Congregation Bnei Tzedek Chabad

Bnei Tzedek ChabadIn the 1880s Jacob Stern, a merchant, was one of the first Jewish settlers to arrive in Kenosha. Others followed, including Rabbi Louis Lepkovsky who, in 1904, became the first Rabbi of Congregation Bnai Zedek. The Congregation met for services in his and other homes in the same neighborhood where the Shul is located today. At the time, it was a predominately Jewish neighborhood with a Jewish bookstore, kosher butcher shop and other Jewish establishments.

The community grew at a steady pace, and in 1910 the need for a permanent synagogue became evident. The Stern and Epstein families and other founding members generously donated to the building fund. The first donation, however, was $ 500.00 donated by Mr. Zalman Simmons, owner of the Kenosha-located Simmons Mattress company.  The building was completed in 1911 and is still in continuous use.  Additionally, the congregation owned the home just west of the shul. In its day, the home served as a community center, an educational center, and a social hall. It was sold in the early 1990’s. The congregation also established Bnai Zedek cemetery. The cemetery, now managed by an independent cemetery board, still serves Kenosha’s Jewish community.

In 1999, the shul was registered as a landmark building. All of the paint inside the Shul is identical to the way it was when first built, except for the banister around the Bima which was initially stained oak and is now painted white. Otherwise, all of the colors, stained glass windows and decorations inside the shul sanctuary area are exactly the same as they were in 1911.P2150004.JPG

The cornerstone of the building, which was laid in 1910, will be opened in 2010 on the 100th anniversary of the shul. It reportedly contains a time capsule containing newspapers from that time, personal items from founding members, and other historical artifacts. As has been the case with other small-town Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues, Congregation Bnai Zedek declined in membership over the years. However, thanks to its new affiliation with Chabad of Wisconsin, emblematic in its new name, Congregation Bnai Zedek Chabad, the congregation is experiencing unprecedented growth and revitalization. Thus, we expect that, G‑d willing, future generations of area Jews will be able to enjoy the programs and services the congregation offers.

Rabbi Tzali Wilschanski 

Dr. Ron Sanders