Tuesday, June 2, 2009

USA: Continued Progress for Restoration of Virginia, Minnesota Synagogue

USA: Continued Progress for Restoration of Virginia, Minnesota Synagogue

(ISJM) The May 2009 Newsletter of the B’nai Abraham Museum and Cultural Arts Center in Virginia, Minnesota reports great progress on the project to restore the 1910 synagogue in is centennial year. Matching fund have been raised form many private donations to secure the $48,500 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. Work is now under way to complete the restoration of the sanctuary and several other important building features. The Friends of B’nai Abraham has also received a new matching planning grant of $5,957 from the Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from the Jeffris Heartland Fund. Fund will be used to plan the remaining phase of the restoration, which will include a serving kitchen in the social hall; restoration of the balcony area for storage and additional seating and walkway access form the street to the handicap lift. After planning, additional fund will still be needed to implement work.

The brick synagogue dedicated in 1909 is the last intact Jewish house of worship on Minnesota’s Iron Range, in the far north of the state. The 100th Anniversary and re-dedication of the B'nai Abraham Museum and Cultural Arts Center will be during the summer of 2010. ISJM member Marilyn Chiat has been an active participant in this project since its inception.

With its beautiful stained glass windows, it was described as “the most beautiful church (sic) on the Iron Range., ” in the local press at the time of its dedication. B’nai Abraham was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s and is the only Minnesota included. It remained in active use through the 1990s.

Extensive updates with photos of restoration work can be found on the Friends of B’nai Abraham website. Photos of the stained glass windows, and various Judaica items associated wit the synagogue are also posted.

These other synagogues once also stood in Iron Range towns:

The Hibbing synagogue, Agudath Achim founded in the former Swedish Evangelical Emanuel Lutheran Church in 1922, which it had it moved from North Hibbing to 2nd Avenue West, was turned into apartments after the congregation disbanded in the 1980s.

The Eveleth synagogue, Agudas Achim, founded in a reconfigured Catholic Church that was purchased in 1909 and then moved to a new location and remodeled for Jewish use was transformed back into a church when the congregation disbanded in the 1970s, and was subsequently demolished.

The Chisholm synagogue, B'nai Zion, built in 1913, was sold to a church in the 1960s and was then demolished to make way for the pastor’s house.

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