Rosalie Harris

b. 1919

Rosalie Harris was born in Montreal in 1919 to parents who immigrated from Poland and Romania at the turn of the century. Rosalie grew up in a diverse neighborhood with children of all religions and backgrounds. She was part of a large group of cousins who observed the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Her family belonged to Canada's first synagogue, Shearith Israel, also known as the Portuguese and Spanish Synagogue. Both Rosalie and her sister went into the nursing profession and got jobs immediately after graduation at The Jewish General Hospital. Her nursing degree served Rosalie well throughout her life. She worked in Canada, Massachusetts and Vermont in both paid and volunteer health care positions. Rosalie married her husband Ben in 1942, and they moved to Vermont.  While raising three children, Gertrude, Andrea and Bill, she was active doing community service both in Congregation Beth-El and in the public schools. She helped to found the Caledonia Home Health Agency and was its president for two years. Rosalie and Ben served on the board of visitors at Lyndon State College where they established a nursing scholarship. Throughout her life Rosalie has spoken about Judaism and its traditions in the schools and churches of St. Johnsbury. Both she and Ben were honored as Citizens of the Year for their volunteer services and commitment to interfaith dialogue. 

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Scope and Content Note

Rosalie talks about her parents and grandparents and her childhood in Montreal, Canada.  Her mother died when she was seven years old. Their father raised Rosalie and her sister alone. At age nine and ten, the two girls shouldered responsibility as caretakers for their home in Montreal.  She describes how she became a nurse.  Rosalie met her husband Ben on a group date at a club in Montreal when he was visiting with friends from St. Albans, Vermont. After marrying in 1942, Ben reported to the army and Rosalie worked at a blood bank in Boston. The couple lived in Montpelier for three years running Nate's, a clothing store that Ben and his brother had started a few years earlier. In 1949, they settled in St. Johnsbury and opened a second store. Rosalie recalls their lives during World War II, him working in offices and her working at a blood bank.  She talks about working at her husband's clothing business and their struggles in finding a house.  Harris gives her thoughts on Jewish values and identity through the generations.  She describes her involvement in the local Jewish community and then her volunteer work.  Rosalie speaks about her community involvement.  She then describes the culture at her husband's clothing business, Nate's, a local institution.  Rosalie explains how she began giving lectures on Judaism for non-Jews at interfaith gatherings and schools and talks about the local interfaith Thanksgiving service.  She also talks about her children, with a brief tangent to her experiences at a Catholic kindergarten, and ends talking about her husband’s personality and how they named their daughters.

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Rosalie Harris. Interviewed by Sandra Stillman Gartner. 10 April 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 23, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/harris>.

Oral History of Rosalie Harris by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.