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Jewesses with Attitude

To Life! Celebrating Vermont's Jewish women

Ann Zinn Buffum came to JWA through “midnight web searches” for family history.  She was surprised to discover that Madeleine May Kunin, the first woman Governor of Vermont, was the only Vermonter to be featured on jwa.org.  “Surely there were other women in our state, small as it is, who had interesting and accomplished lives,” she writes in To Life!, the book that accompanies the gallery exhibit. With her mission in mind, she enlisted Sandra Stillman Gartner, a writer, actor, and active member of the Rutland Jewish Center community, to create DAVAR: The Jewish Women’s History Project.

There is no greater honor than to see your work inspire others to take action. To Life! A Celebration of Vermont Jewish Women opened October 8th at the Brick Box in Rutland, Vermont.  The exhibit features the stories of 20 Vermonters who also happened to be Jewish women, told through biographies, personal quotes, works of art, and photography by Karen Pike.  

The DAVAR website says, "Jews have had a presence in Vermont from Colonial times, and have had organized congregations and communities since the mid 1800’s. Some of the women we interviewed have roots going back to the very early settlers in the state, while others have arrived more recently." To Life! features a wide cross section of Jewish life, capturing the varied experiences of artists, labor organizers, politicians, doctors, rabbis, musicians, writers, educators, actors, organic farmers, and teens.  It highlights their contributions to local communities, Vermont, and the nation.  

Oral history projects like these thread living women's stories with the historical narrative of their communities, creating a rich and compelling tapestry of living history. The stories are preserved and become a part of the historical record.  It is safe to say that without projects like these, many of these women's stories would be lost. The DAVAR project's tapes, transcripts, and photos will be archived at the Vermont Folklife Center.

To Life! is open through Nov. 8th. If you don't live nearby, you can view some of portraits from the exhibit on Karen Pike's homepage, and some of the exhibit panels on the Vermont Public Radio website. Books of the exhibit can be ordered through The Northshire Bookstore, or you can order from DAVAR by sending $15 plus $3 postage by check payable to DAVAR-VJWHP, at P.O. Box 129, Wallingfort, VT 05773.

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "To Life! Celebrating Vermont's Jewish women." 27 October 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 21, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/to-life>.

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