WATCH: Vermont State Representative Avram Patt Greets Us In Yiddish
This article originally appeared in the Yiddish Forverts.
Avram Patt was sworn in on Wednesday, January 9, for a two-year term in the Vermont House of Representatives. He had previously served there from 2015-2016. In the video above, made especially for the Forverts, Patt greets his constituents and Forverts readers in Yiddish.
“Politics is in my blood,” Bronx-born politician Patt recently said in an interview with the Forverts. Patt’s parents, Emanuel and Brucha Patt, were prominent Bundist activists in Poland.
Following the Nazi invasion they fled to Lithuania, where they received visas to continue onward to Japan thanks to the intervention of Japanese consul Chiune Sugihara. Arriving in Seattle shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the couple remained active in a variety of political and social causes. Emanuel Patt, for instance, was among the first doctors in America to advocate for universal healthcare to be considered a human right.
Patt’s grandfather, who had a profound influence on the future state representative’s life, was the Bundist leader, pedagogue and Yiddish writer Jacob Patt. In Poland Patt was the secretary of the secular Yiddish school network Tsisho. He was in America on a fundraising trip on behalf of the Yiddish schools when World War II broke out, and would remain in New York for the rest of his life, eventually serving as the president of the Jewish Labor Committee.
Although Avram Patt’s parents and grandfather never ran for elected office in the U.S., their left-wing approach to politics and to the rights of minorities and the working class greatly influenced Patt’s political positions. Like his father and another Vermont politician with Polish-Jewish roots, Bernie Sanders, Patt is a strong backer of single-payer universal healthcare. He also supports renewable energy, strengthening unions and a more progressive tax structure where the wealthy pay a larger share.
As Patt told the Forverts, his politics fit in well with the local political climate in Vermont. But how did this Yiddish-speaking son of Polish-Jewish immigrants end up there in the first place?
Patt was a student at Columbia University in 1968 when strikes halted classes. Not wanting his studies to be interrupted, his parents urged him to enroll at another school. Because of his years attending the Yiddishist Camp Boiberik and Bundist Camp Hemshekh, Patt had always loved spending time in the country. With an opportunity to try living in a more rural area Avram decided to enroll in Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. He found the fresh air and calmer lifestyle of the Green Mountain State to his liking and has called central Vermont home for 48 years.