family tree for the founding Adelman, Goldsmith, Sher, Etscovitz, Rolsky, Dennim, Emple, and Kamenkovitz families

Natalie Koven Cohen � Personal reflections, presented at the Colby Conference April 2011

Jewish community of Aroostook County.

Hiram and Yale Adelman in Potato Fields
Adelman Brothers: Maine potatoes
Adelman Department Store Mars Hill, Maine
Adelman Family I
Adelman Family II

This section of the Documenting Maine Jewry project has information on the communities of Caribou, Presque Isle, Eagle Lake, Fort Fairfield, Fort Kent, Houlton, Island Falls, Limestone, Madawaska, Mars Hill, Portage Lake, Van Buren, Washburn.

The coordinator of this site is Susan Adelman Rudolph . She would welcome additional photographs, documents and oral histories sent to her at dmj @ mindspring.com

All the dropdown menus above display data for just the County

Local Jewish Organizations

Aroostook Hebrew Community Center 6 Cook St Presque Isle 207-764-1840 -

Brief History of Jewry in The County

Aroostook, a Native American word meaning �Beautiful River� is aptly called the �The Crown of Maine.� Mainers, however, refer to the area simply as �The County.� Bordering the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, geographically it is larger than the States of Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. As of 2010, Aroostook County's population was approximately 72,000. Obtaining statistics of the County�s Jewish population is difficult at best. It would be safe to say that it is less than one percent.

One gets an appreciation of the County from John Steinbeck�s Travels with Charley. � Lots of people had talked of Aroostook County, but I had never met anyone who had actually been there.� (pg 47) �I saw mountains of potatoes � oceans � more potatoes than you would think the world�s population could consume in a hundred years.� (pg. 50) �What I remember are the long avenues in the frost, the farms and house braced against the winter, the flat, laconic Maine speech in crossroads stores where I stopped to buy supplies.� (pg 56)

It would be a mistake to think that the story of the American Jewish experience can be told without considering the history of small-town Jewish life such as what was experienced in Aroostook County. Jews who came to northern Maine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century came mostly for economic opportunities. The relative frequency with which these immigrants raised and traded cattle or poultry or became farmers or merchants seems to have followed from the circumstances of their previous existence in Eastern Europe. In other cases, they embraced their professions as a result of necessity, or they bravely took on new opportunities in the community in order to make a living for their families.

Culturally the Jewry of northern Maine defied both other people�s and their own expectations. They became recognizable participants in the cultural life of places where they constituted a barely recognizable minority, while at the same time they worked to sustain their identity as Jews.

Population of Aroostook Maine Jews : 1928 - 1965
American Jewish Yearbook,various years
1928/ 1929 : "Places having 10 Jews or less : Ashland (Aroostook Co); Brownville & Brownville Junction (Piscatquis County); Eastport Fairfield; Lincoln; Madison; Newport (Penobscot Co), Oakfield (Aroostook Co); Pittsfield; Richmand (Sagadahoc Co)
1940 - 26 in Presque Isle .
"Other Towns with less than 10 Jews : Ashland, Berwick, Brownville, Bucksport, Caribou, Chelsea, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Eagle Lake, Eastport, Ellsworth, Enfield, Fairfield, Fort Fairfield, Freeport, Guildord, Hallowell, Howland, Lincoln, Lisbon, Livermore Falls, Lubec, Mars Hill, Mechanic Falls, Milo, Newport, Norway, Oakland, Pittsfield, Searsport, Van Buren, Vinalhaven, Winslow "
1955 - 120
1965 - 120

DATABASE RESOURCES : Information is available today on

  • 306 individual Jews with strong ties to Aroostook County of which 15 record the Old Country origin of first generation immigrants
  • 17 records of burial in Jewish cemeteries for which there are 14 headstone images
  • 26 organizations important to the Aroostook County Jewish community of which 7 are Jewish community institutions and 13 are businesses important to the Aroostook County Jewish community
  • 107 bibliographic citations and sources pertaining to Aroostook County of which 36 are photographs and 2 are oral histories

Recent additions to the Documenting Aroostook database include

The Documenting Aroostook Jewry site is a part of the state-wide Documenting Maine Jewry (DMJ) project. 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. DMJ's goal is to collect short histories of the many people and organizations that have contributed, over time, to the lives of Maine Jews. Currently the state-wide index has records on over 30,000 Jewish Mainers and 200 Maine Jewish organizations.

People    The 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.

Sources    The Documenting Maine Jewry methodology is basically a jigsaw approach. We take whatever community, municipal, and cemetery records we have and merge them into a common database. As a result, we face problems of duplication and incompleteness. To minimize those problems, we try to name-match only when we have at least two factual sources for a given name. Ultimately, we feel it is better to have duplicate records than inaccurate information linking two unrelated people with the same names; Jews do love to repeat certain family names. In the name of historic accuracy, we ask families to supplement/correct their information using the on-line edit function on their page, or by emailing correct information to dopj@mindspring.com.

For security reasons, complete access to the database is available only on request. A full index of all burials , however, is publicly available.

Finances    Financial contributions supplement the volunteer effort by supporting data collection and outreach. DMJ is under the financial supervision of Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine(JCA), a 501(c)3 organization. Donations are welcome using the Tzedakah box below or by sending a gift (marked DMJ) to the JCA, 57 Ashmont St., Portland, Maine 04103. Major donors can select a range of contributions to honor their own Maine immigrant family or to inspire and inform the next generation of Maine Jews.

Heart and Soul    The core of the project is the addition of new information by Maine Jews, whether online through the website, by email, or by old-fashioned mail. 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 Susan Adelman. To get a mailing address, please email to dmj @ mindspring.com describing the materials you would like to share.

Last Updated : 1 October 2014

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Last Updated : June 20, 2015