Burlington’s Old North Side: Little Jerusalem

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Burlington, Vermont, had a flourishing Jewish community. Modeled on the compact, self-contained shtetls of rural Eastern Europe, Burlington’s “Little Jerusalem” included three synagogues, a communal Hebrew Free School and social hall, and a bustling Jewish business center within an area of a few square blocks.

Beginning in the 1880s, Burlington hosted a tight-knit, vibrant community of Lithuanian-born Jews who maintained ties with the Old Country, but also happily adapted to their new environment. Today, after more than a century, many of those individuals’ descendants still live in Burlington, and the original Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, founded in 1885, continues as a strong and creative Conservative congregation.

Close to the former Chai Adam Synagogue, site of the Lost Shul Mural, is the first Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, built in 1885, and still used today for worship by the small Ahavath Gerim minyan. This synagogue is linked to the Chai Adam Mural in history and community, and it is an important example of 19th-century American synagogue architecture. Already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Ahavath Gerim Synagogue is also being restored and in time, together with the Lost Shul Mural, will offer visitors to Burlington, Vermont a rich glimpse into the artistic and material religious culture of East European Jewish immigrants.

Little Jerusalem, a Vermont Public Television Documentary (2012)

In 2012 Vermont Public Television produced the documentary Little Jerusalem about the history of the early Jewish community of Burlington, VT. A segment of the video focused on the Lost Shul Mural. To view the documentary online, please click here.

To purchase a copy for of the Little Jerusalem DVD through Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, please call (802) 864-0218 or send an e-mail to Tari Santor.

DVD’s cost $14.95 plus $2 for shipping and handling, with all proceeds supporting the mural restoration project.