As our 55th-anniversary year comes to a close, we’d are featuring profiles of some of our Life Members, who make the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter what it is.

From Madeline Aron: 

The first 10 years of my life were spent in the Berkshire Hills in Lenox, Massachusetts. My parents were 1st-generation Eastern European Jewish-Americans. They established a culturally and racially inclusive hotel and arts center  that helped change the discriminatory practices of the area.

With the down payment given to them through a like-minded friend, they purchased a gilded-age mansion when it was under foreclosure so they could create an affordable and inclusive inn where anyone could come and enjoy the beautiful Berkshire hills and the Boston symphony summer concerts at Tanglewood.

They named their hotel Festival House. The beauty was something to share. They worked very hard and made many sacrifices in an atmosphere of anti-Semitism, racism and provincialism. It became one of the most important art centers in the Berkshires and helped to change the discriminatory practices of the area. It has an extremely rich and colorful history.

They eventually had to give it up due to financial and family strain. It is also so relevant now with the rise of anti-semitic attacks on both wealthy Jews like George Soros and ordinary jewish citizens like those who worshipped in Pittsburgh. The myth of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world funded and guided by Jews of wealth and used by the powerful to focus discontent away from themselves is an old European myth that is still believed in and acted upon today. Anti-Semitism is yet another “-ism” among many that divide us and slow our needed unity to save the planet and our species.

My love of nature, the arts and social justice were inextricably entwined in my being. I joined the Sierra Club because of its dedication to Nature, and its willingness to support environmental justice causes and the need for diversity in grassroots environmental activism.

Click here to read an interview with Madeline about Festival House. 

Caption: Madeline Aron, sitting behind her friends at the Festival House pool.

Life Member profile: Madeline Aron
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