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.

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.