Temple Beth Israel (D. Moore photo, 2006)
Temple Beth Israel window detail (D. Moore photo, 2006)
Temple Beth Israel interior (D. Moore photo, 2006)
TEMPLE BETH ISRAEL
1475 Water Street, Stevens Point, Portage County
Architect: John Bukolt
Date of Construction: 1905
Beth Israel Congregation, incorporated in 1905, built this synagogue the same year. The Stevens Point Jewish community had its beginnings in 1873 and grew to about forty families after the immigration of Eastern European Jews beginning in the mid 1880s.
The synagogue served Jewish families from numerous communities in Central Wisconsin, primarily Stevens Point, Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids, but also Fremont, Weyauwega, Pittsville, Adams, Waupaca, Friendship, and New London. The congregation grew to as many as 100 members between 1930 and 1960. Membership began to decline in the 1960s and in 1986 the congregation disbanded.
For a century and a quarter members of the Stevens Point Jewish community made significant contributions to the religious, social and commercial development of the Stevens Point area. More than 100 Jewish enterprises were active in Stevens Point. From 1930 to 1960 twenty to thirty Jewish businesses were located downtown Stevens Point. Members of Beth Israel Congregation were members of all the local service organizations, were civic leaders, founded the community chest, donated two parks to the city, and established the first Holiday Inn which transformed Stevens Point into a regional convention center.
Temple Beth Israel is a rectangular wood frame structure with pointed arch windows filled with frosted and colored glass. The sanctuary, remodeled in 1951, is largely intact, including Torah scrolls and other religious objects.
With its disbanding in 1986, Beth Israel Congregation deeded its synagogue to the Portage County Historical Society which operates it as a museum.