Portraits of the Past: The Jews of Portland / Dr. Konnilyn G. Feig, Director
Commissioned by the Jewish Community Center, 1976
The Oral History Project of Documenting Maine Jewry
Supported by the Maine Humanities Council, 2009
The Jewish Bicentennial Committee was formed in 1975 by the Jewish Federation of Southern Maine to plan an appropriate way to celebrate the Bicentennial. After much deliberation over the best way in which to do so, the decision was made to create an oral history folklore of Portland Jewry.
Forty-four Portland Jewish residents were interviewed, the majority over the age of fifty and born of immigrant parents or were immigrants themselves. In reading or listening to these oral histories, one will learn of their backgrounds and family and community traditions, as well as the contributions they have made within the Greater Portland area.
Each record contains the final transcript of the interview, a set of audio files of the interview, and some include a photograph of the interviewee. The full transcripts of the interviews are held in Portland Public Library Special Collections Archive and can be viewed in the Portland Room upon request.
Judge Louis Bernstein was 75 years at the time of this interview and was a life long resident of Portland. He was a graduate of Portland High School, Bowdoin College, and Peabody Law School (the forerunner to the University of Maine Law School). He was a leading figure in the Portland Jewish Community and the Portland Community at large. He was a senior partner in the law firm founded by his brother, Israel. The firm later merged with Shur and Sawyer. He was also a founding member of Temple Beth El.
Sumner Bernstein, born in Portland, Maine, is the son of Israel and Rebecca Bernstein. He and his wife have two children. He is a partner in his father and uncle's firm, Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer and Nelson and has been active in many aspects of the Portland community, including but not limited to being the American Jewish Committee's representative in Maine, the National Board of Directors of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Portland City Council member and served as Chairman of the Maine Board of Bar Examiners.
He was interviewed September 16, 1976.
Rebecca Thurman Bernstein
Born in Boston in 1896, Rebecca Thurman Bernstein was the wife of Israel Bernstein.Prior to her marriage, she was a graduate of the Boston University Law School in 1917 and received her Masters in Law from BU in 1918. Following law school, she joined her father in his business, Jacob Thurman Company.
She married Israel Bernstein in 1922 and was active in the community affairs of Portland, social services and legislative changes in those areas in the State of Maine. Among her many appointments and engagements, she served on the Board of Trustees of the Portland Public Library, was a director of the United Fund Services, was the creator of Jewish Family Services, and served in many capacities to the National Council of Jewish Women.
She was interviewed in the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Maine, September 2, 1976.