Beth Israel Synagogue
1475 Water St.
Stevens Point Wi. 54481
Placed on the Register of Historic Places April, 2006
See photos and text of the Dedication Ceremony held June 15, 2008.
Temple Beth Israel was constructed in 1905 and served as a house of worship for Stevens Point’s vibrant Jewish Community until 1985. At one time the congregation had 40-50 families from Stevens Point and surrounding communities as far away as Wisconsin Rapids, Weyauwega, Minocqua, and Marshfield.
The first Jewish families emigrated from Central Europe to Central Wisconsin as early as 1871. Beginning in 1892 the bulk of the Jewish community arrived from Eastern Europe.
Members of the Jewish community played key roles in the community's religious, civic and economic development. From 1871-2000, when the last Jewish business closed its doors, nearly 150 businesses had been established by members of the Jewish Community Stevens Point. Some were in business only a few years, but many were in operation for 40-60 years. During the 1930’s 40’s and 50’s there were 20-30 Jewish business in the downtown business district.
Beginning in the 1960’s the Jewish community began to dwindle as older members passed away or moved away in retirement and their children found their livelihood elsewhere. By 1985 the Beth Israel Congregation no longer could assemble a minyan (10 male members), required to conduct religious services. The board of trustees deeded the synagogue to the Portage County Historical Society to be used as a museum, memorializing the Stevens Point Jewish community.
In 2007 Temple Beth Israel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the third oldest synagogue building in the State of Wisconsin and the oldest synagogue with its sanctuary intact. It currently houses a permanent exhibit about Jewish religious practices and the history of the Stevens Point Jewish Community.
Read the Nomination Papers for a more detailed history.
In 2008 a permanent display about the Jewish community will be installed.
See also our Map to Museums.