Keywords: Religious community
Immigration is one of the most debated topics in Maine. Controversy aside, immigration is also America's oldest tradition, and along with religious tolerance, what our nation was built upon. Since the first people--the Wabanaki--permitted Europeans to settle in the land now known as Maine, we have been a state of immigrants.
Shaarey Tphiloh was founded in 1904 by immigrants from Eastern Europe. While accommodating to American society, the Orthodox synagogue also has retained many of its traditions.
Thirty-four young Jewish men from Maine died in the service of their country in the two World Wars. This project, including a Maine Memory Network exhibit, is meant to say a little something about some of them. More than just names on a public memorial marker or grave stone, these men were getting started in adult life. They had newly acquired high school and college diplomas, they had friends, families and communities who loved and valued them, and felt the losses of their deaths.
Grade Level: 6-12
Content Area: English Language Arts, Social Studies
Longfellow's poem "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport" opens up the issue of the earliest history of the Jews in America, and the significant roles they played as businessmen and later benefactors to the greater community. The history of the building itself is notable in terms of early American architecture, its having been designed, apparently gratis, by the most noted architect of the day. Furthermore, the poem traces the history of Newport as kind of a microcosm of New England commercial cities before the industrialization boom. For almost any age student the poem could be used to open up interest in local cemeteries, which are almost always a wealth of curiousities and history. Longfellow and his friends enjoyed exploring cemeteries, and today our little local cemeteries can be used to teach little local histories and parts of the big picture as well. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited the Jewish cemetery in Newport, RI on July 9, 1852. His popular poem about the site, published two years later, was certainly a sympathetic portrayal of the place and its people. In addition to Victorian romantic musings about the "Hebrews in their graves," Longfellow includes in this poem references to the historic persecution of the Jews, as well as very specific references to their religious practices. Since the cemetery and the nearby synagogue were restored and protected with an infusion of funding just a couple years after Longfellow's visit, and later a congregation again assembled, his gloomy predictions about the place proved false (never mind the conclusion of the poem, "And the dead nations never rise again!"). Nevertheless, it is a fascinating poem, and an interesting window into the history of the nation's oldest extant synagogue.
Grade Level: 9-12
Content Area: Social Studies, Visual & Performing Arts
When European settlers began coming to the wilderness of North America, they did not have a vision that included changing their lifestyle. The plan was to set up self-contained communities where their version of European life could be lived. In the introduction to The Crucible, Arthur Miller even goes as far as saying that the Puritans believed the American forest to be the last stronghold of Satan on this Earth. When Roger Chillingworth shows up in The Scarlet Letter's second chapter, he is welcomed away from life with "the heathen folk" and into "a land where iniquity is searched out, and punished in the sight of rulers and people." In fact, as history's proven, they believed that the continent could be changed to accommodate their interests. Whether their plans were enacted in the name of God, the King, or commerce and economics, the changes always included and still do to this day - the taming of the geographic, human, and animal environments that were here beforehand. It seems that this has always been an issue that polarizes people. Some believe that the landscape should be left intact as much as possible while others believe that the world will inevitably move on in the name of progress for the benefit of mankind. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby a book which many feel is one of the best portrayals of our American reality - the narrator, Nick Carraway, looks upon this progress with cynicism when he ends his narrative by pondering the transformation of "the fresh green breast of a new world" that the initial settlers found on the shores of the continent into a modern society that unsettlingly reminds him of something out of a "night scene by El Greco." Philosophically, the notions of progress, civilization, and scientific advancement are not only entirely subjective, but also rest upon the belief that things are not acceptable as they are. Europeans came here hoping for a better life, and it doesn't seem like we've stopped looking. Again, to quote Fitzgerald, it's the elusive green light and the "orgiastic future" that we've always hoped to find. Our problem has always been our stoic belief system. We cannot seem to find peace in the world either as we've found it or as someone else may have envisioned it. As an example, in Miller's The Crucible, his Judge Danforth says that: "You're either for this court or against this court." He will not allow for alternative perspectives. George W. Bush, in 2002, said that: "You're either for us or against us. There is no middle ground in the war on terror." The frontier -- be it a wilderness of physical, religious, or political nature -- has always frightened Americans. As it's portrayed in the following bits of literature and artwork, the frontier is a doomed place waiting for white, cultured, Europeans to "fix" it. Anything outside of their society is not just different, but unacceptable. The lesson plan included will introduce a few examples of 19th century portrayal of the American forest as a wilderness that people feel needs to be hesitantly looked upon. Fortunately, though, the forest seems to turn no one away. Nature likes all of its creatures, whether or not the favor is returned. While I am not providing actual activities and daily plans, the following information can serve as a rather detailed explanation of things which can combine in any fashion you'd like as a group of lessons.