Making It in Maine: Stories of Jewish Life in Small-Town America

Rabbi Dr. David Freidenreich, the associate director of the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, spoke as part of the Haberman Institute’s American Jewish Life series in May 2023 about one of his areas of research: small town Jewish life. Jews have a long history in Maine, with thriving communities across the state. They came to Maine for the same reasons as so many others: to live well and raise their families within the state’s appealing natural and cultural environment.

The experiences of Jewish Mainers, however, have also been distinctive on account of their occupational choices and traditions as well as their encounters with antisemitism. How have Jews sought to contribute to Maine’s economic, cultural, and social landscape, and how did they gain widespread acceptance? How have these Mainers sustained their own religion, culture, and ethnic ties while embracing the broader communities to which they belong? How did the challenges and opportunities that Jews faced in Maine change over time, and how do these challenges relate to those faced by Jews in other parts of the country?