June Keller Salander was born in Rus, Poland, in 1908. In 1920, her family emigrated from their small town to New York City. June attended Hebrew School on the Lower East Side in New York. During the Depression, June went to work for Woolworths. In 1941, June married Lew Salander and moved to Vermont, where he ran a store. During World War II, She went to work for the Red Cross as a Gray Lady at the Rutland Hospital. The Gray Ladies made bandages for soldiers, delivered mail and flowers, and performed other non-medical services for the hospital’s patients. When she arrived in Rutland in 1941, June began pitching in at the synagogue, teaching Hebrew School, until the early 1970s when – in her early sixties – she embarked on a twenty-year career as a real estate broker. Never having celebrated her bat mitzvah as a girl – that tradition was not commonplace in America until the 1950s – as an octogenarian, June took the opportunity to study Torah with the rabbi and five other women. At age 89, June became the oldest woman in Rutland to celebrate her bat mitzvah. June, or ‘Mamala’ as she was known to close friends and family, earned wide acclaim as a baker. She was the subject of a PBS Special on Jewish baking, and her recipes for challah and apple strudel are featured in Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America. June joyfully celebrated her 100th birthday with over 200 family members and friends. She passed away peacefully at home just before her 102nd birthday.
June recalls her childhood in Rus, Poland, and immigrating as a young girl with her family to the United States. Upon docking at Ellis Island, her mother said, “See that tall man with the hat? That’s your father.” June’s father had rented an apartment in Harlem where the neighbors welcomed them. They gave the children presents, taught them a little bit of English, and eventually, the family felt Americanized. Every day after school, June would take the subway for a nickel downtown to the Lower East Side to attend Hebrew School. During the depression, June went to Eastern Business School and then out to work at Woolworth’s on 116th Street. A girlfriend’s uncle introduced June to Lew Salander. He periodically traveled to New York on buying trips for the Combination Store that he owned in Rutland. The two dated for a while, and on a vacation trip to Vermont, Lew proposed to June. After marrying in1941, June set up housekeeping in Rutland. Shortly after their first son was born, June volunteered as a Red Cross grey lady at the Rutland hospital during World War II. June taught Hebrew School three afternoons a week at the Rutland Jewish Center and was a lifetime member of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. As a real estate broker, she had a long career selling homes in the Rutland area. Always active, June played tennis into her 80’s and enjoyed visits to Washington, D.C., to visit her son and his family. June explains how she came from a long line of good cooks and bakers. Her mother cooked and baked for hotels in the Catskills, and her uncle was a cook on the railroad and once made scrambled eggs for President Roosevelt. Her reputation for superb baking skills is recognized beyond Vermont’s borders. She was the subject of a PBS special on Jewish baking, which aired throughout the eastern seaboard. Her recipes for challah and apple strudel are featured in Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan. When June was growing up, young girls were not bat mitzvahed. In her 80’s, June and five other adult women studied Torah with Rabbi Goldberg at the Rutland Jewish Center. At age 89, she was the oldest bat mitzvah ever celebrated at the synagogue. Senator Jim Jeffords congratulated her with a letter entered into the Congressional Record.
How to cite this page
Oral History of June Salander. Interviewed by Ann Buffum. 29 June 2005. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 1, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/salander-june>.
Oral History of June Salander 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.