|Jews have been living in Maine since the 1800s: There were fully functioning Jewish communities in Bangor in the 1840s,
and in Portland in the 1880s. Somewhat improbably, at least to outsiders, those and other Jewish enclaves around the
state have endured and thrived. Over the last 100 years, the Jewish population of Maine has ranged from
5,000 to over 10,000.
Honoring the Jewish tradition of remembrance, the Documenting Maine Jewry project seeks to tell the story, not just of those individuals, but of the communities they shaped. Our goal is to collect short histories of the many people and organizations that have contributed over time to the lives of Maine Jews.
Questions unavoidably arise : Who is a Jew? And who is a Mainer? On the former, the project takes no position. On the latter, we have used a broad definition including not only those who were born, grew up, or lived here, but also those who are buried here.
Maine Jewish life brings to mind different things for different Jews. For some
it is where they were born, live, and cannot imagine living anywhere else. For others, it
is where they grew up and consequently hold special memories of childhood. Other
Jews see Maine as the place that they have vacationed for years or went to summer camp. As with other Jewish
communities, many families moved in because their relatives had asked them to come.
And increasingly other Maine Jews are ones who have opted to move
to Maine as the place where they want to live.
Fortunately many of these diverse family experiences have been captured in series of personal histories. Eighty-two of these personal histories are oral histories are available on the Portland Public Library website. Other of these experiences are shared face-to-face in a series of DMJ sponsored Gatherings in and out of the State.
|Some Jews in Maine arrived directly off the boat (116,000 European immigrants landed
in the Portland harbor); others were relocated here by the oddly named Industrial Removal Office of HAIS in the
early 1900s; others migrated here from the big cities seeking a physical environment more similar to their
former shtetls or wanting to find economic opportunities from the timber industry or trading activities. Economic, social, and
religious realities meant that some of the in-migrants or their descendants became out-migrants.
State maps, maps of the Old country , and maps from-away places in North America can help trace this history. The burial records of Maine's 19 Jewish cemeteries , memorial boards, and Yarzeheit records can link old family members with today's Jewish communities in the state and from away.
Currently, the larger Jewish communities are in Aroostook County, Auburn-Lewiston, Augusta ,
Biddeford-Saco , Bangor , Portland ,
Rockland , and Waterville . There are smaller Jewish communities in
Bath, Old Orchard Beach, Old Town, and The County (Aroostook). And of course there are Jewish families in rural, back-to-the-land
towns, Jewish students in Maine colleges and in inter-married families throughout the state .
These communities are supported by a range of community centers, synagogues, Jewish newsletters, and social service agencies. Current contact information for these community institutions are on the local home pages and in the organizational index .
The core of the project is the addition of new information by Maine Jews and other interested people, whether online through the website, by email, or by old-fashioned mail. Building the database DMJ has benefited from support from community centers, synagogues, family historians, Chevra Kiddisha, burial associations, social clubs, sports teams across the state and its partner organizations .
We encourage all registered users to supplement or correct existing information on individuals using the edit function on each person's page. Historical documents, oral accounts, photographs of community activities, and print articles can be emailed to email@example.com.
DATABASE RESOURCES : Information is available today on
- 31,284 individual Jews with strong ties to Maine of which 2,379 show the first generation country of origin
- 8,110 records of burial in Maine Jewish cemeteries for which there are 24,147 headstone images
- 1,565 organizations important to the Maine Jewish community of which 540 are Jewish community institutions in Maine and 577 are businesses important to the Maine Jewish communities
- 193 are oral histories of which 85 are available as .mp3 audio recordings on-line
- 3,560 bibliographic citations and sources of which 1,478 are photographs and 993 are original documents
- To date 493 individuals and 36 organizations have contributed photographs, recollections, documents, or other resources to DMJ on-line resource base
Financial contributions to DMJ can honor their own Maine immigrant family or to inspire and inform the next generation of Maine Jews. These contribution supplement this largely volunteer effort by supporting data collection and outreach. DMJ is under the financial supervision of Temple Beth El, 400 Deering Ave, Portland, Maine 04103 , Donations are welcome using the Tzedakah box below or by sending a gift (marked DMJ) to Temple Beth El .
Recent additions to the database include
Last Updated : Feb 24 2011 Page Displayed :
/ Monday May 20, 2013
Last Updated : Feb 24 2011
Page Displayed : / Monday May 20, 2013