PORTLAND, Maine – Maine Humanities Council recently awarded a major grant to Mt. Carmel Cemetery Association, Bayside Neighborhood Association, and Maine Historical Society to help them pursue a fascinating chapter in the history of the Jewish Community in Maine. The grant funds will be used to re-create the life of Anshe Sfard Synagogue, located at 216-218 Cumberland Ave. in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, from 1916 until it was razed in 1983.
Although not much is commonly known about the presence of pre-World War II Chassidic Jews in the United States, there were many communities of Chassidim all over the country, including Portland’s Anshe Sfard Synagogue. Susan Cummings-Lawrence, Maine Historical Society’s consulting researcher on Maine’s Jewish history, will explore the life of this unique congregation and increase public awareness of the complexity of Portland community life and experience.
Cummings-Lawrence will begin the project by conducting oral history interviews with the few surviving former members of Anshe Sfard. Her research will culminate in a digital exhibition related to the synagogue and its members on Maine Memory Network (www.mainememory.net), Maine Historical Society’s nationally-recognized online museum, a lecture and neighborhood ghost tour conducted by the Bayside Neighborhood Association, and an exhibition of historical materials at Maine Historical Society later this year.
Maine Historical Society received a generous gift of archival material related to the synagogue in 2010 through their Maine Jewish History Project–the Anshe Sfard project represents an effort to locate any more documents, photographs and Judaica that may still exist in the community. Any newly-discovered material could be used in the exhibitions and, if owners are willing, preserved and made available to the researchers and the public.
Anyone with knowledge of Anshe Sfard is invited to contact Susan Cummings-Lawrence, Project Director, c/o Maine Historical Society, 774-1822, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress St., Portland 04101; 774-1822.