The second annual Maine Jewish Hall of Fame garden party and awards presentation Sept. 22 at the Maine Jewish Museum was a bit like a family reunion, with relatives flying in from other parts of the country to remember the good works of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

The Maine Jewish Museum sought nominations from the public for inspiring stories of Maine Jews whose work and lives reflect the value of making the world a better place through outstanding accomplishments, humanitarian efforts or philanthropy.

“This is to honor people for the lives they have led and what they have contributed to their communities, and to the state of Maine,” said the executive director, Gary Barron.

Honorees included Scarborough residents Peter and Paula Lunder, longtime supporters of numerous health care and arts institutions in Maine and nationally.

“We consider this to be among the most significant honors bestowed upon us in our lifetimes,” said Peter Lunder, a former president of Dexter Shoe Co. “We are very happy to be included in this outstanding group. … We try to do well by doing good.”

“In times of increasing anti-Semitism and hate, it’s more important than ever that we as Jews continue to do good works,” said the board president, Steve Brinn of Cape Elizabeth. “We need to recognize generations of people who came before us and had lives a lot more difficult than we do. Nine of our 10 inductees are no longer with us, but their families are.”

Inductees included Albert “Jim” Abrahamson, the first Jew on the faculty of Bowdoin College; Lawrence Cutler, the first Jew on the medical staff of what is now Eastern Maine Medical Center; and Benjamin Stern, the first Jew elected to the Maine House of Representatives.

Inductees served their communities passionately. Dr. Albert Aranson, who was chief of medicine at Maine Medical Center from 1967-87, took on the tobacco lobby by having cigarette machines banned from the hospital. Louise Berliawsky Nevelson, who grew up in Rockland, became one of the most noted sculptors of the 20th century, commemorated by a series of five U.S. postage stamps. And Rita Sacknoff Willis, who volunteered with dozens of community organizations in the Portland area, was instrumental in establishing the Hebrew Free Loan program, which continues to assist Jews in need.

Several honorees were business owners as well as community leaders, including Julius “Yudy” Elowitch of Yudy’s Tire, Sidney Epstein of Epstein Properties and Nathan Povich, who opened a furniture store in Bath during World War I. Both Elowitch and Epstein were once president of the Jewish Community Center, and Povich was a founder of Beth Israel Congregation in Bath.

“It’s still active today,” said Marcia Klompus of Bath, one of Povich’s granddaughters. “Every one of the Poviches here are members.”

Nathan and Rosa Povich had 10 children, and their descendants traveled from as far as Hawaii to accept the Hall of Fame recognition on their behalf.

“Maine is the anchor for my extended family, which spans the globe,” said Lon Povich of Bath.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected].

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