In 2016, when Manitowoc’s Anshe Poale Zedek congregation sold its synagogue building, there were media reports that it was “closing its doors,” but the congregation did not disband. It moved into a nearby chapel at a First Presbyterian Church complex.
Now, Anshe Poale Zedek really is closing its doors.
“It’s devastating. It hurts me very much, to have to make the final decision. But I’m not the only one,” said Manitowoc’s last synagogue president, Willian Schwartz. Manitowoc’s first synagogue was established in 1860, he said.
The congregation voted to shut itself down in December. The final services are slated for March 27.
“The pandemic is the big reason. The attendance of members. So far it has been either myself or another member who comes to services,” Schwartz said. “We would have eight or nine members that usually come but with the pandemic we have two or three that show up.”
People say the pandemic could be over in six months, but what if it’s another six months after that, then more after that? Schwartz said he doesn’t think it makes sense to wait that out. The synagogue has cash on hand, and rather than squander it on keeping itself open for a small and aging membership, he’d prefer to donate it for other Jewish needs.
“We don’t want to waste the money foolishly,” he said.
He said he and others will attend Beth El Congregation in Sheboygan, which is about 35 minutes to the south of the former Anshe Poale Zedek building. At some point, he hopes to have a carpool to Sheboygan.