As we begin 2016, it’s clear that Sen. Bernie Sanders has surpassed Ben or Jerry as the most famous Jewish Vermonter – whatever his level of community affiliation and religious observance. But Sen. Sanders is a relative newcomer, having arrived in the state in the mid-1960s. Assuredly, Bernie isn’t the first Jewish visionary to settle in the Green Mountain State. Jews have been buying land in (what was to become Vermont) since the 1700s and moving in since the early 1800s. In 1802, there was even a “Hermit of the Mountain” who called himself Nathan ben Ashur who was believed to be of “Jewish extraction.” He literally had visions.
By the 1830s more mainstream Jews (doctors) were in the state, and by mid-century single Jews 9msotly men) were living in many towns. There was no official Jewish community in Burlington until the 1870s, but Dr. Bernard Heineberg, who was born in Prussia and received an MD degree at the University of Bonn and Göttigen in 1834, seems to have moved to Burlington soon afterward (and he remained in the growing town until his death in 1878). In the following decades other German-speaking Jews joined Heineberg, laying the foundation for the arrival of Eastern European (mostly Lithuanian) immigrants in the 1880s and following. Read more about the first settlers here.