Sharei Chesed (Gates of Kindness or Splendor) is a Conservative Jewish congregation in Minnetonka. It was created in 1969 when two North Minneapolis Orthodox congregations merged. They were Sharei Zedeck (Gates of Righteousness) and Gemelus Chesed (Providing Kindness).
Sharei Zedeck was the last Minneapolis Orthodox congregation established during the immigrant era. A group of Lithuanian Jews broke away from Kenesseth Israel in 1906 and called their new congregation Bet Ahron (House of Aaron). By 1920, they had changed its name to Sharei Zedeck. Its synagogue at 726 Bryant Avenue North was known as the "greener shul" (green synagogue). This was either because the building was painted green or because the members were "greenhorns"-recent arrivals to the United States. The true meaning of the nickname is unknown.
The Bryant Avenue building was razed in 1936 to make way for the Sumner Field housing project on Sixth Avenue North (now Olson Memorial Highway). A new synagogue was built at 1119 Morgan Avenue North. A St. Paul architectural firm, Frenzel and Bernstein, designed the simple yet monumental brick building. The nickname "greener shul" stuck. By now, it was also known as the "Morgan shul."
Gemelus Chesed originated in 1912 as a fraternal society that provided interest-free loans. It also held traditional daily worship services in a home on Girard Avenue North between Fifth and Eighth avenues. When a nearby congregation, Anshei Tavrig (Men of Tavrig, a town in Lithuania) dissolved, its members approached Gemelus Chesed to take over their building. In 1915, Gemelus Chesed moved the structure to an empty lot on the 800 block of Girard.
Gemelus Chesed was always a small congregation. In 1948, its only activities were morning and evening worship services and the loan society. Yet in 1954, the congregation built a small modernist synagogue among older houses at 1230 Logan Avenue North. Not surprisingly, it was known as "the Logan shul."
The spiritual leaders of both congregations were esteemed in the Minneapolis Jewish community. Rabbi George Sektor was active in Jewish social service groups and a noted scholar. So was Rabbi S. I. Levin of Sharei Zedeck. Levin was considered the dean of Minneapolis rabbis. When Rabbi Albert Minda of Temple Israel died in 1977, the Reform congregation asked Levin to deliver a eulogy. Levin was also one of the founders of the Minneapolis Federation for Jewish Service and the Jewish Family and Children's Service.
In 1965, under Sektor's leadership, Gemelus Chesed became the first North Minneapolis synagogue to move to St. Louis Park. The congregation built a nondescript modern building at 2734 Rhode Island Avenue South. Twin Cities Jews, like many other Americans, began moving to the suburbs after World War II. In 1959, 38 percent of the Jewish community lived in North Minneapolis, down from 60 percent just ten years earlier. Almost 30 percent lived in St. Louis Park.
In 1969, Sharei Zedeck sold the Morgan Avenue shul to St. Paul's Missionary Baptist Church and merged with Gemelus Chesed. The new congregation was known as Gemelus Chesed Sharei Zedeck Congregation until 1973, when the name was shortened to Sharei Chesed.
Levin served Sharei Zedeck and the merged Sharei Chesed for more than sixty-three years, until his death in 1984. Sektor led Gemelus Chesed and Sharei Chesed for fifty-four years, until his death in 1988. Their passings marked the end of an era.
In a 1988 message to the congregation, new rabbi Barry I. Woolf stated that Sharei Chesed would have to develop programs and services attractive to members of all ages if it wanted to survive in the twenty-first century. In the early 1990s, Sharei Chesed became a Conservative congregation.
Abraham Ettedgui became rabbi in 1999. He had been executive director of the Talmud Torah of Minneapolis for twenty-four years. In 2008, Sharei Chesed Congregation moved to a new home in Minnetonka-a remodeled office building at 1712 Hopkins Crossroads, on the shores of Crane Lake.
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Chiat, Marilyn. "Synagogues of Minnesota: Place and Space." Paper presented at Bet Shalom Congregation, Minnetonka, May 24, 2005.
Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
University of Minnesota, Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center. Cornerstones: A History of North Minneapolis.
Gordon, Albert I. Jews in Transition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1949.
Peterson, Garneth O. Jewish Settlement in Minneapolis, 1860s–1972: Historic Context for Minneapolis Preservation Plan. [Saint Paul, MN]: Landscape Research, . State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.
St. Louis Park Historical Society. Sharei Chesed Congregation.
Sharei Chesed Congregation newsletter, Spring 2009.
Sharei Chesed Congregation.
Two North Minneapolis Orthodox congregations founded in the early twentieth century, Sharei Zedeck and Gemelus Chesed, merge in 1969. The new group eventually adopts the name Sharei Chesed.
Sharei Zedeck Congregation, an offshoot of Kenesseth Israel and the last Orthodox congregation established in the immigrant era, builds a synagogue at 726 Bryant Avenue North.
Gemelus Chesed, which grew out of a free loan society, purchases the building of a folding congregation, Anshei Tavrig, and moves it to the 800 block of Girard Avenue North.
Sharei Zedeck builds a new synagogue at 1119 Morgan North.
Gemelus Chesed builds a new synagogue at 1230 Logan Avenue North.
Gemelus Chesed moves to 2734 Rhode Island Avenue South. It is the first North Minneapolis synagogue to move to St. Louis Park.
Sharei Zedeck Congregation sells its building on Morgan Avenue North to St. Paul's Missionary Baptist Church and merges with Gemelus Chesed.
Gemelus Chesed Sharei Zedeck Congregation votes to change its name to Sharei Chesed Congregation.
S.I. Levin, co-rabbi of Sharei Chesed (and rabbi of Sharei Zedeck before it), dies.
The death of George Sektor, the long-time spiritual leader of Gemelus Chesed and a co-rabbi of Sharei Chesed, presages the congregation's shift to the Conservative movement in the early 1990s.
Sharei Chesed moves west from St. Louis Park to a new home in Minnetonka.