Thirteen men from Bangor's small German-Jewish community came together to form Maine's first synagogue, Ahawas Achim ("Brotherly Love").
Gathering to meet the religious needs of members, their first action was the purchase of land for a cemetery in July 1849.
In March 1850 Ahawas Achim rented rooms to house its religious services. Although Ahawas Achim disbanded in 1856 when its congregants left Bangor to find work elsewhere, the synagogue was reestablished by a second group of German-Jewish immigrants in 1874 when they retrieved the first Ahawas Achim's important religious objects, such as the Sefer Torah (Torah scroll), from the synagogue in Boston where they were being kept.
Congregants from the second Ahawas Achim integrated quickly into the population of Bangor. This group intermarried at such a high rate that the congregation again disbanded after only a few years.
While Bangor's first synagogues lasted only a few years, they laid the groundwork for a number of long-lasting synagogues that followed.
Beth Israel, Maine's first permanent congregation, was established in Bangor during the 1880s. By 1888 this congregation had organized more fully and again retrieved Ahawas Achim's Sefer Torah from the synagogue holding it in Boston.
Beth Israel constructed a synagogue to hold services in 1897, but by then members of the congregation had already begun the shift characteristic to American Judaism toward more home-based tradition, and many members were already performing some rituals in their homes.
Temple services were still important, but as the Jewish community of Bangor shows, they were just one option Jews had to maintain their culture in the late 19th century.
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