In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

Experience of Jewish Teenagers in Maine

YMCA basketball team, Waterville, 1944

YMCA basketball team, Waterville, 1944

Item 56913 info
Colby College Special Collections

Many of Maine's teenagers were involved in sports, and Jews were no exception. However, between the 1920s and 1940s, it was often tough for Jews to get involved.

As Ethel Talberth of Waterville recalled, "I loved sports. And, in order to engage in them, I had to bow down to the Catholic people. One would say, 'If you want me to vote for you, you have to scrub coals—you're Jewish.'"

But despite discrimination and name-calling on the courts and fields, Jewish teens had great success in athletics.

In 1944, Teddy Shiro was on the Waterville basketball team that won a New England title. By the 1950s and '60s, the name-calling turned from anti-Semitic to playful jokes.

Peter Beckerman, another Waterville native, remembered that his friends called him "bagel eater" on the basketball court. This did not offend him because it was funny and pertained to his identity.

Even if Jews experienced name-calling, they embraced the athletic lifestyle of Maine.

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