CROSSING LINES: Histories of Jews and Gentiles in Three Communities by Judith S. Goldstein

CROSSING LINES: Histories of Jews and Gentiles in Three Communities

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A chronicle of Jewish settlement and assimilation in three Maine towns--Bangor, Mount Desert Island, and Calais--during the first half of this century, well told by a sociologist native to the region. By the end of the 19th century, Goldstein says, Bangor was a thriving lumber town and important railway hub. Its few Jewish citizens--mostly Germans who had emigrated during the 1840's and 50's--were unobtrusive, largely nonobservant, and held in high esteem by their Christian neighbors. (The Russian and Polish Jews who arrived later, mostly Orthodox and desperately poor, had a much harder time blending in.) Although Bangor never saw any real persecutions, the author explains, anti-Semitic sentiment among local residents increased as the Jewish population grew. Mount Desert Island, a fashionable summer resort near Bar Harbor, was largely off-limits to Jews of any class during this period: Most of its hotels and clubs had explicit ""restrictions"" forbidding the accommodation of Jews as members or guests. Only the little hamlet of Calais, which made no pretense of fashion or power, seemed untroubled by the newcomers: Its tiny Jewish population included some of the most prosperous and influential members of the community, who moved with ease among the older families of the region. Vivid and insightful, but very small in scope. Historians and sociologists--and, probably, Jews and New Englanders--will find Goldstein's study useful and diverting, but its subject is too narrow for just about everyone else.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow