Jewish community of Greater Bangor.
This section of the Documenting Maine Jewry project has information on the communities of Bangor, Brewer, Hampden, Veazie.Currently there is data on 3,649 people and 362 organizations with strong ties to Greater Bangor.
The coordinators of this site are Marcia Lieberman, Ruthanne Singal and Judy Gatchell. New data for the website can be sent to dmj @ mindspring.com or directly to any of the coorindators.
Local Jewish Organizations
|Beth Abraham - Chevra Kaddisha||Bangor||-|
|Beth Abraham Synagogue (Bangor)||145 York St Bangor||207-947-0876 - firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Beth Abraham Synagogue (Bangor) Cemetery||145 York St 145 York Street Bangor||207-947-0876 - email@example.com|
|Beth Israel (Bangor) - Chevra Kaddisha (now 2238)||Bangor||207 773-5099 -|
|Beth Israel Cemetery : New Section 3||Bangor||-|
|Beth Israel Cemetery : Old Section||Bangor||-|
|Beth Israel Cemetery : Teferith Israel Section||Bangor||-|
|Beth Israel Cemetery : Tolodos Yitzock Section||Bangor||-|
|Chaore Tildos Itzchok Anshe Sfard Congregation Cemetery||Bangor||-|
|Congregation Beth El (Bangor)||183 French Street Bangor||207/945-4578 - firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Congregation Beth Israel||144 York St Bangor||207-945-3433 - email@example.com|
|Congregation Beth Israel (Bangor) Cemetery||144 York St Bangor||207-945-3433 -|
|Jewish Community Center - Bangor||Bangor||-|
|Jewish Community Council||6 State St Suite 314 Bangor||207 941 2950 - firstname.lastname@example.org|
|United Jewish Appeal||Bangor||-|
Brief History of Bangor Jewry
Bangor’s earliest Jewish roots date from the 1840’s. Over the past 170 years Jewish institutions in the city have experienced many changes – a pattern undoubtedly replicated in other Maine communities. Bangor currently has three active congregations representing Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism. These congregations maintain their own Hebrew schools, Chevra Kadishas and cemeteries on Mount Hope Avenue. They each have their own youth activities and social programming. The city also has a Jewish Community Council and Chapel (Center Street) where funeral services are held.
"Bangor's first Jews arrived from Germany in the 1840s and consisted of small number of dry-goods merchants, peddlers and tailors. Immediately and ambitiously they tended to their Orthodox Jewish needs by establishing a synagogue, Ahawas Achim, ("Brotherly Love"), with approximately thirty members. …. The congregation received a charter from the city in 1859, established a burial ground on Webster Avenue, employed for a shohet for the proper ritual slaughter of animals, planned for a school with instruction in German, English and Hebrew, discussed building a mikveh (ritual bath) and prepared for the time when they might need to disband. That moment came in the late 1850's, when Bangor's economy soured. The Jewish community dispersed, and its few sacred ritual objects, including a Sepher Torah, were sent to Boston for safekeeping. … They did revive Ahawas Achim in 1874 by bringing back the ritual objects from Boston and adding to the original synagogue minutes. … Each year the small group, numbering no more than ten people from Bangor, Ellsworth and Bar Harbor, hired a hall for celebrating the New Year and the Day of Atonement….
The first influx of Jews in the early 1880’s from Lithuania and Poland found only a few German Jews remaining in Bangor. Many had assimilated through intermarriage or conversion. Others did not marry at all. The two groups of Jews had many differences. Those from Eastern Europe regarded Yiddish as their national language. They could not believe that the German Jews spoke no Yiddish, but only German and English. The Jewish charities established by the German Jews became inadequate to handle the problems faced by the new group from Eastern Europe and the successive waves of terror-stricken and penniless Jews that followed. The Lithuanian Jews formed their own relief organizations as they vastly outnumbered the German Jews who eventually disappeared from the community by 1897.
Bangor's eastern European Jews, who started to arrive in the city in the early 1880's, came primarily from the Lithuanian vicinities of Vilna, Kovno, and Minsk and Grodno in Russia. They established themselves near the end of the glory days of timber and shipping, taking their place at the bottom end of the city's trade in junk, trinkets, clothing, and dry goods. … They were lonely and displaced and sought to recreate the familiar and spiritual life they had once enjoyed. By 1888, only a few years after their arrival, a group of young men formally created the Beth Israel Society (known today as Congregation Beth Israel – a Conservative Synagogue), and by 1897, laid the cornerstone of the first synagogue in Maine. The synagogue was dedicated on December 20, 1897 by Rabbi Raphael Lasker of Ohabei Shalom in Boston. During the next 10 years the congregation survived many changes including a new influx of immigrants from Russia. While the Ashkenazi ritual was firmly established at Beth Israel (based on the background of its founding members), the new “Russishe” Jews favored Sephardic ritual.
These newer arrivals were determined to maintain their own orthodox way of life and worship according to their own customs and traditions. In 1902, they broke away from Congregation Beth Israel to pray in rented rooms of a house and formed Congregation Beth Abraham Anshe Sphard (known today as Beth Abraham Synagogue – an Orthodox Synagogue). They continued in this manner until 1904, when Bangor witnessed its largest immigration of Russian Jews. In 1907, they established their first synagogue known as the “Russishe Shul”. In this early period (1904-07), they sought to establish a Jewish cemetery and to provide burial rites. They paid the city of Bangor $1.00 to purchase small parcel of land off Mt. Hope Avenue for their cemetery and established a Chevra Kadisha. A schism over laws of Kashruth occurred within the Beth Abraham Community resulting, in 1920, in the establishment of Toldoth Yitzchak. This congregation is no longer in existence, but records of its history are maintained.
Congregation Beth El was born in Spring1981 from the vision of five families. An earlier Beth El had existed in Bangor forty years before, but had been subsumed under Congregation Beth Israel and lost its Reform identity. Following the announcement of an open meeting to discuss interest, 25 families embarked on developing a Reform synagogue.
Services were scheduled one Friday a month and were led by congregants. Within two years, 13 students were enrolled in the religious school. The first B’nai Mitzvah occurred in October 1983. A significant milestone was achieved when Beth El was presented with a plaque signifying its membership in the UAHC. Soon after, Beth El was presented with a two hundred year old Torah that had been rescued from Czechoslovakia after World War II. This Torah was given to Beth El on permanent loan.
Through the mid 1980’s, Beth El brought in an occasional visiting Rabbi for services. In 1991 Beth El hired its first resident rabbi. Services were held on a more frequent basis. In By 1994, the membership had grown to almost 100 families, and Beth El hired a full time rabbi. The new rabbi served as president of the Religious School. Adult education classes, an Introduction to Judaism series for those people considering conversion to Judaism, and outreach to Jews in rural Maine were all instituted. In 1995, after many years renting space in a Congregional Church, Beth El purchased its own building. In 2002, Beth El received a donation of land from Congregation Beth Israel which abuts the two other Jewish cemeteries off Mount Avenue.
Sources: Judith S Goldstein, Crossing Lines : Histories of Jews and Gentiles in Three Communities , 1992, NY, chapter two; Congregation Beth Israel’s Centennial History; Beth Abraham Synagogue Fiftieth Anniversary Commemorative Journal; Congregation Beth El Website
DATABASE RESOURCES : Information is available today on
- 3,656 individual Jews with strong ties to Greater Bangor of which 495 record the Old Country origin of first generation immigrants
- 1,068 records of burial in Jewish cemeteries for which there are 3,165 headstone images
- 341 organizations important to the Greater Bangor Jewish community of which 118 are Jewish community institutions and 159 are businesses important to the Greater Bangor Jewish community
- 824 bibliographic citations and sources pertaining to Greater Bangor of which 188 are photographs and 10 are oral histories
Recent additions to the Documenting Bangor Jewry database include
- Bangor Hebrew School Graduation (Bangor ) - Elizabeth A. Stevens Marcia Berson Lieberman
- Autobiography of Haiman Philip Spitz (Bangor) -
- Lawrence I. Berson Obituary (Bangor ) - Proquest Online
- Temple Beth El News October 8, 1954 (Portland) -
- Ward Brothers in Retrospect - People…Events…Fashions - 1929-1987
(Bangor ) - David Merson
- Bangor Hebrew School 1947 (Bangor ) -
- 100th Anniversary Congregation Beth Israel (Bangor) -
- Bangor couple fete 65th anniversary (Bangor) - Bangor Daily News
- Bangor couple fete 65th anniversary pg. 2 (Bangor) - Bangor Daily News
- Bangor Hebrew School 40th Anniversary Program
(Bangor) - Marcia Lieberman
- Bangor Hebrew School Graduation Program 1951 (Bangor) - Marcia Lieberman
- Bangor seminary and Beth Israel to mark anniversaries with lecture (Bangor) -
- Bangor shul celebrates 100th year (Bangor) -
- Beth Israel's centennial book offers much history of Bangor (Bangor) - Bangor Daily News
- Blessing of the Children
- Chaim Potok: Confrontation of Ideas Is Confrontation of Cultures (Bangor) - The Ellsworth American
- Committees Named for Bridge (Augusta) -
- Congregation Beth El 25th Anniversary Celebration including remarks by committee chair (Bangor) -
- Congregation Beth El 25th Anniversary Commemorative Book (Bangor) -
- Dedication Bangor Hebrew School
- Dr. Wyman to speak at event commemorating the centennial year of Congregation Beth Israel (Bangor) -
- Epstein family honored by Beth Israel (Bangor) - Bangor Daily News
- Growing up Jewish requires definite commitment in rural Maine (Garland) - Bangor Daily News
- Invitation to the dedication of the Epstein Room (Bangor) -
- Judaism "taken seriously"
- Lecture Announcement, "How Jews do Theology: Metaphors for God in Biblical and Past Biblical Texts (Bangor) -
- MDI Historical Exhibit on display at COA (Bangor) - Bangor Daily News
- Mu Sigma Fraternity and Iota Phi Sorority Spring Fling Announcement (Bangor) -
- Program for Holocaust Remembrance (Bangor) -
- Program from Synagogue Dedication
- Program from the 100th Anniversary Convocation Temple Beth Israel (Bangor) -
- Rabbi Harold speaks at rededication of Beth Israel (Bangor) -
- Rabbi talks about God's vulnerability (Bangor) -
- State of Maine Proclamation Congregation Beth El Day (Bangor) -
- Synagogue to dedicate addition
- Well-Known Rabbi to Leave Bangor to Live in Israel (Bangor) - Marcia Lieberman
- Flexibility, an Emple watchword, also spells sweater sales success (Brewer ) - Knitting Times Vol 41 no 6
- Meeting of the Young Men's Hebrew Association (Portland) - The American Hebrew ProQuest Historical Newspapers on-line
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 Bangor 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 Bangor-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 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.
Volunteers The Bangor 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 organization, or transferring data from print to electronic records should contact the site coordinators .
Finances Financial contributions supplement the volunteer effort by supporting data collection and outreach. The Jewish Community Council has made a significant financial contribution to the Documenting Maine Jewry. 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 DOMJ) 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 site coordinators. To get a mailing address, please email describing the materials you would like to share.
Last Updated : March 21 2011
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