Jewish community of Greater Calais.

Chaim Yosef - Exterior Image
Chaim Yosef - Exterior View
Chaim Yosef Memorial Board in Beth Israel (Bangor)
Unobskey Party
Boys working in Sardine Cannery, Eastport, Maine
Dedication of the Jewish Community Center, Congregation Chaim Josef, November 28, 1937
Sidney Unobskey, Bar Mitzvah Preparation
Unobskey's Advertisement, Calais Advertizer
Nathan Cohen greeting Lady Bird Johnson, Eastport August 20 1964 en route to Campobello Island for dedication of Roosevelt International Park
Shofar Blowing at end of Yom Kippur, Weld, Me

This section of the Documenting Maine Jewry project has information on the communities of Calais, Eastport.

A local coordinator for this site is needed. Please send any new material to dmj @ mindspring.com

All the dropdown menus above display data for just Greater Calais

Local Jewish Organizations




Brief History of Greater Calais Jewry

"Living in Snovsk, Russia, in 1903, Sarah Unobskey demanded that her husband escape conscription in the Russian Army during the Russo-Japanese War and go to America. Joseph arrived at Ellis Island with 17 cents and one possession - a mink-lined coat…

Initially Joseph worked in Boston in the fur business, as he had done in Russia. It is not clear whether Joseph found his way to Eastport, Maine, before or after Sarah arrived in 1905 with their two sons, Arthur and William. What is certain is that Sarah was attracted to cheap land in areas far from the large eastern cities. Like many poor Jewish immigrants, Joseph peddled goods around rural Maine coast, selling bits of inexpensive clothing, pots, pans, and anything else that allowed a profit.

Finally, the family settled in Eastport and opened a small dry-goods store. There, another son, Charles was born in 1906. Joseph and Sarah lived in Eastport for several years building their business and family. In 1906 Louis Unobsky, Joseph's brother, and Mary Unobsky, Sarah's sister, arrived in the United States. The two brothers had married sisters in Russia.

Brought over by Joseph and Sarah, Louis and his wife started their own dry-goods store in Lubec.

The Unobskeys found Eastport, filled with fishermen and workers in the sardine plants, a difficult pace. Arthur and Bill were frequently beaten up by, taunted as Jews and forced to eat pork by gangs of young ruffians.

In 1911, the Unobskeys… sold their Eastport store and moved 26 miles to Calais, lured by the city's location as a regional center of trade between Canada and Maine.

At the time, Calais was a small Jewish center that drew upon several immigrant familes in St. Stephen (New Brunswick), Eastport, and Lubec.

One such Jew, Joseph Gordon, had left Minsk in 1906, traveled to New York, and yearned for work beyond the harsh competitive turmoil of the Lower East Side. Looking for reasons to try his luck in Maine, Gordon wrote for information to an immigrant friend already living in Calais. 'You'll never be a millionaire,' Gordon's friend replied, 'but you can do what you want here. Come down.' "

Judith S Goldstein Crossing Lines : Histories of Jews and Gentiles in Three Communites 1992, New York, chapter 12

DATABASE RESOURCES : Information is available today on

  • 32 individual Jews with strong ties to Greater Calais of which 2 record the Old Country origin of first generation immigrants
  • 11 records of burial in Jewish cemeteries for which there are 17 headstone images
  • 9 organizations important to the Greater Calais Jewish community of which 4 are Jewish community institutions and 3 are businesses important to the Greater Calais Jewish community
  • 40 bibliographic citations and sources pertaining to Greater Calais of which 12 are photographs and 0 are oral histories

Recent additions to the Documenting Greater Calais Jewry database include

  • Calais Torah To Honor Slain Israeli : Scroll Heads For New Home In Kibbutz Synagogue , By Diana Graettinger, Bangor Daily News, 1999, (Calais)



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The Documenting Greater Calais Jewry (DGCJ) 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 25,000 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.

Organizations    DGCJ is also building a community-based history around the 20 religious and secular institutions that were or are the lifeblood of the Greater Calais Jewish community – as well as the source of quite regular souris (headaches). The project is creating 'family trees' of those often-interconnected local Jewish institutions.

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 DGCJ project is also collecting oral histories. Currently there are X oral histories by Greater Calais-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 dmj@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.

Volunteers    The Greater Calais 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 dmj@mindspring.com.

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 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 dmj at mindspring.com. To get a mailing address, please email describing the materials you would like to share.

Last Updated : 30 August 2010

Page Displayed : / Monday July 28, 2014



Last Updated : June 19, 2014