Maine – Summer 2018 Trip, Part 1

It seems to be time for me to begin catching up with my blogging. Here I am, settled into my hotel for the night in Kalisz, Poland, and I haven’t posted much of anything online about what I’ve been doing. With the other conference bloggers already on their way, I decided I’d get started.

This year’s summer trip is a big one. Just like the IAJGS conference in Paris set me on a trip a month long in Europe, so did the IAJGS conference in Warsaw.

To begin my trip to Europe, I went to Maine. Yes, the state. I began my trip to Europe in Maine.

My cousin Bonnie threw a smallish reunion. The Wolfe family was based in Portland, Maine for a while, where she still lives, so she invited a bunch of cousins to see where their ancestors lived, where they worshipped, and generally to walk in their footsteps.

I arrived earlier than most and spent a couple nights at Bonnie’s home. She drove me around and pointed things out along the way, most of which we revisited for the official reunion or I saw again on a trolley tour. We visited the two Portland area Jewish cemeteries where relatives and almost relatives were buried. And we visited four lighthouses.

Then the other cousins started showing up. I ended up rooming with Cheryl and hanging out with sisters Stacey and Sydney. As it turned out, these were the only people at the reunion who are not my cousins, but they were a lot of fun.

How are they not my cousins at a family reunion? Bonnie invited mostly people that she knew in the Wolfe branch of the family, and a few outside of it. It was supposed to be a Szleper/Shemper reunion: Moses Wolfe married Ida Shemper then Ruchel Szleper, who later went by Rose Bornstein. While a few non-Wolfes were supposed to be there, in the end, it was just me and the Wolfe pack (and spouses and significant others).

Bonnie arranged for a little walking tour, starting at the active synagogue, going to the house where Moses and Rose lived, and going to the ex-synagogue that they helped to found. The next day, we had a big meal farther south and went to Old Orchard Beach Pier. We finished off with a brunch at the community room at Bonnie’s home. Each day had a few more people join in and she left us plenty of time for touring and touristing.

It was a blast. I got to meet a pack of Wolfe cousins all in one place. I’d already met a few, but there were so many more I was already in contact with mostly via Facebook. Plus, there were a few surprise attendees too.

Besides weddings and such where a bunch of family show up and it’s sort of a reunion, this was only my second family reunion. (The first was five people, so this was really different.) I do hope that more of my relatives plan things like this. I wouldn’t be able to decide which branch of the family to do first, how big to make it, where to go, or what to do. But I’d be happy to try to help in the planning and the finding of relatives to invite.

Update: It has been pointed out to me that 50 people is not a “smallish” reunion. While I have seen pictures and heard of reunions of 100 people, I can agree that 50 was probably at least medium sized. Also that five generations of Wolfes have lived in Portland, which means, I’ve had relatives living there for over 100 years.

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