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Beth Israel Congregation

   
 
 
 

The Old Country

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries about 2,000,000 Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews left their homes in Eastern Europe to make a new life in America. They left their families and friends, knowing that they would probably never see them again. When asked by census takers for their country of origin, most would declare that they were from Russia. This territory would not only include today's political boundaries of Russia, but also the Pale of Settlement, which included Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and parts of Poland.

The Jews of Bath were no exception to this. All of the early immigrants were of Russian background. Many began as peddlers before they had raised enough money to open shops and begin practicing their trades. As they learned to read and speak English, the use of Yiddish became less common.

They formed new bonds with other members of the local Jewish community in Bath and Brunswick. The return visit of the Cohens to their ancestral homes was not common and was a cause for celebration. In 1930, after 16 years in Bath, Morris Cohen was able to take his American family on this journey to visit the family he left behind as well as that of his wife, Dora Petlock Cohen.


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