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Photo by Scott Moskowitz, Bennington Banner

Bennington man gets
a peace of the action

Rob Sperber displays one of the many magnetic peace symbols he manufactures in his workshop, in Bennington, Vermont. He sells the symbols and hopes only to recoup expenses. Sperber says lately he can barely keep up with demand.

"I'm not against the troops - I'm against senseless killing. A lot of people feel the same as I do."

"It's not anti-anything. It's pro-peace"

— A resident of Shaftsbury, Vermont, who purchased peace magnets from VermontPeaceWorks.

Rob Sperber, of Sperber Tool Works Inc., cannot produce his magnetic peace symbols fast enough. The multi-colored and multi-patterned magnets are catching on around the area so fast that Sperber has ordered a press to produce his product in a quick, cost-effective way.

"I want to do it cheaply, because I want to see millions of them," said Sperber, 52, at his shop Thursday afternoon. "It's clearly not a business venture."

One day, while visiting with Jim Fawcett from Highland, N.Y., Sperber noticed his good friend's new car decoration. It was a little like the supportive magnetic ribbons that cropped up in the last year, but with a twist. Sperber said, “hey, I kind of like that idea - I'm going to do the same.”

And so he began producing his own magnetic peace symbols by hand - still showing support for troops, yet making his statement about going to war on other nations. He now makes the magnets in solid colors, and with patterns like tie-died ("hippies for peace,") camouflaged ("rednecks for peace") and red, white and blue ("peace is patriotic.")

"It's not a money-making thing - it's an expression of frustration," Sperber said. "As far as I'm concerned, we invaded a sovereign nation on a lie.

"I don't have delusions of changing anything," Sperber said, qualifying his political views. "I don't have any grand plan."

Sperber's main business is manufacturing swimmers' starting blocks for a company that sells the product. He also has a small-scale custom woodworking shop.

He and his employees make the magnets, selling them wholesale through a variety of outlets, and retail at his shop. He recently donated a pile of the magnets to a friend who donated the profits from the magnet sales to the Bennington Area Interfaith Council's fuel and food fund. Rabbi Howard A. Cohen, who manages the fund, estimated that somewhere between $300 and $400 has been raised.

"The peace symbol is a way of going beyond the subjective of the ribbons," said Cohen. "I've seen some before, but none quite like Rob's." Cohen said that he had just sent 25 of Sperber's magnets home with acquaintances from San Francisco.

As a New Jersey youth, Sperber would have been drafted into the Vietnam War fresh out of high school if not for a student deferment. He said he has always been against war, both then and now.

"People interpret being against the war as being against the troops," said Sperber. "I'm not against the troops - I'm against senseless killing. A lot of people feel the same as I do."

He has a magnetic ribbon of his own, amidst a sea of peace symbols, that reads "support our troops, bring them home." With a friend of his currently serving as a National Guardsman abroad, he worries about him, and others who are dying.

Each person who opposes the war finds their own way to protest, according to Sperber. Making the peace symbols is his way. And those who are coming out of the woodwork to buy the magnets shows him that he is not alone in his sentiments.

Adapted from: Bennington Banner, Bennington, Vermont
By JESSICA YORK, Staff Writer

VermontPeaceWorks is a division of Sperber Tool Works, Inc.
Shaftsbury, Vermont
Contact VermontPeaceWorks

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