Welcome to the Jewish Communities of Vermont!

Sharon Silverman's Jewish Experience

   This week I was lucky enough to meet with the lovely Sharon Silverman. As many of you may already know, Sharon is the assistant director of Hillel at the University of Vermont. Sharon was born in Pittsburgh, but grew up in Northeast Philly. She attended Jewish preschool, Kindergarten and after school programs, and then went on to continuing in public school. She was surrounded by many Jews, and while having most of her family near by, she was mixed in with the Jewish culture very adequately. Once Sharon was seven years old, her parents moved their family to an area outside Philly. Sharon informed me that here, there were not many Jews at all. She found that at this time, religion became less important in her life. Sharon’s parents put her in a few different Hebrew schools, so she could find the right fit. Then around Bat Mitzvah time, they found and joined a Synagogue. 
   In high school, Sharon admits that she found other hobbies she was passionate about. So, as a result, she found that her Judaism took a backseat for a little while. Sharon also explained to me that while being in a school, where hardly anyone was Jewish, she started to question herself on what her role as a Jew was. In class, when her teacher didn’t know the answer to a question another student asked about the Holocaust, her teacher turned to her, and expected Sharon to know the answer. At this point, Sharon was baffled by this. She was introduced to the fact of how little information some people have about Judaism and Jewish people in general. Just because she was a Jew, did not mean she knew every fact about the Holocaust, everything about being kosher, and every single prayer in the Torah. Sharon explained to me, “I’m not a Holocaust expert and I also don’t keep kosher most of the time.” 
   Sharon decided to go to college at Penn State University and she graduated with a major in Jewish Studies. She explained to me how in college, she became closer to Judaism and continued finding more values she appreciated. She said, "What I love about Judaism is it is religion of questions, not answers. Choosing Jewish Studies was a blessing in the fact that I had chosen a major where I would never be bored, I would never stop learning new things and I would never have all the answers.  There was something so freeing about that for me" Right out of college, Sharon was offered a job in Burlington as the Engagement and Leadership Coordinator at Hillel. Sharon admits that people have tried to deflate how important Judaism is for her, but she doesn’t let it get to her. She is a very active and significant person in the Jewish community here in Vermont. When speaking about her role as a Jewish person and also her role as a teacher figure, Sharon says, “I want people to feel like they can come to me about anything.” Sharon has always connected strongly to the Jewish religion and proudly identifies herself as a Jewish woman. Her passion for building new jewish leaders shines brightly in her job as the assistant director at UVM Hillel. 
Thank you for sharing your story with us Sharon!
By Gabby Costa


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