In 1890, the young congregation of Temple Beth-El purchased this "little white building" on White Street. Loved by thousands for more than 100 years, that building remains in use today and is Michigan's second-longest, continuously-in-use Jewish synagogue. Our wish is to share the story of this building, the congregation, and people who have nurtured it
A fillm with Murder, Mayhem and Love....Actually, there is no violence or murder involved in this story. But, there is a bit of mayhem and a lot of love. In 1875, the Hebrew Benevolent Society was formed for the purpose of “buying a burial ground." Founders then chartered a society and rented a room in which to hold regular meetings and prayer services (1877). As with all newly emerging Jewish congregations of the era, the Hebrew Benevolent Society was chartered to take care of its sick, bury the dead, and hold Sabbath and holiday services, which at the time, were conducted by officers and selected members.
Lore has it that, in those first meetings, congregants were very divided on whether or not to follow a more “Conservative” approach to their Orthodox traditions of Judaism. Arguments became so heated that the local sheriff was called in to “settle things down.” In the end, though, Hyman Buchalter, an Orthodox rabbi, began serving the congregation in 1885.
In recent years, Michigan has lost many of its historic synagogue buildings as small communities no longer can afford to maintain its congregations. Alpena, on the other hand, is bucking this trend. The new leadership of Temple Beth-El has not only fallen in love with their congregation, but also the historic building in which they worship.
Now, JHSM wishes to tell this story in a mini-documentary that will be published on JHSM and Temple Beth-El’s websites, shared (in part) on social media and by our Speakers’ Bureau. Your support of this project matters. History not only enables people to discover their own place in the stories of their families, communities, and time, they also learn of the sacrifices and contributions made by those who have come before us and how those men and women shaped the world in which we now live.