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Adas Israel Congregation, Duluth

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Color photograph of the exterior of Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth. Photographed by Phillip Prowse c.2010.

Photograph of the exterior of Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth. Photograph by Phillip Prowse c.2010.

Adas Israel Congregation was founded in 1885. Members met in a house on St. Croix Avenue in what is now the Canal Park area of Duluth. It incorporated in 1899. The families that formed the congregation were Lithuanian immigrants.

Jews originally from Hungary and Germany were the first to settle in Duluth, beginning in 1869. They established a Reform synagogue in 1891 called Temple Emanuel. When the Mesabi Iron Range opened for mining in the 1890s, Duluth thrived as a business center. Eastern European Jews fleeing persecution began arriving in the city.

These Eastern European immigrants founded three Orthodox synagogues in Duluth during the 1890s and 1910s. The first was Tifereth Israel (Splendor of Israel), today Temple Israel. It was followed by Adas Israel (Congregation of Israel) and B'nai Israel (Sons of Israel). After its founding, Adas Israel was the largest of Duluth's synagogues, with about one hundred member families. B'nai Israel started out with around fifteen member families, but the congregation grew to about two hundred members at its peak. When B'nai Israel dissolved in 1930, some of its members joined Adas Israel.

The cornerstone of Adas Israel's current synagogue, at the corner of East Third Street and Third Avenue East, was laid in 1901. The address soon gave rise to its nickname, "the Third Street shul" (the Yiddish word for synagogue). Services were held in the basement until the entire building was completed and dedicated in 1902. About fifty families comprised the membership in 1901. Male members led the worship services until a rabbi was hired in 1902.

Adas Israel's building's exterior features two stair towers capped with low domes in the Byzantine/Moorish style. A striking feature inside is the two-story, wooden Ark of the Covenant, where the Torah scrolls are stored. The first words of each of the Ten Commandments appear in Hebrew on tablets above the ark. A non-Jewish craftsman built the ark at a local lumberyard.

The Moses Montefiore Hebrew School formed in 1905 and was housed in Adas Israel's vestry rooms. The school was incorporated in 1908. Five years later, having outgrown its space in the synagogue, the school moved into a house next door. The two-story frame house had been converted into four classrooms, three club rooms (for boys, men, and women), a kitchen, a dining room, and a large auditorium. The school's name was later changed to Talmud Torah. In 1954 it was renamed the Ida Cook Hebrew School to honor the woman who pioneered Jewish education in Duluth.

A split within Adas Israel's membership in 1906 resulted in the formation of a new congregation, which first rented space in a Swedish church. When this group moved into the Talmud Torah building, it was known as the Talmud Torah Congregation. It dissolved in 1935.

Duluth's Jewish population reached its peak—nearly four thousand—in the 1930s. By 1940, this was down to 2,633 individuals, including 827 families. Four years later, the Jewish population of Duluth was 2,530 individuals, including 659 families.

Extant contracts show that rabbis and cantors were hired for a year or two during the 1940s. For instance, in 1947, Rabbi Benjamin Silman of Passaic, New Jersey was hired jointly by Adas Israel and Shaare Tzadek (Gates of Righteousness), another Orthodox congregation, which had been founded in 1906. "His opinion on purely religious matters shall be final," the contract declared. Some members of Shaare Tzadek joined Adas Israel when that synagogue closed its doors on East Ninth Street in 1967.

The Jewish population of Duluth in 1970 was 1,100. Three years later, the Jewish Federation and Community Council recommended that all of Duluth's Jewish groups consolidate in the Jewish Education Center. Built in 1951 at the corner of East Second Street and Sixteenth Avenue East, the Center was home to the Ida Cook Hebrew School and social activities. Adas Israel declined to move. Temple Israel, however, Duluth's remaining Jewish congregation, did move to the Center (Temple Israel had formed in 1969, the result of a merger between Temple Emanuel and Tifereth Israel).

In 2013, Adas Israel continues to operate from its 1902 building at East Third Street and Third Avenue East. Members of the seventy-five-person congregation lead services, which are conducted in the traditional Orthodox style.

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50th Golden Jubilee, 1899–1950. [Duluth: Adas Israel and Chevrah Kadisha Congregation, 1950]. Private collection.

Jewish Minnesota Community Directory. Adas Israel.
www.jewishminnesota.org/IR/community-directory.aspx?id=3195

Adas Israel papers, 1942–1947
Manuscript Collection, Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Description: Letters and contracts.

Adler, Cyrus, ed. The American Jewish Year Book 5660: September 5, 1899 to September 23, 1900. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1899.

Articles of Incorporation. Adas Israel and Chevra Kadisha, December 7, 1899. Private collection.

Chiat, Marilyn. "Synagogues of Minnesota: Place and Space." Paper presented at Bet Shalom Congregation, Minnetonka, MN, May 24, 2005.
Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

"City Briefs." Duluth Evening Herald, September 9, 1902.

Covner, Thelma C. "The New Wilderness: Building the Jewish Community in Duluth, Minnesota 1870–1975." Typescript, 1975.

"Duluth Moses Montefiore Hebrew Institute." Minneapolis American Jewish World, September 30, 1921.

"Elaborate Ceremonies to Mark Dedication of Jewish Synagogue." Duluth Evening Herald, September 10, 1902.

"History of the Jews of Duluth." Chicago Reform Advocate, 1913.

"History of the Shaara Tzedek Congregation." Typescript, September 3, 1922.
Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

"New Jewish Synagogue." Duluth Evening Herald, July 28, 1906.

"Orthodox Jews to Build Church." Duluth News Tribune, August 5, 1901.

Plaut, W. Gunther. The Jews in Minnesota: The First Seventy-Five Years. New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959.

Singer, Bertha. Highlights: A Short History of the Duluth Jewish Community, 1870–1976. Duluth, MN: Temple Israel-Jewish Educational Center, 1976.

"Will Lay the Stone." Duluth Evening Herald, November 27, 1901.

Related Images

Color photograph of the exterior of Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth. Photographed by Phillip Prowse c.2010.
Color photograph of the exterior of Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth. Photographed by Phillip Prowse c.2010.
Color photograph of the interior of Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth. Photograph by Phillip Prowse c.2010.
Color photograph of the interior of Adas Israel Congregation in Duluth. Photograph by Phillip Prowse c.2010.

Turning Point

In 1901, construction begins on Adas Israel's synagogue at the corner of East Third Street and Third Avenue East. The new building will house a congregation of about fifty families.

Chronology

1885

Adas Israel Congregation begins meeting in a home in what is now the Canal Park area of Duluth.

1899

Adas Israel incorporates.

1900

Adas Israel membership reaches about one hundred, making it the largest of Duluth's four congregations.

1902

A Moorish/Byzantine-style building at East Third Street and Third Avenue East is dedicated. The congregation hires its first rabbi.

1906

A group splits off from Adas Israel to form the Talmud Torah Congregation.

1930

B'nai Israel Congregation dissolves. Adas Israel absorbs some of its members.

1967

Adas Israel absorbs some members of the dissolving Orthodox congregation Shaare Tzadek.

1973

Adas Israel declines to join with Temple Israel and all other Duluth Jewish organizations in a consolidated facility in the Jewish Education Center.

2013

Adas Israel continues to operate in its 1902 building. The Orthodox, lay-led congregation numbers approximately seventy-five individuals.