Dedication of Temple Beth Israel
National Register of Historic Places
The efforts of Mark Seiler in preparing the nomination papers for the Temple Beth Israel Synagogue building for placement on the National Registry of Historic Buildings naturally led him to talk to and meet many of the former members of the congregation. Through these contacts he learned the true extent of the impact these individuals and families had on the greater community of Stevens Point.
This was not "just" another dedication ceremony but a renewal of friendships, an expression of pride in the Jewish Community of Stevens Point and also a homecoming event. The keynote speaker, Rabbi Isaac Lerer, came to Stevens Point in August 1949 at age 19 and was immediately accepted as their Rabbi. Though he only remained here for 2 years, he has maintained contact with many of the families of this congregation. During his speech, more a reminiscence, there were many "moist" eyes among the estimated 150 people that attended the dedication. (Photographs)
Mark Seiler has written a history entitled "the Jewish Community of Stevens Point", which was published gratis for the Portage County Historical Society by Worzalla Publishing of Stevens Point. All proceeds from the sale of the book will become part of an endowment in the Community Foundation of Portage County. Only the interest revenues from the endowment will be expended to maintain Temple Beth Israel.
In the past the Historical Society displayed different exhibits in the synagogues every two years. Now a permanent exhibit has been installed. In the future there may also be smaller complementary exhibits displayed there.
The permanent exhibit in Temple Beth Israel Museum illustrates practices of the Jewish religion and memorializes the Stevens Point Jewish Community and its many contributions to the Stevens Point community.
From 1871-2000 some 140 Jewish businesses were established in Stevens Point, some lasting a few years while others were in business for a half century or longer. From 1930-1960 downtown Stevens Point was home to 20-30 businesses on Main and Clark Streets and on the Public Square. Some of these firms included: Mirman Furniture, Northwest Liquor, Peacock Jewelry, Karp's Bootery, Stevens, Weltman's, Rudnick's Food Store, the Big Shoe Store, and Lipman Furniture. Elsewhere in the city were Cigel's grocery store, the Garber Supply Company and the Holiday Inn.
Members of Beth Israel Congregation played an active role in the civic life of Stevens Point. They were members of all the service clubs, received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Junior Chamber of Commerce, were founders of the Community Chest - now the United Way - were active in the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, and the Chamber of Commerce. Two city parks were donated by members of the Jewish Community.
A companion book has been published by the Society written by Mark Seiler. It is available at $25.00 for non-Society members or $20.00 for members. Plus a shipping charge of $5.00 per book.Send checks or money orders to:
Portage County Historical Society
P. O. Box 672
Stevens Point, WI 54481
For large orders please call 715-344-4423.
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