railroad tracks, and when they moved to the Bronx, Irene's father Harry Dolgin bought the house. It has since been replaced.

Much of Portland Street has changed, including where Irene grew up in the house at 167, but across the road she found the edges of where her father's platform scale once sat, weighing laden trucks, including the ones delivering maple syrup to Carey Sugar, now Maple Grove -- and the maple processing factory still looks familiar.

Across from the Portland Street School (now Cornerstone) is the field that was a skating rink in winters when Irene was growing up in the 1920s and 1930s. (It is still flooded for ice each winter!) Irene learned to ice skate there. She had a problem with her ankles and needed special arches made for her shoes. Her mother was concerned that ice skates would be a problem. "I wanted to go skating in the worst way," Irene said, "and she said 'no I don't think you should.'" But Irene borrowed her brother Arnold's "shoe skates" to go anyway. Her mother saw her and didn't say anything to her, but went and got Irene a pair of white shoe skates of her own. Skating was from 7 to 8 pm, and every evening after supper Irene would go to skate.

Another rediscovery on her visit in May 2015 for Irene was the cottages at the St. Johnsbury/Lyndonville line. She remembers being able to take a right turn there to a pond that used to be clean and bright. It was a familiar location for her because her father owned the nearby Blue Moon Hotel. She says the man who owned it before her father sold Pontiacs, as well. One day he came to her father Harry Dolgin and said "I need your help" -- he wanted to sell him the restaurant. According to Irene, Harry said, "What's the matter with you, I'm a junk man, I don't know anything about a restaurant." But the man insisted he had to sell: "I'm an alcoholic, you have to help me save my life." Harry really didn't want to purchase the restaurant, so he made the man a ridiculously low offer, expeting to be turned down. The man put the key into Harry's hand. Harry said, "What have I done, I'm a junk man!"

Irene Dolgin's wedding photograph.
But it worked out well after all. Irene was already married at the time. She worked with her father to run the restaurant, and learned to carry a tray when needed! Mostly she "kept an eye on things" and did some of the buying, as well as working as cashier. The restaurant seated about 200 people for dinner. It was open for lunch and dinner, had a bar and liquor license, and also had a small room to seat about 28 people.

There is a photo of the "Blue Moon Restaurant and Ballroom" on page 337 of Claire Dunne Johnson's book "I See by the Paper," volume II. Irene said the ballroom was also a roller rink in winter, and dances were held there. In 1953 the ballroom/rink was destroyed by fire.

Irene enjoyed telling the entertaining story of her brother Irving working at the motel. "Somebody from ASCAP came by and wanted to know where the ballroom was." Irving said, "You'll have to ask Mr. Mephistopheles." "Where do I find him?" "You go right down the road to St. Johnsbury and ask anyone!"

Irving graduated from Lyndon Teachers College and became a schoolteacher, working in Orleans, Vermont. The family was happy that he was doing what he wanted to do. Irene says he was a very kind person. He was married two times and said, "That's it, I'm not going to get involved anymore." He also became a barber when he was disillusioned with teaching and had experienced three rounds of surgery through the VA hospital. Eventually he moved to Quincy, Mass., to be close to Irene. Every evening between 5 and 6 pm he would call her. When at last there was no phone call, and she called his home three or four times with no answer, she and her husband went to Irving's place and found he had died, sitting in his chair by the television.

After this sad story, Irene wrapped up the visit with an entertaining one that featured her mother. Irene's parents used to buy live chickens. Her father would purchase about half a dozen at a time from a farmer and carry them in a burlap sack with holes in it. He took them this way to the Shechita, the kosher butcher, so they could be properly slaughtered. At the time, the slaughter was available in either Montpelier, Vermont, or Sherbrooke, Canada (just across the line from Derby Line, Vermont). One time Irene's mother went to Sherbrooke to have the chickens killed, and Harry would de-feather them when Mrs. Dolgin returned from the trip. The car she used was one that had a history of use by rumrunners! [This was during the Prohibition years, when liquor was available in Canada, and local rumrunners would transport it to markets in the United States.] The police had taken the car from its owner and sold it to Harry, who bought used cars at his junkyard. Mrs. Dolgin went north, accompanied by the family's live-in maid, Rebecca. "Dad said don't buy anything, just come right back," Irene remembered. "But you don't dare to tell Mom that!" Her daring mother bought a small bottle of liquor and put it into her baby's diaper; Rebecca had one in her knickers, for her father. At the border crossing, the police looked in the trunk at the burlap sack. "What's this?" "You won't believe me if I told you, see for yourself," Mrs. Dolgin responded. The office stuck a hand into the sack, finding bloody dead chickens. "Who own this car?" he demanded to know. "Harry Dolgin," said Mrs. Dolgin. The officer expostulated, "Why didn't you tell me?" Mrs. Dolgin replied, "You didn't ask!"

Many thanks to Irene for allowing two special documents to be photographed for this report. One is her lovely wedding photograph. The other is a bill of exchange from 1925, when Charlie Martin sold his Maxwell Touring Car to Irene's father Harry Dolgin for $40 -- and also a Holstein cow, for $45, "worth more than the car," Irene comments with delight.