Our Story

In 1988, in response to an ad placed in the Vermont Standard by Antoinette Matlins, several families joined one another on a summer evening to enjoy a “Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinner” together. Candles were lit, Kiddush was said, “Shabbat Shalom” was sung, and everyone felt nourished — nourished by both the food and the experience of simply being together, as Jews, here in rural Vermont. The Woodstock Area Jewish Community (WAJC) was born, reflecting the vision and leadership of Antoinette and her husband, Stuart. Over time, others joined and shared their abilities to help shape the WAJC/Congregation Shir Shalom.

Like Vermont, the WAJC is a very special place. We provide a Jewish experience that enables Jews of all ages and from diverse backgrounds to join together, worship, study, and enrich each other’s lives. We provide a place where Jews can come together to encourage and support each other — and where non-Jewish loved ones and friends are always made to feel welcome — a place where we can learn more about what being Jewish really means to us as individuals, as people in Vermont, and as part of a universal community.

Since 1988, we’ve grown into a vibrant community with a part-time rabbi, sanctuary, and Hebrew School. We continue to grow, serving full- and part-time residents and visitors from a large geographic area. We retain a strong sense of community, rejoicing together at life-cycle events and providing comfort and support at times of illness and sadness.

We are a member congregation of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), but we are unique: we do not have dues or fees; we do not charge tuition for our Hebrew School or for High Holy Day tickets. We are entirely dependent upon “gifts from the heart” — voluntary contributions in the form of time and talent as well as monetarily — from our congregants, friends, and visitors. As we have learned from Torah, there is no greater — or worthier — obligation than the Jewish education of our children and caring for others in our community who need comfort or help.