Short history of the Jewish community of Greater Waterville

"Shortly after the turn of the century, in the days of the horse and wagon and the itinerant peddler, seven men of the Jewish faith settled in Waterville. These men, who earned their livelihood by peddling various wares, soon were faced with the need to band together in an effort to foster Judaism for themselves and their families. The Beth Israel Congregation was chartered June 16, 1902. The seven founding fathers included Julius Levine, William Levine, Louis Wolman, John Paikowsky, Phillip Levine, Moses Silver and John Williams. Their ultimate goal was to build a House of Worship for the Jewish residents of Waterville.

Before this dream could become reality, however, they found it necessary to conduct religious services at various private homes in the community. High Holy Day Services were conducted at Hose No. 4 Fire Station on Ticonic Street. On August 21, 1903, a barn, situated on the corner of Kelsey and Ticonic Streets, was purchased by the Congregation. This barn was dismantled, and by securing additional new lumber, work was begun on the new building. The project was accomplished under the direction and guidance of Mr. Charles Fitzgerald of Winslow.

In 1905, the Beth Israel Synagogue on Kelsey Street was completed. This was unique in that it was wholly supported from dues of members, which at that time, were ten cents a week, or $5.00 per year. There was a substantial mortgage however, and 20 years later, in 1925, the balance of the mortgage was paid by William Levine, in memory of his son, Theodore N. Levine.

Mr. Moses Silver, who emigrated to Waterville in 1900, became the first "Shochet" or ritual leader, even before the completion of the Synagogue. Mr. Hyman L. Shenson became the spiritual leader in the years that followed until about 1914, at which time there was a succession of different rabbis "

- Beth Israel website Nov 2007.

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page updated : August 5, 2015

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