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Temple Israel, Duluth

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

Photograph of the exterior of Temple Israel in Duluth. Photographed by Phillip Prowse c.2010.

Two of Duluth's oldest Jewish congregations—Temple Emanuel and Tifereth Israel—had little in common after they were founded in the 1890s. While Temple Emanuel was affiliated with Reform Judaism, Tifereth Israel conducted worship services in the Orthodox tradition. Tifereth Israel's 1945 shift to Conservative Judaism, however, coupled with the decline of Duluth's Jewish population, led the two congregations to unite in 1969 as Temple Israel.

The first Jewish residents of Duluth arrived in 1869 from Milwaukee and Chicago to open a store and run a line of boats among the three cities. A Jewish couple from Detroit soon followed. Duluth businesses thrived after the Mesabi Iron Range opened for mining in the 1890s and their success attracted more newcomers.

The city's earliest Jewish pioneers were German and Hungarian immigrants. They founded Temple Emanuel in 1891 and affiliated their congregation with Reform Judaism. It incorporated in 1896. In 1904 its seventy-five member families built a house of worship at Second Street and Seventh Avenue East.

Eastern European immigrants—many of them fleeing religious persecution in their homelands—also chose to settle in Duluth. They founded three Orthodox synagogues in the 1890s. Tifereth Israel (Splendor of Israel) was the first, founded in 1893 by Russian Jews. Services were held in a private residence at Fifth Street and Third Avenue East.

In 1922 Tifereth Israel's twenty families moved to a new building at 302 East Fourth Street, an address that earned the building the nickname "the Fourth Street shul" (the Yiddish word for synagogue). Temple Emanuel dedicated its new synagogue on the corner of Fourth Street and Nineteenth Avenue East in 1923.

In 1930 Duluth's total population was 101,463. The city's Jewish population peaked during that decade at about four thousand. By 1940 the city was home to 2,633 Jewish individuals and 827 families. Four years later, the numbers had dropped further to 2,520 individuals and 659 families.

Tifereth Israel affiliated with the Conservative movement in 1945. This was an effort to retain younger members.

Temple Emanuel and Tifereth Israel merged in 1969 to form Temple Israel. Services for the combined congregations were first held in the Temple Emanuel building. The Jewish population of Duluth declined from 1,500 people in 1968 to 1,100 in 1973.

In 1973 Duluth's Jewish Federation and Community Council recommended that the city's Jewish congregations and social groups join together in the Jewish Education Center. The Center had been built in 1951 at Second Street and Sixteenth Avenue East. It housed the Ida Cook Hebrew School and hosted community activities.

In 1974 Temple Israel made the move to the Jewish Education Center. Duluth's other synagogue, Adas Israel, stayed put. The Center was remodeled in 1975 to create a sanctuary for Temple Israel. This remains its home in the twenty-first century.

Temple Israel has evolved to incorporate both Reform and Reconstructionist traditions into its worship services. In 2013 its approximately 145 member families included interfaith families and Jews by birth and by choice.

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"Construction of New Temple Emanuel Building." Duluth Evening Herald, September 28, 1921.

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

Davis, Ida B. "Temple Emanuel Story: Duluth, Minnesota."Typescript. [Minnesota: N.p.], 1967.
Northeast Minnesota Historical Center, University of Minnesota, Duluth.

"The First Mercantile House on the Ground." Duluth Minnesotian, May 15, 1869.

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

Temple Israel Records, 1969–1984
Northeast Minnesota Historical Center, University of Minnesota, Duluth
Description: The records contain a lease agreement between Temple Israel and the Jewish Educational Center, June 25, 1974.

Papo, Joseph M. "A Study of the Jewish Community of Duluth." Duluth, MN: Jewish Welfare Federation, 1941. Reprinted from Jewish Social Service Quarterly 18, no. 2 (December, 1941).

"Plans Ready for Three-Day Services at Temple Emanuel." Duluth News Tribune, December 7, 1923.

Plaut, W. Gunther. The Jews in Minnesota: The First Seventy-Five Years. American Jewish Communal Histories, no. 3. New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959.

Record Book, Woodland Cemetery Association of Duluth [Temple Emanuel Cemetery], 1895–1934
Manuscript Collection, Temple Israel, Duluth.
Description: This book records internments made in the cemetery. It also contains plot maps.

Services of Dedication: December 6–9 1923. [Duluth, MN: Temple Emanuel, 1923].
Northeast Minnesota Historical Center, University of Minnesota, Duluth.

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

"Temple Emanuel Seventh Avenue East and Second Street" [photograph]. Duluth News Tribune, August 8, 1909.

"Temple Emanuel to Have New Structure; Greeks Buy Old One." Duluth Evening Herald, August 25, 1921.

Temple Israel (Duluth) Congregation.
http://www.jewishduluth.org

Jewish Minnesota Community Directory. Temple Israel of Duluth (Reform).
http://www.jewishminnesota.org/IR/community-directory.aspx?id=3194&category=1578

Related Images

Color photograph of the exterior of Temple Israel in Duluth. Photographed by Phillip Prowse c.2010.
Color photograph of the exterior of Temple Israel in Duluth. Photographed by Phillip Prowse c.2010.
Black and white photograph of the exterior of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Duluth. Tifereth Israel merged with Temple Emanuel in 1969 to form Temple Israel.
Black and white photograph of the exterior of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Duluth. Tifereth Israel merged with Temple Emanuel in 1969 to form Temple Israel.

Turning Point

In 1969 Duluth's two oldest Jewish congregations merge to form Temple Israel. They are Temple Emanuel (Reform) and Tifereth Israel (Orthodox, later Conservative), both founded in the early 1890s.

Chronology

1891

Temple Emanuel, Duluth's first Jewish congregation, is founded.

1893

Tifereth Israel is founded. Services are held in a private home at Fifth Street and Third Avenue East.

1896

Temple Emanuel incorporates.

1904

Temple Emanuel dedicates its synagogue building at Second Street and Seventh Avenue East.

1922

Tifereth Israel builds a synagogue at 302 East Fourth Street.

1923

Temple Emanuel builds a new synagogue on the corner of Fourth Street and Nineteenth Avenue East.

1945

Tifereth Israel changes its affiliation from Orthodox to Conservative.

1969

Temple Emanuel and Tifereth Israel merge and take the name Temple Israel. The new congregation is housed in Temple Emanuel's building.

1974

Temple Israel moves to the Jewish Education Center at 1602 East Second Street.

1975

The Center is remodeled to create an appropriate sanctuary for Temple Israel.

2013

Temple Israel is affiliated with both the Reform and Reconstructionist movements and has a membership of about 145 families.