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Congregation Beth Israel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

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Beth Israel
Basic information
Location 6880 North Green Bay Road,
Glendale, Wisconsin,
Template:Flag
Geographic coordinates 43°08′32″N 87°56′02″W / 43.142111°N 87.933937°W / 43.142111; -87.933937Coordinates: 43°08′32″N 87°56′02″W / 43.142111°N 87.933937°W / 43.142111; -87.933937
Affiliation Conservative Judaism
Status Active
Leadership Rabbi: Jacob Herber
Rabbi Emeritus: Herbert Panitch
Cantor: Fortunée Belilos
President: Ralph Schapira[1]
Website www.cbimilwaukee.org
Architectural description
Groundbreaking 1959[2]
Year completed 1980[2]

Congregation Beth Israel (Hebrew: בית ישראל‎) is an egalitarian [3] Conservative synagogue located at 6880 North Green Bay Road in Glendale, Wisconsin, a suburb north of Milwaukee.

Founded in 1884 as Congregation B'ne Jacob, the congregation split, re-amalgamated, and went bankrupt before re-organizing as Beth Israel in 1901.[4] The synagogue building it constructed on Teutonia Avenue in 1925, and sold in 1959, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.[4][5]

Led by Rabbi Jacob Herber, as of 2008 it was the only synagogue in Milwaukee associated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.[6]

Early years

In 1884 Congregation B'ne Jacob was formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. By 1886 it had split into two congregations, Moses Montefiore Gemeinde and Anshe Jacob. In 1891 they re-amalgamated, creating Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, and the following year hired Solomon Isaac Scheinfeld as the congregation's first permanent rabbi.[4] Scheinfeld had been born in Lithuania in 1860, and had moved to Milwaukee soon after receiving semicha in 1890.[7] He stayed less than a year before moving to Kentucky.[4]

The congregation completed a new synagogue building at 462 Fifth Street in 1893, but was unable to afford the mortgage, and in 1900 the courts foreclosed on the property. The following year the congregation was re-organized as Congregation Beth Israel and re-acquired the synagogue building on Fifth Street, and in 1902 Scheinfeld was re-hired as rabbi.[4] He served as Beth Israel's rabbi until his death in 1943.[7]

During his tenure as rabbi, Scheinfeld established a maot chitim (literally "money for wheat") fund, to provide for the needs of Milwaukee Jews too poor to afford food for the Passover Seder. That fund continued after his death as the "Rabbi Solomon I. Scheinfeld Moath Chitim Fund", and in 2003 distributed $20,000 worth of food to 600 families.[8]

Teutonia building

Beth Israel sold its Fifth Street building in 1924, and, after meeting in temporary quarters for a year, constructed a new building at 2432 North Teutonia Avenue.[4][5] However, as the Jewish community of Milwaukee migrated north to suburbs in the 1940s and 1950s, the location became inconvenient. In 1957, a 15-acre (61,000 m2) property was purchased at 6880 North Green Bay Road in Glendale, a suburb north of Milwaukee, and construction began on new facilities there in 1959.[2] The Teutonia Avenue building was sold in 1959, and vacated in 1960.[4] On March 5, 1992 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.[5]

Move from Orthodox to Conservative Judaism

Beth Israel was founded as an Orthodox synagogue, and its rabbi, Solomon Scheinfeld, also served as chief rabbi of the United Orthodox Congregations of Milwaukee.[7] However, the congregation had done away with separate seating for men and women in 1920s or 30s; at the same time Beth Israel also instituted English language sermons.[9] The congregation eventually became fully egalitarian,[3] and associated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.[6]

1960s to 1990s

Beth Israel's current facilities were built in three phases.[2] In 1962 a new school building was completed, and the congregation began holding services there. In 1966, the sanctuary building and social hall were completed and dedicated, and in 1980 work on the sanctuary was completed.[4]

In 1970, Herbert Panitch joined Beth Israel from Congregation Agudath Achim in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He served as rabbi until his retirement in 1995.[10][11]

Events since 2000

Toronto native Mitchell Joshua Martin, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary's Cantor's Institute, joined as cantor in 2002.[12] Jacob Herber, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the University of California, Davis, became rabbi of Beth Israel in August 2003.[13] Funded by congregation members and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Herber traveled to Uganda in July 2008 to assist in the Abayudaya in converting to Judaism.[14]

As of 2008, Beth Israel was the only synagogue in Milwaukee associated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,[6] and had 700 member families.[15] The rabbi was Jacob Herber, the rabbi emeritus was Herbert Panitch, the cantor was Fortunée Belilos, and the president was Ralph Schapira.[1]

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Contacts, Synagogue website.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Congregation Beth Israel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin records, Historical Note, Jewish Theological Seminary.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mission Statement, Synagogue website.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 History, Synagogue website.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 NRHP State listings: WISCONSIN - Milwaukee County.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Synagogue website.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Hintz (2005), p. 65.
  8. Cohen (2003).
  9. According to Congregation Beth Israel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin records, Historical Note, Jewish Theological Seminary, this happened in 1926. According to History, Synagogue website, in 1937 "High Holiday English Services [were] instituted, with mixed seating allowed."
  10. Rubin Schwartz (2006), p. 264, footnote 107.
  11. Sandin (1995).
  12. Cohen (2002).
  13. Meet the Clergy, Synagogue website.
  14. Heinen (2008).
  15. What is THI, Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee website.

References

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