by Alice Levitt
Each year since 2006, the Vermont Historical Society has presented the Richard O. Hathaway Award for "an outstanding contribution to the field of Vermont history." Past winners have included books, documentaries and plays. Last Saturday, the prize was presented to Vermont Public Television for its documentary "Little Jerusalem."
Dorothy Dickie (far left) produced the doc, which was nominated by VPT's chief content officer Kathryn Scott (second from left).
The film, which debuted late last year, is the first Hathaway winner to deal with Jewish themes, in this case the immigrant community that sprang up in Burlington's Old North End in the 1880s.
What cemented its win? According to VHS executive director Mark Hudson (second from right above), the professional quality of the movie impressed the selection committee. "It had a great story and richness in telling the story of the community and the individual lives that were represented in the story as well," he added by phone.
Amanda Guston, the VHS staff representative on the committee, says, "I think it was a terrific documentary that pulled together a lot of thoughtful primary sources and worked with the community." Indeed, Dickie interviewed numerous now-elderly former denizens of the community, managing to catch lightning in a bottle by scoring colorful interviews with Burlingtonians such as the since-deceased former doctor Marshall London.
For its efforts, VPT received a prize of $1000. But according to Dickie, "Little Jerusalem" still has life in it.
She continues to submit it to Jewish-themed film festivals and hopes to follow up either in a shorter form or on the web. She may deal in particular with the continued efforts to get the Chai Adam synagogue's mural (right) moved from the apartment building where it currently sits in limbo.
For now, she says, she's happy to have had the "nice surprise" from the VHS to spur her on to share the lives of Little Jerusalem's residents.