Jewish community of Aroostook County.
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
- 302 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
- 106 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
- “Head North, young man,” Mars Hill (Mars Hill) - Abraham J. Peck, Jean M. Peck, Maine's Jewish Experiences (Arcadia)
- Hiram Adelman, Mars Hill (Mars Hill) - Individual through Colby College Special Collections
- I'm Lurking on Maine Town's Facebook Page (Aroostook) - Josh Nathan-Kazis Forward - the Newspaper
- The Potato King of Maine : the video (Aroostook) - Josh Nathan-Kazis Forward - the Newspaper
- The True Story of Maine's Potato King - My Great-Grandfather's Rise and Fall (Aroostook) - Josh Nathan-Kazis, staff writer Jewish Forward Jewish Forward
- Hiram and Yale Adelman in Potato Fields (Aroostook) - Marcia Lieberman
- Maine Buys ASTC Plot from Sam Fish for $60,000 (Presque Isle) -
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 email@example.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
Page Displayed : / Sunday April 26, 2015