Monday, July 15, 2019

Harvey Caplan (May his name be a blessing): Synagogue Leader, St Johnsbury

At the celebration of Harvey Caplan's life, there was little mention of his role in Congregation Beth El of St Johnsbury. Most people mentioned instead his joy in life, his escapades, his friendships. It was a very good celebration!

But we note here that Harvey also played a major role in the growth of Beth El from its first location upstairs over Love's Department Store in St. Johnsbury, with a few families, to its eventual strength of more than 60 families and its own shul, on Hospital Drive. Whether it was helping raise the enthusiasm to get the land and build the structure, or gathering the community to mark special events, or recruiting a painter, a carpenter, a plumber, from among the many he knew personally, Harvey was excited about connecting and making things happen. He also served as president of the congregation for some years, and with his wife Patty, gave in many ways toward the formation and maintenance of the community.

His obituary is shown here, rich with family stories. For reference, here are some dates that precede him: His father Joseph Robert Caplan was born in Tupper Lake, NY, in 1905, and died in St. Johnsbury in 1993; Harvey's mother, Rhoda (Klasky) Caplan, lived from 1912 to 1972. Joseph Caplan's parents were Moses Caplan (1872-1950) and Dora Feder (1878-1953). Dora's parents were Mikhail Feder (born and died in. Russia, 1841-1890) and Sarah Feder (born in Vilna in 1842, died in Philadelphis in 1930). Sarah's parents were Eliyahu and Yetta Feder.

It is good to be able to say of Harvey that the joy and laughter he shared live on in many.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Note on Connections to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington

Here is a small tidbit from Howard Coffin's 2001 book An Inland See: A Brief History of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.

From page 36, re the 1901 conferral of the title of "monsignor" on Fr. Jerome Cloarec, "34 years pastor of St Joseph's in Burlington and the oldest and most veteran active priest in Vermont":
A great conversationalist, his rectory was a popular gathering place for clergy, and it was said that much gossip was passed there, often during a game of cards or the enjoyment of cigars. Fluent in the Hebraic script, Cloarec often welcomed members of the Jewish community to his home for discussions of the Talmud. He would live only until 1920, at the time Vermont's only monsignor.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Caplan's Army Store, St. Johnsbury, Vermont

This article from the Caledonian-Record of December 5, 2018, is a fine celebration of the enduring presence of Caplan's Army Store in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Note that the Caplan family who founded the store were of Jewish heritage, cousins to Harvey Caplan (who later became long-time leader of Beth El Synagogue). Not only does the article show an early image of the store, but it also helps to bookmark the period when Jewish-owned businesses entered the community. Also, for the Caplan in the center of the second photo, Myron, there is a large plaque dedicated to his military service at Beth El Synagogue.

We note this in particular because the passing of Dr. David Toll last week was reported in the newspaper without mention of his Jewish affiliation -- quite a loss of history, since again, Dr. Toll's arrival in St. Johnsbury took place at a time when a Jewish doctor in the town was not entirely welcome, and Dr. Toll was a synagogue member for a long time.

So, hats off to Caplan's Army Store and its continued prosperity.