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B'nai Emet Synagogue, St. Louis Park

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Black and white photograph of the construction of a new building for B'nai Abraham Congregation (later B'nai Emet Synagogue) at Ottawa Avenue and Highway 7, St. Louis Park, December 8, 1958.

Construction of a new building for B'nai Abraham Congregation (later B'nai Emet Synagogue) at Ottawa Avenue and Highway 7, St. Louis Park, December 8, 1958.

The product of multiple mergers between some of the Minneapolis area's oldest congregations, B'nai Emet Synagogue held worship services at its St. Louis Park location from 1972 until 2011. The synagogue enjoyed a moment in the spotlight as a shooting location for a 2009 Coen Brothers film before joining with Minnetonka's Adath Jeshurun Congregation in 2011.

Three congregations contributed to the creation of B'nai Emet. The first was B'nai Abraham, founded in 1888 or 1889 in South Minneapolis by Romanian immigrants and originally called the Rumanian Hebrew Congregation. In 1956, B'nai Abraham became the first Minneapolis synagogue to move to the suburbs. In 1959, the congregation erected a new building at Ottawa Avenue and Highway 7 in St. Louis Park. The Minneapolis architectural firm Ackerberg & Cooperman designed the structure.

Mikro Kodesh (Holy Assembly) and Tifereth B'nai Jacob (Splendor of the Sons of Jacob) were also involved. In 1969, the two North Minneapolis congregations merged, taking the name Mikro-Tifereth. In 1972, Mikro-Tifereth joined with B'nai Abraham, and the new congregation named itself B'nai Emet (Sons of Truth). The three Hebrew letters that make up the word "Emet" are the first letters of the names of the three congregations that came together.

After the merger, B'nai Emet's members used B'nai Abraham's Ottawa Avenue facility. A 1974 renovation to the building installed a new sanctuary with a spacious two-level bimah (altar) that jutted out into the room like a thrust stage. Crystal chandeliers from Mikro Kodesh's North Minneapolis sanctuary were installed. The sanctuary provided the setting for the funeral and bar mitzvah scenes in the 2009 movie A Serious Man, directed by St. Louis Park natives Joel and Ethan Coen. Several other scenes were filmed in the building as well.

B'nai Emet's spiritual leaders were Rabbis Sylvan Kamens, Herbert Yoskowitz, Howard Siegel, David L. Abramson, and Charni Flame Selch. Siegel had grown up in a B'nai Abraham member family. Shalom Markovitz served as the synagogue's cantor for many years.

During its almost forty-year life, B'nai Emet sponsored many social and educational programs, including a nursery school, a Torah reading society, and a seniors' club. But it was the smallest of the three Conservative congregations in the Minneapolis metropolitan area, and in its later years struggled to maintain a membership large enough to support its operations. At its peak in the 1980s, it had almost nine hundred members.

By 2010, the building needed repairs. Membership was down to about 225. The congregation began considering a merger with another synagogue.

In June 2011, the congregation voted to join Adath Jeshurun (Gathering of the Righteous) in Minnetonka. (Adath had formed in South Minneapolis in 1884 and moved to Minnetonka in 1995.) Adath Jeshurun and B'nai Emet members first worshiped together during High Holiday services in the fall of 2011.

B'nai Emet's building was sold in April 2012 to the Yeshiva of Minneapolis, a religious school for Orthodox Jewish youth. A portion of the funds from the sale went toward efforts to preserve evidence of B'nai Emet's history at Adath Jeshurun.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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St. Louis Park Historical Society. B'nai Abraham/B'nai Emet Synagogue.
www.slphistory/bnaiemet.asp

"Bnai Emet Votes to Merge with Another Congregation." American Jewish World, July 7, 2010. http://www.ajwnews.com/archives/6467

Bryan, Erin Elliot. "Local Yeshiva Buys Bnai Emet." American Jewish World, April 11, 2012. http://www.ajwnews.com/archives/13075

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.

Kelner, Larry B. Bnai Emet Memories, 1973–2011: A Collection of Thoughts and History. DVD. Minneapolis: B'nai Emet Synagogue, 2011.
Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota.

Specktor, Mordecai. "Bnai Emet Ponders Its Future." American Jewish World, June 23, 2010. http://www.ajwnews.com/archives/6334

——— . "Bnai Emet, With Love." American Jewish World, June 22, 2011. http://www.ajwnews.com/archives/10370

Related Images

Black and white photograph of the construction of a new building for B'nai Abraham Congregation (later B'nai Emet Synagogue) at Ottawa Avenue and Highway 7, St. Louis Park, December 8, 1958.
Black and white photograph of the construction of a new building for B'nai Abraham Congregation (later B'nai Emet Synagogue) at Ottawa Avenue and Highway 7, St. Louis Park, December 8, 1958.

Turning Point

Three Minneapolis congregations merge to form a new Conservative synagogue, B'nai Emet (Sons of Truth), in 1972.

Chronology

1972

Mikro-Tifereth, the result of a 1969 merger between Mikro Kodesh and Tifereth B'nai Jacob, unites with B'nai Abraham in St. Louis Park to form B'nai Emet.

2009

Joel and Ethan Coen use B'nai Emet's sanctuary and offices for key scenes in their movie A Serious Man.

2010

B'nai Emet explores merging with another synagogue.

2011

B'nai Emet's final Sabbath service is held in June. In September, the congregation merges with Adath Jeshurun of Minnetonka.

2012

The B'nai Emet building is sold to an Orthodox Jewish school, the Yeshiva of Minneapolis.