Jewish community of Bath.
This section of the Documenting Maine Jewry project has information on the communities of Bath, West Bath.
This coordinators of Bath site are Fred Weinberg and Nathan Cogan. They
would welcome additional photographs, documents and oral histories sent to them at dmj @ mindspring.com
The 1930 Jewish census data for Bath is currently available.
Local Jewish Organizations
|Beth Israel Congregation (Bath)||862 Washington Street Bath||207-443-4606 - email@example.com|
|Beth Israel Congregation Cemetery||Bath||207-443-5181 - info@bethisrael-Maine.org|
|Temple Israel Congregation Cemetery||245 Oak Grove St Bath||-|
Brief History of Bath Jewry
"In the beginning there was Bath, then in came a few Jews to settle here in this city called Bath and this is where our story begins.
Back in the late 1880s Bath was still a completely gentile city. Everyone here was a staid and solid Yankee in the true sense of the word. Then in the very last years of the 1880s and early 1890s a few Jews found the path that led into this small city. Some came to stay, others with a pack on their backs came to sojourn, and soon those who came just to sojourn remained. Here they settled, opened their own businesses, married, begat children. Now a small step was made toward a Bath Jewish community.
Then came the turn of the century and slowly other Jews began to infiltrate Bath, at least a dozen families. And so it was until suddenly the country was faced with the World War I. Bath, with all of its shipbuilding yards, was hiring men by the scores. More housing and other places to live were in demand due to the influx of all these people. New businesses opened to cater to the demand, of various types and abundant merchandise. And who better to supply this than the acumen of our own people. And Bath Jews swelled to the glorious number of over 30 robust families.
Prior to this time there was always the problem of keeping kosher and of obtaining a simple place in which to conduct services. But perseverance and determination are some of our people's characteristics, so in the very early days they traveled to Portland. No three and four lane highways did they have, not even a one-way macadam lane, just an old dirt road over which they hooked old dobbin to the shay with all their baggage, their eyes seeking their port of destination to praise the Almighty.
Then came another plateau. Enough Jews had migrated into Bath that now they could have their own minyon. Gone were the dusty roads, the old horses, the bundles, the long ride, and the staying with friends who kindly took them in. Now was just the problem of finding a suitable place here in which to worship. Consider the skepticism evident by these Yankees to a new kind of people. Yet there were a few who showed compassion to this group who lived modestly and only wanted to pray. The YMCA was available and that was offered but with a stipulation, to have the services early because there was a meeting scheduled for the same day. Needless to say our people gratefully agreed. That was still a small step forward. Later another place was located: the hall of the Eagles. That was a small place in the building that is over the shop now occupied by Louie Couture called the Swett Building. From there another place was found and that was the Redmen's Hall over Joe Solovich's Standard Dry Goods Store, now known as the Mademoiselle Shop.
It was in this little hall that the momentum began with the realization that it was now time for Bath Jews to have their own home in which to worship. In view of the knowledge that there was strength in numbers and that now there was a preponderance of Jewish families than ever before, meetings were called to discuss the possibility and the probability of having a building of our own. There was at that time a row of small business buildings on Front Street that was later torn down to make the parking lot for the A&P and Sampson's Grocery Stores. On the second floor of one of these buildings was a small tailor shop owned by a young man named Harry Arenstam who with his wife and four small children were newcomers to Bath.
It was in this tailor shop that the first meeting was called and the embryo stage was started. This was in 1919. All was not smooth. The house was divided. Many were the skeptics and just as many were the optimists. Pros and cons were battered around. Today we would call them debates and discussions. Then they had other words for it. Matter over mind prevailed and the aye's had it.
Then one day I remembered, when I was a little girl at the time, I was sitting in the kitchen and my mother, Mrs. Nathan Povich, suddenly exclaimed. And when my mother exclaimed she was positive. "We have got to have a ladies society". She immediately called my sister Eva on the phone, told her of her brainstorm, and then and there they proceeded to call all the women and in a few days they all met in the Redmen's Hall.
My mother baked, made a fancy pillow cover which she prepared to raffle, and did. Then and there the ladies people's society was formed with a membership of twenty-six loyal souls. Naturally my mother was made president and my sister Eva was secretary. Since the hall was not always available and not very bright, plans were made to meet in one another's homes. The twenty-six who were the original attendants at that very first meeting and who therefore became charter members, were Madams C. Aric, H. Arenstam, H. Abromson, A. Bloom, H. Brown, M. Cohen, S. Green, B. Gediman, J. Goldstein, M. Goldstein, S. Gordon, S. Greenblatt. H. A. Isaacson, S. Levine, A. Miller, J. Mack, N. Petlock, M.S. Povich, M. Povich, S. Povich, H. Persky, J. Solovich, L. Small, S. Shanbausm, H.L. Savage, and M. Weinblatt. Within a few months others joined including Madams L. Avalon, H. Mack, I Smith, M. Singer, J. Davis, and D. Rosen from Brunswick. The first home to have been offered in which to hold the meeting was that of Mrs. Sam Levin. Shortly afterwards Bell became president.
The men's group forged ahead. A name was decided upon: Base Yisroael, Beth Israel Congregation, the house for the Jewish people. A site was located on which to build, the present one on which Beth Israel now stands."
from Beth Israel Congregation on its 50th Anniversary by Doris Povich Mensh, October 15, 1972
The complete Mensh's history of the Beth Israel is available on Beth Israel Congregation website
DATABASE RESOURCES : Information is available today on
- 416 individual Jews with strong ties to Bath of which 72 record the Old Country origin of first generation immigrants
- 99 records of burial in Jewish cemeteries for which there are 291 headstone images
- 42 organizations important to the Bath Jewish community of which 12 are Jewish community institutions and 26 are businesses important to the Bath Jewish community
- 30 bibliographic citations and sources pertaining to Bath of which 13 are photographs and 1 are oral histories
Recent additions to the Documenting Bath database include
- Protrait of Sadie Solovich in Grade School (Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Goldie & Sadie Solovich (Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Goldie Solovich (Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Joe and Jenny Solovich (Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Portait of Sadie Solovich - I
(Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Protrait of Sadie Solovich 1920s (Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Memorial Boards at Beth Israel Congregation (Bath) -
- Joe Solovich in his store (Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Portrait of Jenny Povich Solovich (Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Portrait of Joe Solovich (Bath) - Nancy Simpkins
- Calling Jewry to New Year Reunion - Newspaper clipping 5698 (Bath) - Fred and Marilyn Weinberg
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.
Organizations DBJ is also building a community-based history around the religious and secular institutions that were or are the lifeblood of the Bath Jewish community – as well as the source of quite regular souris (headaches). The project is creating 'family trees' of those often-interconnected local institutions: some 180 Jewish service organizations, 94 Jewish religious bodies, 18 Chevra Kaddisha and cemeteries, 15 Jewish camps, and 240 businesses crucial to the economic survival of Maine Jews.
Places The state-wide database has information on Maine Jews from over 90 cities and towns . Users can seek information in a particular town or city or can select a wider area to search on the state map index . Each option allows users to find organizations and people either in these key cities/towns or by county.
Oral Histories The DWJ project is also collecting oral histories. Currently there are no oral histories by Bath-connected Jews.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
For security reasons, complete access to the database is available only on request. A full index of all burials , however, is publicly available.
Volunteers The Bath Documenting Maine Jewry effort is largely a volunteer effort; we always welcome more help. Volunteers interested in photographing older Jewish headstones, collecting information on a particular town or organization, transferring data from print to electronic records, or upgrading software should email to email@example.com.
Finances Financial contributions supplement the volunteer effort by supporting data collection and outreach. DMJ is under the financial supervision of Temple Beth El, Portland. Donations are welcome using the Tzedakah box below or by sending a gift (marked DOMJ) to the Temple Beth El, 400 Deering Ave, 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 dmj @ mindspring.com . To get a mailing address, please email describing the materials you would like to share.
Last Updated : 17 January 2010
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