Background on Maine Jews and the Documenting Maine Jewry project

Why are there Jews in Maine?

Maine Jewish life brings to mind different things for different Jews. For some it is where they were born, live, and cannot imagine living anywhere else. For others, it is where they grew up and consequently hold special memories of childhood. Other Jews see Maine as the place that they have vacationed for years or went to summer camp. As with other Jewish communities, many families moved in because their relatives had asked them to come. And increasingly other Maine Jews are ones who have opted to move to Maine as the place where they want to live.

Stories about Jewish Life in Maine

Many of Maine's Jewish communities diverse family experiences have been captured in series of personal histories. Eighty-two of these personal histories are oral histories are available on the Portland Public Library website. Other of these experiences are shared face-to-face in a series of DMJ-sponsored Gatherings in and out of the State.

How did Jews get to Maine?

Some Jews in Maine arrived directly off the boat (116,000 European immigrants landed in the Portland harbor); others were relocated here by the oddly named Industrial Removal Office of HAIS in the early 1900s; others migrated here from the big cities seeking a physical environment more similar to their former shtetls or wanting to find economic opportunities from the timber industry or trading activities. Economic, social, and religious realities meant that some of the in-migrants or their descendants became out-migrants.

Where do Jews live in Maine?

Currently, the larger Jewish communities are in Auburn-Lewiston, Augusta , Biddeford-Saco , Bangor , Portland , Rockland , and Waterville . There are smaller Jewish communities in Bath, Old Orchard Beach, Old Town, and The County (Aroostook). And of course there are Jewish families in rural, back-to-the-land towns, Jewish students in Maine colleges and in inter-married families throughout the state.

These communities are supported by a range of community centers, synagogues, Jewish newsletters, and social service agencies. Current contact information for these community institutions are on the local home pages and in the organizational index.

State maps, maps of the Old country, and maps from-away places in North America can help trace this history. The burial records of Maine's 19 Jewish cemeteries, memorial boards, and Yarzheit records can link old family members with today's Jewish communities in the state and from away.

How can I contribute my family story about Maine?

The core of the project is the addition of new information by Maine Jews and other interested people, whether online through the website, by email, or by old-fashioned mail. Building the database DMJ has benefited from support from community centers, synagogues, family historians, Chevra Kiddisha, burial associations, social clubs, sports teams across the state and its partner organizations.

How can I help support DMJ?

Financial contributions to DMJ can honor their own Maine immigrant family or to inspire and inform the next generation of Maine Jews. These contribution supplement this largely volunteer effort by supporting data collection and outreach. DMJ is under the financial supervision of Temple Beth El, 400 Deering Ave, Portland, Maine 04103, Donations are welcome using the Tzedakah box below or by sending a gift (marked DMJ) to Temple Beth El.