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.
Rabbi Chaim Wilansky
145 York Street, Bangor
Rabbi Darah Lerner
183 French Street, Bangor
Rabbi Bill Siemers
144 York Street, Bangor
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 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 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.