Jewish History Collaborative
Individual Jews may have been in Vermont as early as the 1850s, particularly in the southern part of Vermont, like Poultney.
A Jewish congregation is first recorded in Poultney, Vermont in 1867, in a minutes book (“Pinkas.”)
German Jews may have been in Burlington, Vermont as early as the 1870s.
Ashkenazic Jews came in large numbers from Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus in the 1880s.
Another group of German Jews arrived in Burlington, Vermont in 1910.
Major Immigrant-era Settlements: Earliest Known Settlement Dates
Burlington: The Burlington, Vermont Jewish community was formed by a number of Jewish families who came from Cekiske, Lithuania, in the 1880s (Tsaiykishuk in Yiddish)7 and transplanted their shtetl8 traditions, ceremonie,s and social mores to Burlington in a small geographic area called Little Jerusalem (from 1880-1940). The archivists of the community, based upon oral interviews, print articles, and sociological research9 have concluded that the Burlington shtetl may have been the longest surviving Jewish shtetl-like culture in the country based upon the insularity of the Burlington Jewish community and its remote location.
Northwest Vermont: Many Jews came from Eastern Europe through Castle Garden in New York to find a prayer group of ten men (“minyan”) and to work as peddlers. Some Jews were working on the railroad project in this part of the state as well as the construction of Route 2 into the Champlain Islands. Beginning in the 1850s, Burlington, Vermont was the second largest freshwater lumber port in the country, attracting many immigrants. Jews coming to Burlington sought kosher food and milk, Jewish education for their children, prayer groups, and Jewish cemeteries.
Beginning in the 1880s, Burlington Jews had businesses involving scrap metal, junk stores, feed stores, livestock sales, groceries, shoe sales, bottling works, bakeries, milk dealers, and meat sales.
In the late 1950s and after, many Jews migrated to Vermont from other states to work for General Dynamics, General Electric, IBM and the University of Vermont Hospital & Medical School.
Major Current Jewish Population Centers
In 2018, the current Jewish population of Vermont was estimated at 6,000.
In 2020, the Vermont Jewish population may be significantly more than 10,000 affiliated and unaffiliated people. According to Susan Leff of the Jewish Communities of Vermont online newsletter, there are about 1,900 affiliated families. JCVT has over 6,000 separate Vermont family addresses. Its institutional database includes 11 synagogues, 5 chavurah groups, 2 Hillel groups and 1 kibbutz-inspired cohousing project.
Major Current Population Centers
Schools and Universities
Middlebury College –Hebrew Language Program; Jewish Studies Program
• University of Vermont – Jewish Studies Program
• University of Vermont – Miller Center for Holocaust Studies
• Saint Michael’s College – Wall Endowment Fund public lectures and symposia on Judaism and Christian-Jewish relations
Local Jewish Historical Societies and Resource Centers
Documenting Vermont Jewry
The Lost Mural Project. See website for history and press.
Ohavi Zedek Synagogue Archives
Vermont Jewish Community Newspaper Archives
Chittenden County Jewish Cemetery Records: Each synagogue has its own cemetery records. Many people who lived in rural communities in Vermont are buried in the Burlington and South Burlington Cemeteries: Ahavath Gerim Synagogue Cemetery and Ohavi Zedek Synagogue Hebrew Holy Society Cemetery. Portions of Ahavath Gerim Cemetery have now been purchased for use by Temple Sinai Synagogue and Chabad-Lubavitch. Ohavi Zedek Synagogue Hebrew Holy Society Cemetery comprises two cemeteries: one located on North Avenue in Burlington, Vermont and a second one located on Patchen Road in South Burlington, Vermont.
Cemeteries of Vermont links to lists of cemeteries for Vermont counties; many of the cemeteries listed have links to tombstone transcriptions and to topographical maps. Links are also provided for Northwest New Hampshire (Coos and Grafton Counties, only) and to Cemeteries of the Eastern Townships of Quebec Canada.
Genealogical Society of Vermont is dedicated to assisting genealogists everywhere who are researching their Vermont ancestry.
Vermont Cemetery Records
Vermont Department of Libraries includes links to a wide variety of historical newspapers on their website.
Vermont Digger Online Newsletter Archive
The Vermont Digital Newspaper Project, based at the University of Vermont and supported by partnerships with the Vermont Historical Society and Vermont Department of Libraries preserves Vermont’s historical newspapers and makes them freely available online.
Vermont Folklife Center is a nationally-known folklife education organization that uses ethnography—study of cultural experience through interviewing, participation and observation—to strengthen the understanding of the cultural and social fabric of Vermont's diverse communities. VFC's state-of-the-art, climate-controlled archive houses more than 5,000 taped audio and video interviews and 20,000 historical and contemporary photographs, plus transcripts, field notes, family memoirs, and musical recordings.
Vermont Historical Society, located in Montpelier, includes exhibits and information documenting Vermont's history from the time of the Abenaki to the beginning of the 21st century. Their genealogical research library is located at the Vermont History Center in Barre. Resources also include the Vermont City Directories in Vermont Repositories, 2nd edition, 2013 and Index to Known Cemetery Listings, 5th edition, 2013.
University of Vermont Silver Special Collections Library
Silver Special Collections holds a wide range of materials—historical manuscripts, books, journals, photographs, and more—pertaining to state and local history. Few if any specifically focus on Jewish life, history, and genealogy, but contain useful information. This archive includes:
The Louis McAllister photo collection which contains some 9,000 photographs of Burlington and nearby places.
The James Detore collection (all negatives) supplements McAllister, with a strong focus on businesses and social groups.
The archive also holds photo files on Burlington and Vermont by subject.
Digital Burlington Free Press Archive
Jewish Cemeteries and Burial Information
Jewish Cemeteries in Vermont at Find-A-Grave
Hebrew Cemeteries in Vermont at Find-A-Grave
Vermont Jewish Cemetery Project at International Jewish Cemetery Project
JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry at Ancestry
JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry by JewishGen
Samuel Gruber’s Jewish Art and Monuments posts on Vermont (blog).
“From the Archives.” "Little Jerusalem, Burlington's Jewish Community" PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, January 1, 2014.
Samuelson, Myron, The Story of the Jewish Community of Burlington, Vermont, (“With much about the Jewish Community in the State”) (Self-published, 1976).
Strogoff, Lottie P. The Other America, A Story of Life in Vermont at the Turn of the Century, Dvora Press, Brandeis University (1970).
Simon, Howard, Voices of the American Jewish Experience, Jewish Times, (Houghton Mifflin Company 1988). (Some Burlington Jews share their memories in the chapter titled “The American Shtetl.”)
Anderson, Elin L., We Americans: A Study of Cleavage in an American City [Burlington, VT] (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1937; reprint, New York: Russell & Russell, 1967).
Philip Rubin, “My Jewish Village in Vermont,” The Jewish Spectator, January 1949
-- “Small City and Small Town Jews,” Congress Weekly, February 1952
-- “Boyhood in Vermont,” Jewish Frontier, January 1954 (describing the Burlington Jewish Community as the last surviving Jewish shtetl in North America).
-- “City Ghetto and Rural Shtetl, The Jewish Spectator, December 1954
-- “Singing Boyhood, The Jewish Spectator, May 1955
Feuer, Lewis S, and Mervyn W. Perrine. “Religion in a Northern Vermont Town: A Cross-Century Comparative Study.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 5, no. 3 (1966): 367–82. https://doi.org/10.2307/1384167.
Schine, Robert. “‘Members of This Book’: The Pinkas of Vermont’s First Jewish Congregation.” American Jewish Archives Journal, 02, 60, no. 01 (2008): 51–98.
Bougerie, Gabrielle. "University of Vermont." UVM National Register North Street Burlington Vermont Statement of Significance. April 1996. Accessed January 13, 2021.
Famous Jewish People from Connecticut
Benjamin Stein (1922-2010) was an architect in the Burlington area. His papers are held at the University of Vermont.
Business and Finance
Alex Colodny, grocery merchant from Burlington, Vermont; papers are held by University of Vermont.
Education and Research
Raul Hilberg (1926-2007) was a professor of political science at the University of Vermont, where his papers are held. He also served on the President’s Commission on the Holocaust in 1979, and played an important role in the founding and creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Public Affairs / Politics
Madeline Kunin (1933-) was Vermont’s first Jewish female governor, elected in 1985. Prior to that, she served in the House of Representatives. After serving as Governor, she was appointed U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, and in 1996, appointed Ambassador to Switzerland by President Bill Clinton. Her papers are held at the University of Vermont.