Sharey Zedek Synagogue Dedication Weekend: July 23-24, 2005

"Twenty three hours in Hurley leads to a two day celebration of the Jewish Community of Hurley"

   In August 2002, I spent 23 hours researching my family roots in Hurley, Wisconsin. The story of my exploration was printed in the American Jewish World Newspaper-Minneapolis, the Iron County Miner Newspaper-Hurley and the Mattsonworks website; Gogebic Range Directories: 

     Current and former residents of the Hurley area read this story and through them I was able to locate religious items (Judaica) from the Sharey Zedek Synagogue of Hurley Wisconsin. Some of these artifacts date back to the earliest days of Hurley in the late 19th Century. The donation of this Judaica to the Iron County Historical Museum was the basis of the Sharey Zedek Dedication weekend, celebrated in Hurley on July 23-24, 2005.

     Event organizers, Paul Sturgul and Gene Cisewski oversaw the program attended by over 80 people.  On July 23rd, Mr. Cisewski, President of the Iron County Historical Society, introduced the speakers of the lecture series held in the courtroom of the Iron County Museum. 

    Dr. Steven Heifetz gave a lecture, "Look Back Through Us From Generation To Generation." Here the story of the discovery of family roots, the history of Sharey Zedek Synagogue, it's Rabbi Moses Rein- the great grandfather of Heifetz, and the Jewish community of Hurley was told. In 1940 the synagogue closed and the Jews rented the old Finnish Society building, Kaleva Hall, in Ironwood, Michigan. When Kaleva Hall was torn down years later, the Jewish prayer shawls and other synagogue items were thought to be old "Finnish prayer rugs", as such they languished in an antique store until their true significance was realized.  The history of the artifacts now held in a tri-fold wooden case, were discussed during the lecture.

     Andrew Muchin, of Milwaukee, is the director of the Wisconsin Small Jewish Communities History Project. He spoke of his research of Jewish settlement in Northern Wisconsin, and put in context the formation of the Sharey Zedek congregation in 1892.  Geraldine Mark Rudd and her siblings talked briefly about growing up Jewish in Hurley.

     On July 24th, Rabbi Norman Lewison of Chicago conducted a Kaddish (Memorial) service at the Sharey Zedek Cemetery. He was also the keynote speaker at the ceremony were a marker dedicating the historic synagogue building was unveiled.

      Other speakers included Dr. Steven Heifetz, Gene Cisewski, Attorney Paul Sturgul, Hurley Mayor Joe Pinardi, and Wisconsin State Representative Gary Sherman.  Rabbi Lewison commented on the Jewish custom of placing a plaque in remembrance, in this case the appropriateness for remembrance of a community. He said, "America, once a melting pot for immigrants from all over the world, today is an orchestra, each instrument plays its own music its own way. Together, they create harmony."  Steven Heifetz offered to the crowd, "On behalf of my ancestors, I want to thank your ancestors for the warm, nurturing environment they found in Hurley when they emigrated to the United States."


Marker Ceremony at Sharey Zedek Synagogue Building,
from left:
Rabbi Norman Lewison,
Wisconsin State Representative Gary Sherman,
Dr.Steven Heifetz,
Iron County Historical Society President Gene Cisewski,
Attorney and Event Organizer Paul Sturgul
Sharey Zedek Display
Iron County Historical Museum

     State Representative Gary Sherman emphasized the importance of remembering to keep communities intact.

    The weekend events concluded with a kosher luncheon, served by volunteers of the Women's Council of St. Mary's Church. Rabbi Lewison conducted the hamotzi, the traditional Jewish prayer before meals.

    A video of the weekend events can be seen at the Iron County Historical Museum in Hurley, the Wisconsin Society for Jewish Learning in Milwaukee, or the Upper Midwest Jewish Historical Society in Minneapolis.
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