Women members of Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul founded Neighborhood House in 1897 to assist poor Russian Jewish immigrants. For its first sixty-five years, the settlement house operated in the West Side “Flats”—the neighborhood near the Mississippi River across from downtown where the immigrants first settled.
Orthodox Jews founded the Jewish Sheltering Home for Children in North Minneapolis in 1918. Their concern was Jewish children who were cared for in non-Jewish foster homes. The founders felt that such children would become estranged from their religion and culture. The Sheltering Home functioned as a Jewish institution through the early 1960s.
Nineteenth-century Jewish immigrants brought to Minnesota long-standing religious traditions of aiding the poor and needy. Beginning in the 1870s, German-Jewish immigrants, followed by Jews from Eastern Europe, founded an array of charitable and philanthropic groups. Women were the prime movers, though men held directors’ roles.
Organized youth camping became popular in the late nineteenth century against the backdrop of the Progressive Era. In Minnesota and across the U.S., reformers believed that offering fresh-air vacations to poor children living in crowded cities would contribute to public health. Another motive was Americanizing the children of immigrants. The earliest Jewish camps pursued the same goals, with one addition: teaching the Jewish faith.
Agnes Keenan’s name is among the most prominent in the history of St. Catherine’s College—the school that became St. Catherine University. Although she was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in 1910, Keenan spent most of her life in St. Paul working as a teacher and community leader.
A small, committed group of Jewish immigrants raised the funds needed to build the Labor Lyceum at 1426 Sixth Avenue North in Minneapolis in 1915. The two-story brick and stucco building was a hub for radical Jewish cultural, political, and social activities for the next thirty-five years.
Working as a lumberjack in northern Minnesota was a difficult job with poor living conditions. Many loggers blew off steam by drinking, gambling, or visiting brothels. "Sky pilots," or visiting ministers, tried to save the men's souls and put them on the road to holiness rather than vice.
Mayim Rabim, the only Reconstructionist synagogue in the Twin Cities, was founded in 1992. Its founders were former members of Adath Jeshurun in South Minneapolis. In 2014, the small congregation continues to worship at its original home, the Minneapolis Friends Meetinghouse.
Mennonites arrived at Mountain Lake in 1873. Mennonites are a Protestant Christian group with sixteenth century European origins. Their name refers to Menno Simons, who was a Dutch religious reformer. Simons preached a fundamentalist, more literal interpretation of the Bible. He also emphasized the importance of adult baptism. Along with these beliefs, Simons promoted a simple way of life similar to Jesus Christ and the apostles. As part of his creed, he stressed the importance of Christian brotherhood, pacifism, and the primacy of family in Christian life. The tenet of pacifism played a significant role throughout Mennonite history.
The Moorish/Byzantine-style building at 1004 Oliver Avenue North in Minneapolis was home to the congregation Mikro Kodesh (Holy Assembly) from the 1920s through the 1960s. It is one of the few physical remnants of the now-dispersed North Side Jewish community.
During a fifteen-year span beginning in 1837, a series of Christian missionaries moved into the Mdewakanton Dakota village of Red Wing. Their goals, in the language of the day, were the "education and civilization" of the Indians. Welcomed by some of their hosts and tolerated by others, these Euro-Americans attempted to convince the Mdewakanton to adopt the ways of the whites.
Mount Sinai Hospital in Minneapolis was among the first private hospitals in the Twin Cities to admit minority doctors on its medical staff. The Jewish community opened the hospital in 1951. By the time Mount Sinai closed in 1991, local hospitals were open to doctors of all races and religions.
In 1856, eight German-Jewish families in St. Paul founded the first Jewish congregation in Minnesota. It was called Mount Zion Hebrew Association. In 2012, Mount Zion Temple had 1,000 members. The synagogue building on Summit Avenue in St. Paul was designed by internationally recognized architect Erich Mendelsohn.
Divorce in Minnesota's nineteenth century Norwegian-Lutheran community was a rarity. Legal separation between a leading pastor and his wife was unheard of. But an 1879 court case in Holden Township led to both those outcomes, and triggered a public debate about married women's legal rights.
Eric Norelius traveled to the Minnesota territorial town of Red Wing in 1855. He planned to meet with groups of immigrant Swedes looking for a Lutheran minister to lead them. The twenty-one year-old churchman thus began a six-decade ministry that served the state's Swedish Lutheran population.
From ancient times to the present, a pipestone quarry in southwestern Minnesota has been a sacred gathering place for Indian nations from all over North America. Modern highways following traditional migration routes used by indigenous people intersect at this venerated place, designated a national monument in 1937.
Mother Benedicta (Sybilla) Riepp was the founder of the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict in North America. During her time as Superior of the first foundation in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, she sent a group of Sisters to St. Cloud, Minnesota, where they began a new convent. This group moved to St. Joseph in 1863. By 1946, Saint Benedict’s Monastery was the largest community of Benedictine Sisters in the world.
Stephen Return Riggs was a Christian missionary and linguist who spent forty years in the Minnesota River Valley, Nebraska, and Dakota Territory. In both these roles, he aimed to “Christianize and civilize” the Dakota people he believed were caught in the “bonds of heathenism.” To further his project, he compiled the first printed dictionary of the Dakota language. Riggs’s work as a government translator and interpreter helped the United States remove the Dakota from their Minnesota homeland during the 1850s and 1860s.
The Sabes Jewish Community Center (JCC) began in 1918 as a community center for immigrant youth on the North Side of Minneapolis. Located in St. Louis Park since the early 1960s, in the twenty-first century the Sabes JCC continues to be a mainstay of Jewish cultural life for the greater Minneapolis community.
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).
Shir Tikvah is a Reform congregation located in south Minneapolis. It was founded in 1988 after a dispute at St. Paul's Mount Zion Temple over the homosexuality of Associate Rabbi Stacy Offner. Offner resigned from Mount Zion in February 1988. She was the first woman rabbi in Minnesota.
Two Jewish homes for the poor and elderly operated in the Twin Cities area through most of the twentieth century. They merged in 1971, then merged again in 1995 with another agency devoted to eldercare to form Sholom Community Alliance. Sholom operates two campuses, one in St. Louis Park and the other in St. Paul.
In 1851 Bishop Joseph Cretin needed help to preach the Catholic faith to the growing St. Paul community. In July of that year he asked the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Missouri to assist him. Mother St. John Fournier and three Catholic sisters traveled to the city in the fall and quickly influenced the health and welfare of the region.
Alice Gustava Smith, better known by her students and readers as Sister Maris Stella, taught English at the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in St. Paul for nearly fifty years. During that time she also published books of verse that built her reputation as a skilled and spiritual poet.