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Visioning Jewish Communities of Vermont

Visioning “Jewish Communities of Vermont”

A group of over 40 members of Vermont’s Jewish communities met on August 11 at Shir Shalom in Woodstock, Vermont. Clergy and organization board presidents or other leaders were invited to join in a day of visioning a more Jewishly connected Vermont community. Those who were invited were asked to invite others who might have an interest in this organizational effort. Those who came together  spent six hours working together to discover what we had in common, what our “hopes and dreams” were for our own organization and also for the greater Vermont community working together, and then working to decide what we might do in the first year of communal effort. We were sustained with a kosher luncheon graciously donated by Vermont Kosher, LTD from Burlington.

A little history:

  • A group of people in the Burlington area had been talking about the need for two things: a reliable means of communicating with Jewish communities and organizations around the state and the need for a state-wide calendar so that people could be informed of the many interesting Jewish events and programs available around the state and those planning said programs could easily discover whether the date they were choosing was going to be in conflict with another event close by. At the same time, Susan Leff, then Executive Director of UVM Hillel, had been talking about the need for a state-wide organization that could provide resources to and support for Jewish organizations in the state, and facilitate connections between those organizations for mutual benefit. We identified 19 Jewish organizations at that point and have since identified 5 more. (We need your help to find the rest!) It was decided that we would reach out to communities around the state to see if the time was right for a state-wide Jewish Organization, an overarching, umbrella that “holds” divergent views. Donors were found to provide the funds to hire Susan Leff as an Executive Director of this emerging organization for one year. Susan will serve as a conduit and community organizer to bring the Jewish community together and to actually form Jewish Communities of Vermont as a state-wide organization with a state-wide board and state-wide support to accomplish goals that the community will set.
  • Here is a look at the ideas that were generated at the meeting:

    • What we do together
    • We don’t live in NYC
    • Many interfaith couples
    • Food
    • We were born or converted to Judaism
    • Continuity of Judaism
    • We’re here because of nature
    • Israel
    • Shabbos
    • We are all Jews by choice
    • Challenge of attracting members – especially younger
    • We live our lives Jewish with intention
    • Translating/making meaningful the liturgy
    • Connection to wider communities
    • This group believes connection is important, ritually diverse, and trans denominational
    • Spread out communities; small, rural – “Distance is our energy”
    • We are seeking to integrate our Judaism with our non-Jewish lives
    • Use modern technology to connect
    • Rich, cultural heritage
    • We are mostly middle and later aged (missing the 35-50 year olds)



    • List serv of VT Jewish school educators
    • Information about Jewish educators at universities and elsewhere
    • Clergy travel to communities
    • Leadership development to aid local towns “do” Judaism
    • Programs shared
    • Regional youth group after bar/bat mitzvah
    • Kosher deliveries
    • Respect for our differences
    • Calendar
    • JCC
    • Be clearinghouse of information
    • Monthly newsletter – see J. Fed of NH
    • Develop family culture beyond their mitzvah
    • Take care of each other in our community
    • Professional support groups for clergy
    • Marketing to Jewish communities beyond VT (VT tourism)
    • A VT kosher standard
    • Facilitating digital technology
    • Facilitate guidance re rabbi/cantor choices
    • Education
    • Interfaith support
    • Kids need to meet each other
    • Increase conversation across state – outside of synagogue
    • Shared education resources (human capital, etc.)
    • A community of Jewish “experts”
    • Statewide effort for any (one) cause
    • Distance learning
    • Vibrant Jewish culture
    • Family volunteers
    • Train members
    • Forums for teachers, youth
    • Generate funding for programs, Jewish travel
    • Jewish agricultural camp in VT
    • Jewish hospice and nursing home
    • Calendar, emails
    • List Jewish resources around state
    • VT Jewish reads – across synagogue reading
    • Biking trips to all Jewish communities and them report back what they learned
    • Focus group re unmet needs
    • Network with other Jewish organizations
    • Lots of money for JCC serving different locals; lecture rooms
    • Synergies between congregations
    • Leaders to help around the state
    • Youngsters
    • Farming
    • Senior needs
    • Housing for diverse populations
    • Use PJ Library to attract young’uns
    • Summer camps
    • Help with grants; funds for arts, lectures by scholars
    • Day and pre schools
    • Israel programs
    • Answer “how to” – Judaism 101
    • Answer how my actions, needs reflect Judaism – curiosity
    • Immersions – Shabbaton, Israel trips
    • Need a shochet – ritual butcher
    • Encourage Jewish celebrations
    • Celebrate arts and Judaism – every Jew can do something
    • State/region-wide gatherings
    • Youth group statewide
    • Network Jewish sustainable agriculture
    • Is JCVT our Federation
    • A pluralistic mikveh
    • Joint Jewish cultural trips
    • “Hidden Yidden”
    • Relevant outreach to daily VT life
    • Inspiring teachers travel to towns
    • JCVT: who do we exclude? Where’s line?
    • A repository statewide for VT Jewish stories
    • Every Jew feels we are accessible and also feels obligation to Judaism
    • An overarching, umbrella that “holds” divergent views
    • Be educational
    • Be multigenerational
    • Provide pamphlets that gives Judaism 101
    • Quarterly services in rural towns



    • More detail about events in community calendars
    • Database of available kosher foods in VT and more resources
    • Draft of a directory of VT Jewish resources
    • Immersive Jewish experiences that is doing something together
    • A way to communicate; statewide list serv
    • JCVT work with other organizations as a ‘fiscal sponsor’
    • Create a logo that all entities may share
    • Provide JCVT with information for website that will market every organization’s products and services
    • 1. Information 2. Incubation 3. Innovation 4. Inspiration
    • Online bi-weekly newsletter
    • Interview with people across state to be included
    • 10-13 year old summer camp week by next summer
    • A statewide tzedakeh project
    “Jewish VT Reads

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PJ OurWay

PJ OurWay

What is PJ Our Way?



PJ Our Way offers the gift of exceptional books with Jewish themes to kids ages 8½-11 – books that they choose themselves!
Monthly Choice

Every month, from the 1st – 10th, kids visit this website to choose a book from a selection of four high-quality titles that have been reviewed by a panel of PJ educators, parents, and kids. That's 12 free books a year! To make the choice easier, every title offered comes with a synopsis and author bios, ratings and reviews, and video trailers. Kids can also take polls and quizzes, participate in monthly interviews and challenges, and comment on blog posts.
Parent Input

On the Parent Blog, parents are invited to read about each book and find suggestions for family conversations. These blog posts give parents tools to help children make book choices that are appropriate for them.
A Safe Website

The PJ Our Way website is a safe place where kids can choose books, write reviews, and share ideas with others from around the country. All content on the website is moderated by PJ educators.
Design Team

Every fall, members of PJ Our Way may apply to be part of our national Design Team. Design Team members have early access to PJ Our Way books and create videos and reviews for the website. To become more involved with writing reviews and blogs, connect with us at [email protected]
Book Selection
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