Bangor

Bangor was established in the mid-19th century. Located on the Penobscot River, Bangor was one of Maine’s wealthiest towns during these years, and drew a large immigrant population due in great part to the booming lumber industry. In 1849, a small group of German Jews lived in Bangor, establishing a kosher butcher shop and purchasing a piece of land suitable for a burial ground. By 1850. they had organized the first synagogue in Maine.

Bangor Jewish Census

(estimated)

1860-1990

Bangor

Congregation Beth Abraham

1933-present

Torah dedication, 1938
Congregation Beth Abraham, 1933
Congregation Beth Abraham, 1983
Congregation Beth Abraham, today
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Beth Abraham Synagogue

Affiliation

Rabbi

Location

Website

Phone

Orthodox

Rabbi Chaim Wilansky

145 York Street, Bangor

www.JewishBangor.org

(207)947-0876

Beth Abraham Synagogue

Congregational Timeline

1902

Ten men came together to begin a synagogue that would align with their way of life. They rented rooms on Pine Street where they would congregate to pray on holy days.

c1930-1937

Rabbi Louis Levine served as rabbi

1937

Rabbi Charles Nathan Goldberg installed as rabbi.

1983

50-year celebration of York Street synagogue with 150 people in attendance.

1999-2001

Rabbi Boaz Tomsky served congregation.

1904

Bangor experienced its largest immigration of Russian Jews. The rented rooms could no longer accommodate the increasing number of congregants.

1932

The original synagogue built at 37 Carr Street was destroyed by fire.

1957

Rabbi Philip Weinberger installed as the first Yeshiva trained rabbi to serve the congregation.

1984

Synagogue destroyed by fire. Rabbi Isaacs donned a firefighter’s coat and hat, rushed into the building, and saved the Torahs.

2001-2008

Rabbi Fred Nebel served congregation.

1907

The first “Russhishe” shul was established at 37 Carr Street in a building built a few years earlier. Because they wanted their new shul to exemplify their love and commitment to Jewish tradition and ritual, they had the building turned around so it faced the east when they prayed. They also made it a three-story building to meet the demands of a growing congregation. In addition, they purchased land for a cemetery and formed a Chevra Kadisha.

1933

Synagogue rebuilt at the current location on York Street, the home of former Tifereth Israel synagogue no longer in use. Rabbi Louis Levine presided over the opening celebration which drew 700 people.

1960

Rabbi Henry Isaacs installed as rabbi.

1985

Current synagogue dedicated.

2015

Rabbi Chaim Wilansky installed as rabbi.

Beth Abraham Synagogue

Clergy Leadership Over the Years:

Bangor

Congregation Beth El

1981-present

Congregation Beth El

Affiliation

Rabbi

Location

Website

Phone

Reform

Rabbi Darah Lerner

183 French Street, Bangor

www.BethElBangor.org

(207)945-4578

Congregation Beth El

Congregational Timeline

1981

A handful of families announced an open meeting to discuss plans to establish a Reform congregation in Bangor. With an overwhelming response from 25 families, discussions began., as did once-a-month Friday night services which were held in the Jewish Community Center and the Unitarian Church, and were led by congregation members. Rabbi Paul Menitoff served the congregation for high holidays until 1986.

1988

Rabbi Shoshana Perry hired, serving the congregation until 1994.

2005

Rabbi Darah Lerner hired and continues to serve the congregation.

1983

Membership increased over time with thirteen students enrolled in the Hebrew school, and members coming from as far as Bar Harbor and Penobscot.

1994

Membership grew to nearly 100 families and the congregation voted in Rabbi Laurence Milder as their first full-time rabbi.

1987

The board of directors hired the congregation’s first rabbi, Rabbi David Sandmel, who divided his time between Bangor and Portland’s newly formed Congregation Bet Ha’am.

1995

After a six-month capital campaign, the congregation was able to purchase their current property, a former Christian Science Reading Room. On March 1, Rabbi Laurence Milder and congregants walked their Torah from the Unitarian Church to their current home. In April, the building was officially dedicated, with then-Congressman John Baldacci and then-Governor Angus King in attendance.

Congregation Beth El

Clergy Leadership Over the Years:

Congregation Beth El

Intra-Jewish events

  • The synagogue has partnered in prior years with Congregation Beth Israel for a joint religious school. Today they continue to hold joint family-education events.

Bangor

Congregation
Beth Israel

1888-present

Bangor’s first synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, founded in 1897
Congregation Beth Israel, 1913
Congregation Beth Israel, Today
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Congregation Beth Israel

Affiliation

Rabbi

Location

Website

Phone

Conservative

Rabbi Bill Siemers

144 York Street, Bangor

www.CongregationBethIsraelBangor.com

(207)945-3433

Congregation Beth Israel

Congregational Timeline

1888

Congregation Beth Israel was formally organized, after an influx to Maine of Lithuanian and Polish Jews, with 16 members attending the initial meeting.  

1903

Rabbi Louis Seltzer was chosen as Beth Israel’s first spiritual leader.

April 30, 1911

The synagogue was destroyed in the great Bangor fire.

1925-1930

Rabbi Eliezer Levine served both Beth Abraham and Beth Israel.

1948

The synagogue, which had been Orthodox throughout its history, committed itself to the Conservative Movement.

1976

Rabbi Alan M. Kalinsky served the congregation until his departure for a pulpit in New York.

October 7, 1988

100th-anniversary celebration with Chaim Potok as keynote speaker.

2008

Rabbi Stephen Schwartzman served the congregation until his departure for a pulpit in Massachusetts.

August 22, 1897

The cornerstone was laid for what would be the first synagogue in Maine.

1906

Rabbi Louis Plotkin served congregation following Rabbi Seltzer’s departure for a pulpit in New Jersey.

1911

The second (current) structure was built and dedicated in 1912.

1937-1939

Rabbi Bernard L. Berzon served the three Orthodox congregations in Bangor.

1949-1969

Rabbi Avraham Freedman served the congregation during a time of rapid growth and served the congregation until his retirement.

1982

Rabbi Joseph P. Schonberger served the congregation. He was to be the congregation’s first Conservative rabbi and served until 1997.

1998

Rabbi Yisrael Rod Brettler served the congregation after Rabbi Schonberger’s departure.

2011

Rabbi Justin Goldstein served the congregation after Rabbi Schwartzman’s departure.

December 19, 1897

Synagogue dedicated.

1909

Rabbi Mordecai Klatchko served the congregation following Rabbi Plotkin’s departure for New York City.

1912

Rabbi Moishe Shohet served the congregation after Rabbi Klatcho’s departure for a pulpit in New York City and left for Portland in 1925 to take over as rabbi of Etz Chaim for his father who had died.

1945-1947

Rabbi Moishe Zucker served the congregation before leaving to serve as a professor of Rabbinic Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

1971

Rabbi Irving A. Margolies served the congregation until his departure for a pulpit in New York.

May 16, 1988

Rededication with Rabbi Harold Kushner serving as keynote speaker.

2001

Rabbi David Cantor served the congregation until his departure in 2008 for a pulpit in Rhode Island.

2014

Rabbi William Siemers hired to serve the congregation.

Congregation Beth Israel

Clergy Leadership Over the Years:

Congregation Beth Israel

Intra-Jewish events

  • The Chevra Kadisha serves three congregations in Bangor and is principally constituted by members of Congregation Beth Israel.
  • The synagogue has partnered in prior years with Temple Beth El for a joint religious school. Today they continue to hold joint family-education events.
  • In past years, the congregations shared a rabbi in order to keep expenses manageable.

Congregation Beth Israel

Tikkun Olam projects

  • “We are participating in a program called ‘Welcoming Immigrant Neighbors’ which helps new Mainers acclimate to life in the Greater Bangor region.”
  • Rabbi Siemers has constructed a course for UMaine’s Judaic studies program that offers a full perspective on anti-Semitism. He has also served as President of UMaine’s Wilson Center, an independent organization that creates and encourages multifaith dialogue.
  • “We recently authored a letter to leaders of the Bangor School District concerning Black students, victims of racism, signed our name to it, and raised funds for the effort.”

Myer Minsky

Myer Minsky (1888 -1971) was born in Kreva, Russia and arrived with his family in Bangor  in 1904.  He served as president of the Maine State Zionist organization, vice-president of the New England Zionist Organization and charter member and president of  B’nai B’rith. He was vice president of the New England Jewish National Fund, vice president of the Bangor Hebrew school, and vice president of Congregation Beth Israel. He inspired his sons Leonard and Norman (who served as long-time president of Congregation Beth Israel as well as the progenitor of the congregation’s endowment fund) to a lifelong commitment to Jewish interests.

Meyer Minsky, seated on right

Rabbi Avraham H. Freedman

Rabbi Freedman served Congregation Beth Israel for 20 years.  Born in Russia in 1906, he served in Ontario after his ordination from Yeshiva University. From there, he left for Durban, South Africa where he served both in a synagogue and as a chaplain during WWII.  In 1949, he left South Africa for Bangor. Rabbi Freedman held a deep conviction that once a rabbi is elected to serve, he must become the guide. He was considered a fearless and articulate crusader for human rights, considering it his duty to march beyond the walls of one building and to minister to the community. During his time, the congregation grew considerably. On his 10th anniversary, he was lauded in the press for his contributions to his synagogue and  to the larger community. His record of achievement was duly noted when the board of directors voted him a life tenure in 1963.  In 1969, Rabbi Freedman retired from the pulpit, and spent the next two years studying in Israel.

Rabbi Joseph Schonberger

Rabbi Schonberger was born in Israel and raised in Ontario, Canada. Ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary, he brought a wide range of knowledge and interests with him to Bangor where he served from 1982-1997. He considered it his role to re-establish Congregation Beth Israel as a community hub for all ages.  His goal was to spread his belief that the congregation should be viewed as an extended family.  Congregation Beth Israel was Rabbi Schonberger’s first full-time pulpit, and he was the congregation’s first true Conservative rabbi. During his tenure, he oversaw the introduction of aliyot and unaccompanied Torah honors for women.