The first recorded presence of an organized Jewish community in the Rutland area appeared with the establishment of the congregation Anshei Sholom in West Rutland in 1906, but Jews were living in Vermont prior to the Civil War. The gravestones of East Poultney display dates from the early 1800’s.
By 1910, a movement of Jewish families from West Rutland to Rutland and a small influx of new families to the area served as the impetus for the Rutland Jewish community to take on an identity of its own, called Adath Israel. For another score of years the Jews of Rutland held their services, meetings and classes in various building around town, including the old Marble Bank on Merchants Row. In February of 1927 the congregation purchased its present home, the former Baxter Memorial Library, for the princely sum of $12,500.
The Congregation of Adath Israel was very proud of their new building, which had been built by the same architect who designed the old Temple Emanuel on 43rd Street and 5th Avenue in New York City. It had “gas lights, an earth floor in the basement and a very poor furnace.” However, the Rutland Evening News of August 14, 1927 observed that the synagogue “…is really one of the most attractive buildings in the state.”
The original building was enlarged in 1956 at a cost of $75,000. Because it was listed in the National Historic Register, the building qualified for historic preservation funds, which were used to preserve the structural integrity of the building.
Several Rabbis have served as spiritual leader for the RJC over the years. They have included Rabbi Mazure, Rabbi Max Weine, Rabbi Ludwig Rader and Rabbi Jacob Handler. In 1960 Rabbi Solomon and Marilyn Goldberg came to our congregation to lead and to teach. Rabbi and Mrs. Goldberg retired as leaders of the RJC in April 2002. In August 2002, Rabbi Jerry Seidler became the congregation's first new rabbi in 42 years. Rabbi Seidler served as RJC's rabbi until March, 2005. On August 1, 2005, Rabbi Douglas Weber became our spiritual leader.
Volunteer community service has always been at the heart of the Jewish religion and most important to the members of the RJC. Since 1938 the congregation's longest ongoing commitment has been the Hospital Book Wagon. Members of the Center collect and distribute magazines and softcover books to the patients at Rutland Regional Medical Center, and also supply reading material to the waiting rooms.
For more than 30 years the women of the RJC have also been staffing the canteen at the Red Cross Blood drive. The Red Cross workers and those who are donating blood are treated to home-baked goods from members of the Rutland Jewish Center Sisterhood. During World War II, RJC Sisterhood members rolled bandages for the Red Cross War effort and sold bonds.
The Rutland Jewish Center has undergone many periods of growth and change, both physically and spiritually. With a diverse mix of newcomers to the area and “longtime” Vermonters comprising its membership, the congregation looks forward to continued growth and development, that we may meet the needs of our increasingly diverse membership.
For a longer version of our history, download our document,
RJC History to 1985