Jennie Aranovitch - honoring family legacy and Jewish identity

A story by Biddeford Cultural & Heritage Center Voices of Biddeford project from early 1900s through 2023

Voices of Biddeford interview with Jennie Aranovitch on March 16, 2023

Family, Jewish identity, and love of learning played a pivotal role throughout Jennie's lifetime.  Despite opportunities to live and work in other areas and abroad, she was drawn back to Biddeford. She consciously continues to call our community home, even with a recent career change to a national nonprofit based in DC.

In addition to her career in communications at UNE, Jennie has played a pivotal role in the Jewish community. It began with spearheading a project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Congregation Etz Chaim. She continues to chronicle the Jewish experience through research and public presentations.

Jennie shares stories from her family including the compelling account of her great-grandparents' desire to leave Belarus, Russia, in the early 1900s and their harrowing ocean journey to Maine; the impact of WWII and tuberculosis on her mother's care as a child; her mother's fascinating life from her school years to master's prepared teacher in New York City to professional bodybuilder. Jennie recounts her Jewish childhood experiences in the 1980s-90s; the impact of her passion for studies, English in particular, from a young age; adapting to life at Colby and Oxford (England) during her junior year abroad; working and living in DC after college; as well as the experience of being there on 9-11-2001; the evolution of her UNE career in communications; the impact of the COVID pandemic on her and her children; the journey of her research and projects to capture the history of the Jewish community in the area; her teenage daughter's perspective on antisemitism; and her creative contribution as the designer of "Francois" Biddeford Winterfest's mascot; her reflections on Biddeford's prior reputation and its current renaissance, her current goal to learn Yiddish.

Recorded on March 16, 2023

View a transcript of this interview, more pictures, and additional information.

For more stories from the "Voices for Biddeford" project, visit Voices of Biddeford.

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