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Saving Vermont's Oldest Jewish Cemetery

14 Dec 2020 10:44 AM | Anonymous

A small Jewish cemetery in East Poultney, Vermont is almost impossible to find. That is apparently caused by 3 reasons: (1.) there never were a lot of Jewish citizens in the area, (2.) the cemetery is small, and (3.) years of neglect. Netanel Crispe, 18, a senior at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, is hoping to preserve the cemetery before it disappears forever. You might be able to help.

Crispe first learned of the cemetery while doing some metal detecting in town on behalf of a historical society. “I came across a house that I was told was a synagogue,” he explained. The family who owned the house “mentioned that there was a Jewish cemetery in town, and I was blown away because I had no idea.”

As both a 10th generation Vermonter and an Orthodox Jew, Crispe is keenly interested in the history of Jewish life in the Green Mountain State. “There are not many Jews in the area, so every time I meet one, it’s amazing,” he said.

The homeowner gave Crispe directions to the cemetery, but even so, it was difficult to find. “This was all grown up,” he said, waving his hand toward the entrance, “and I couldn’t even see the gate. But I finally found it on my third attempt.”

His research led him to “’Members of this Book’: The Pinkas of Vermont’s First Jewish Congregation” by Robert S. Schine, a professor of Jewish studies at Middlebury College. A pinkas is a notebook, a record of events kept by a Jewish community, and Poultney’s pinkas had somehow survived, discovered in a used bookstore in Denver in 1966.

Crispe has a threefold plan: Restore and preserve the cemetery and all of its stones, create a fund to ensure that it can be maintained in perpetuity, and obtain official recognition of the cemetery’s historical status. “I’m applying for a state historic marker to be placed here, and I want to get a nice gate – if we can raise the funds – that says ‘Poultney Hebrew Cemetery,’ which is what it’s referred to,” he said.

There is a lot more to the story by David Lachance published in the Rutland Herald newspaper's web site at

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