Experiences of Jewish Teenagers in Maine

Text by Madeline Kurtz

Images from Colby College Special Collections, Bowdoin College Library, and Maine Historical Society

In many ways, 20th century Jewish teens were exactly the same as the other teens throughout the state: they played sports, socialized regularly, and went to summer camp.

So what made them different? Jewish teens in Maine experienced discrimination in the first half of the 20th century, whether they were being excluded from fraternities on college campuses or being called names on the basketball court.

Nevertheless, Jewish teens established their own organizations that were distinctively Jewish, while still embracing and assimilating into the Maine lifestyle. They founded their own fraternities, attended Jewish summer camps, and experienced great success in athletics.

Beginning in the 1920s and continuing today, Jewish teenagers in Maine have sought both to integrate into Maine's teen culture and to establish their own identity as Jewish teens.

For these teens, their Jewish and Maine identities were equally important in their lives. Thus, the two cultures fused together to create a single identity of which the teens were extremely proud.

Madeline Kurtz of Westport, Connecticut, is a member of the Colby College Class of 2014.

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