In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

Preserving Jewish Traditions and Culture

This slideshow contains 9 items
1
Ahawas Achim record book cover, Bangor, 1853

Ahawas Achim record book cover, Bangor, 1853

Item 59260 info
Bangor Public Library

It is hardest to maintain a firm grasp on our roots when we are alone. In groups, in a community, we can find strength in one another.

In order to build this communal cohesion, the six Jewish families of Bangor established Ahawas Achim, or "Brotherly Love," in 1849.

Ahawas Achim was the first synagogue established in Maine. As there were so few Jews in the city, creating an organization that brought them together and fostered a unified sense of purpose was very important to maintaining Jewish identity.

Ahawas Achim advocated for the observance of kosher laws and purchased land for a Jewish cemetery in 1849. This demonstrates the organization's dedication to tradition and community, which it upheld until its dissolution in 1856.


2
Shabbat Service, Camp Lown, Oakland, 1947

Shabbat Service, Camp Lown, Oakland, 1947

Item 56912 info
Colby College Special Collections

Building bonds among Jewish youth is an important foundation for strengthening the future cohesion of the religious community.

Jewish summer camps, which became popular in the early 20th century, bring together Jewish youth who would otherwise not have met while also using this social atmosphere to reinforce Jewish teachings.

In order to do this, Camp Lown, which opened in 1945 in Oakland, held traditional Shabbat services on Friday night. Camps like Lown encouraged Jewish youth to associate their religious tradition with fun and strong communal bonds.

Research has demonstrated that Jews who attend summer camp are more likely to be involved in the Jewish community later in life.


3
Teachers of the Portland Hebrew School, 1926

Teachers of the Portland Hebrew School, 1926

Item 5498 info
Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

Though Jewish summer camps played an important role in maintaining Jewish traditions, young Jews found their primary source of education in Hebrew Schools.

These schools are responsible for transmitting the values of Jewish culture to the next generation of adults.


4
Beth Israel play, Waterville, ca. 1955

Beth Israel play, Waterville, ca. 1955

Item 53716 info
Colby College Special Collections

Students are taught to read and write in Hebrew in order to prepare them for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Through this preparation, the schools fulfill their aim of teaching children the stories and meaning behind Judaism.


5
Men studying, Portland, ca. 1940

Men studying, Portland, ca. 1940

Item 53720 info
The Cedars

Individuals also took it upon themselves to study their faith, alone as well as in groups. Studying Jewish texts was a pastime that reinforced religious teachings and also brought like-minded people together.

This picture shows a group of men studying at the Jewish Home for the Aged in Portland.


6
Family Passover Seder, Bangor, ca. 1940

Family Passover Seder, Bangor, ca. 1940

Item 53721 info
Bangor Public Library

In addition to maintaining cohesive religious communities, upholding tradition within individual households was extremely important in preserving Jewish identity in Maine.

It was the role of the family to ensure that religious traditions were upheld inside the home.

This photograph shows a typical Passover Seder, during which family and friends gather to celebrate age-old traditions.


7
Globe Yiddish Theater, Auburn, 1914

Globe Yiddish Theater, Auburn, 1914

Item 56926 info
Colby College Special Collections

The language we use in order to communicate with those around us affects the way we think and how we conceive of ourselves. English was generally not the first language of Jewish immigrants to the United States, who often continued to use their mother tongue.

Hyman Rosenthal of Waterville read Yiddish newspapers sent to him by his brothers in New York and New Jersey.

The store records of Waterville's William Levine reveal that he also did his reading and writing in Yiddish.

A traveling theater group, the Globe Yiddish Theater, performed around Maine with plays in Yiddish.


8
Abraham Hains circumcision kit, Waterville, ca. 1930

Abraham Hains circumcision kit, Waterville, ca. 1930

Item 53712 info
Colby College Special Collections

Religious rituals play a major role in emphasizing a person's Jewishness and establishing his or her place and role within the religious community.

The ritual of circumcision leaves a permanent mark on the body of a Jewish male that fulfills his covenant with God. The circumcision equipment shown here made that mark on many of the Jewish men of Maine.

Rabbi Abraham Hains, who served as Waterville's kosher butcher, owned this equipment.

The handle of the knife broke during its last use, only months before Rabbi Hains passed away in 1953.

This bris, or circumcison ritual, welcomed many of Maine's Jewish infants into the Jewish community and established their relationship with God.


9
Bar mitzvah invitation, Portland, 1957

Bar mitzvah invitation, Portland, 1957

Item 53998 info
Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh

For the Jewish community, the transition from being a child to being an adult comes in the form of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. The ritual formally and publicly recognizes a Jewish youth's obligation to uphold Jewish law at the age of 12 for girls and 13 for boys. A great deal of study and preparation is necessary in order to become Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

This tradition is one of the most significant means of maintaining Jewish identity in small-town Maine, because preparations for the ceremony facilitate understanding of the religious faith and community.

This ceremony is also the point at which Jews become adults, accepting the responsibilities of upholding the values and laws of the faith, making it an integral component of ensuring that the religious community has a future.


This slideshow contains 9 items