Mary Copans’s Memories

My introduction to The West Village House was in July of 1977 when we had just moved  here from Hanover, New Hampshire. Our dear friends, the Coopers, New York intellectuals thought we had left the cultural center of New England to moved to the outback. We invited them to join us for a Rudoph Serkin piano recital which was held in the intimate setting of the West Village Meeting House on the Hamburg Steinway. We were sitting in the second row back so could practically touch his hands. We were all enthralled. The Coopers could not imagine that we lived in a place where such a special concert was accessible to us-the Copans. We did not have to go to New York City. It was right here in our new town.

Inlaid Ark created by local cabinet-maker Jason Breen

Our four children took piano lessons from Coni Liliengrin at the Brattleboro Music Center. The recitals were always held at the West Village Meeting house. One recital held in late May with lilacs as the bouquet featured our daughter Laurie. As she played, a handsome black cat with white boots jumped on the bench with Laurie much to he delight off the audience. Laurie did not miss a note.

There were many concerts and many recitals but the West Village Meeting House has meant the most to me as my spiritual home. The Brattleboro Area Jewish Community has been sharing this beautiful space with the Unitarians for as long as I remember. Our four children had their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs there. Laurie had the first potluck dinner for her Bat Mitzvah. For High Holy Days our Ark with the inlaid wood tree of life is moved to the front center of the big room. Our Torahs are kept inside. The chairs face the Ark and the windows. We always sit in the same place. I appreciate the proximity to the outside world during the long service. The fall woods are lovely with the white pines and golden ferns.

When I am tired of sitting I wander out to the sunlit foyer, then to the sunken garden to sit on the bench. Often I meet other friends taking a break or in the old days I might meet my preschool children or their parents. I have had some sweet visits.

As my sons grew, Jon and Ben would be the boys sitting in the front holding the Torah as it was wrapped. The first year they were both in college I gave the Yon Kippur sermon from the bimah. I asked everyone to look around to see what was different. There were no Copans children at High Holiday Services for the first time in 20 years. I thanked the congregation for all they did to help raise such fine Jewish men and women. There were many people to thank. 

The West Village Meeting House has been an important part of our family’s life in Brattleboro.

If you have a memory about the West Village Meeting House that you would like to share, please tell us about it in the “Reply” section below.

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