Posted By Ann Rabinowitz
Etz Chaim Synagogue
Maine, which in the past had been called the “Jerusalem of the North”, has many resources for the study of the Jewish population which settled there some as early as the 1833. Such towns as Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Bath, Biddeford, Calais, Lewiston, Old Orchard, Portland, Presque Isle and Rockland, became Jewish centers.
Of interest to many people will be the plans for the proposed Maine Museum of Jewish Art and History which is, first of all, an addition, renovation and restoration of the Etz Chaim Synagogue and its future use as the Museum.
The Etz Chaim Synagogue located in Portland was founded in 1921 as a response to a need for English language sermons as opposed to those conducted in Yiddish. Information about the process to repurpose the synagogue can be found here.
Some other resources for Maine Jewish history is a presentation given by author Susan Cummings-Lawrence on her work on the Maine Jewish History Initiative.
The primary site for information on Maine Jewry is the Documenting Maine Jewry site located at: www.MaineJews.Org which is sheparded by Harris Gleckman, the Project Shammas, as he calls himself. The project which is four years old has collected the records of over 25,000 Maine Jews. The site allows searches by person, family, organization, a city/town, cemetery, and includes old documents and photos and oral recollections.
If you combine your search as I did with those on Ancestry.com which has City Directories for towns in Maine and various U.S. Census records, you will uncover a rich fabric of overlaying resources which capture your family’s past.
It is worth while searching the databases for your family names as you may be surprised to find long lost relatives who moved from the large towns of the eastern seaboard of the United States to the relative quiet and less crowded small towns of Maine.