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  • In Rutland, Vermont, one branch of the Twelve Tribes community has lived in the area for more than 20 years -- yet its members remain a decidedly separate from the larger city, inspiring debate and curiosity among outsiders. Some deride them as a cult; others call them an intentional community.

    Photos by Liz Mak, Jen Miller, and Alpha Newberry
    Text by Liz Mak
  • Members live as Christians did thousands of years ago, believing that the tenets of true Christianity lie in the Old Testament, which hearkens back to Judaism. Their names are Hebrew names, their leader a Rabbi, and their children undergo bar and bat mitzvahs when they come of age. Though largely insulated by choice, the community also reaches out to proselytize and share its faith: A legacy of both the Jesus and Hippie movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Twelve Tribes bus follows Bob Dylan on tour, having identified his fans -- and in the past, those of Phish and the Grateful Dead -- as potential recruits for their cause.
  • The community is self-sustaining. They earn their bread and butter through constant work and several cottage industries: a hostel catering to hikers of the Appalachian Trail; a deli open 24 hours, 5 days a week; and a production line of soaps and candles sold to designer brands. Work is separated mostly by gender, with men performing manual labor and occupying the higher administrative rungs of the organization; women remain in the domestic sphere, where they take care of the children, household chores, and home education.
  • The group works together, lives together, eats together, and prays together. Because everything is done on-site, it leads to a particular insularity marked not only by the community’s intention, but also by a purposeful distancing from outside society and its pitfalls. Looking to avoid the “Dark Kingdom” -- i.e., society's immorality and wickedness -- the Rutland community refrains from taking in any news of the outside world, abstaining from radio, television, and newspapers. Likening themselves to a beehive, in which all members work for the benefit of the community, it’s a group mentality marked both by a love for the values of its self-formed community, and a mistrust of what goes on outside of its borders.
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