In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

The Congregation

This Exhibit Contains 7 Items
1
Waterman Jewelry Store, Portland, ca. 1920

Waterman Jewelry Store, Portland, ca. 1920

Item 34962 info
Maine Historical Society

Shaarey Tphiloh was founded by and home to many Yiddish-speaking Eastern European immigrants who brought with them Orthodox traditions.

One early, active family was Ellis and Bella Waterman and their children, Arthur, Sadie, and Harriet.

Ellis Waterman emigrated from Russia in 1889 when he was about seven. His wife was a Maine native whose parents were Russian immigrants.

Arthur, who chaired the 1956 Golden Jubilee of the synagogue wrote that the occasion brought "Joy that comes from the knowledge that the spark of orthodox Judaism which was kindled in our community fifty years ago burns more brightly than ever before."


2
Arthur Waterman, Portland, ca. 1965

Arthur Waterman, Portland, ca. 1965

Item 35044 info
Maine Historical Society

Arthur Waterman, who chaired the 1956 Golden Jubilee of the synagogue wrote that the occasion brought "Joy that comes from the knowledge that the spark of orthodox Judaism which was kindled in our community fifty years ago burns more brightly than ever before."

The Jubilee was a chance to remember the synagogue's roots, even as the congregation was modernizing.

The program for the event recalled what it took to build the synagogue in 1904. "Those who were not busy raising funds, devoted themselves to the actual construction of the building.

"Bricks and materials were carried by hand or on wagons. Congregation members served as painters, carpenters, and plasterers."


3
Confirmation, Shaarey Tphiloh, Portland, 1938

Confirmation, Shaarey Tphiloh, Portland, 1938

Item 52662 info
Portland Public Library

Orthodox Jewish synagogues separate men and women in worship with a divider called a mechitza. According to Jewish law, males are obligated in time-bound commandments while women are exempt, and therefore men take on greater roles in the prayer service. 

Shaarey Tphiloh congregation adhered to traditional laws of Orthodox Judaism, but also dealt with the acculturation of the congregation to American life.

Women took on greater roles in the congregation as time went on. Confirmation ceremonies for girls were followed by bat mitzvah ceremonies, in which the laws were tweaked to allow for greater women’s participation.  


4
Bas Mitzvah class, Portland, 1961

Bas Mitzvah class, Portland, 1961

Item 54093 info
Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh

As Shaarey Tphiloh modernized, it became important for girls to be educated as well as boys, although studies and even the coming of age ceremony differed for boys and girls.

Religious education for girls began when the synagogue moved to its new facility on Noyes Street in 1956.

Members of Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh's Bas Mitzvah class from about 1957 are, front row, from left, Susan Cohen, Libby Modes, unidentified, and Jackie Young. At rear are Ronnie Boxstein, Joy Bekritsky, and Sylvia Aron.


5
Shaarey Tphiloh High Holy Days ticket, Portland, 1973

Shaarey Tphiloh High Holy Days ticket, Portland, 1973

Item 54194 info
Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh

As historian Michael Cohen has written, Shaarey Tphiloh from its beginnings attempted to balance being "American" and being "Jewish."

While the congregation has held onto many Orthodox beliefs and traditions, it also has integrated into the larger community and modernized some of its practices.

Rabbi Steven Dworken, who came to Portland in 1971, urged the congregation to remain observant and stressed the difference Orthodox and Conservative Judaism.

He used the phrase, "ReJEWvinate It's Not Too Late."


6
Israel bond coupon, ca. 1950

Israel bond coupon, ca. 1950

Item 54116 info
Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh

Most Jewish congregations sold Israel bonds to show their support for the new state of Israel and their solidarity with other Jews.


7
Jewish study group, Portland, ca. 1985

Jewish study group, Portland, ca. 1985

Item 54117 info
Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh

Another example of holding to Orthodox beliefs while accommodating some elements of contemporary life is the change in study groups.

Chevra mishnayas -- groups who studied Jewish texts -- began in Portland early in the 20th century, with men gathering daily at the synagogue.

When people's schedules began to change and they could no longer easily gather at the synagogue for study, the groups began to meet for lunch or at member's offices.

Meeting at Perry's on Fore Street in Portland, are, from left, Shaarey Tphiloh members Joe Bornstein, Rabbi Mandel, Reuben Siegal, Richard Slosberg.


This Exhibit Contains 7 Items