A stately brown, beige, and red brick house of worship has anchored its north Minneapolis corner for more than eighty years, plainly visible from busy Penn Avenue a block away. Yet the old building, once Mikro Kodesh Synagogue, simultaneously exists in another place, accessible through memory: the eastern European Jewish community that grew, thrived, and abruptly disappeared from Minneapolis between the 1880s and 1960s.
The Moorish/Byzantine-style building, home to the congregation Mikro Kodesh (Holy Assembly) from the 1920s through the 1960s, is one of the few physical remnants of the now-dispersed North Side Jewish community. This was a place where grandparents, aunts, and cousins lived on the next block, and numerous delis, kosher butcher shops, and groceries were around the corner. There were so many synagogues that groups of teenagers could walk from one to another on high holidays, socializing with friends.
The Minneapolis Jewish community first organized itself socially and religiously by country of origin; Mikro Kodesh, when founded in 1890, was named Anshei Russia (Men of Russia). Like the other eleven ethnically based Orthodox synagogues established on the North Side between 1884 and 1905, it stood near the intersection of Sixth Avenue North (today Olson Highway) and Lyndale Avenue. In 1926, the Americanizing congregants of Mikro Kodesh built a second synagogue in a newer neighborhood. It's the one still standing on Oliver Avenue North.
In 1949, Mikro Kodesh was the largest Orthodox congregation in the Upper Midwest, with some 500 dues-paying families. But by the late 1960s, North Side Jews were joining the millions of Americans moving to the suburbs. The synagogue's membership dropped by half between 1967 and 1969. When the commercial district on Plymouth Avenue was substantially destroyed in the volatile summer of 1969, the die was cast. That year, Mikro Kodesh merged with a Conservative congregation, and the merged congregation soon joined with yet another. Unified under the new name B'nai Emet, the congregation was located in St. Louis Park. In 2011, B'nai Emet closed, merging with Adath Jeshurun. The old building remained vacant for a decade until its current owner, the African American Disciples Ministry Church, began a new chapter in its history.
Berman, Hyman, and Linda Mack Schloff. Jews in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002.
City of Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission Registration Form, 97-4073, Mikro Kodesh Synagogue, Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society.
North Side Memories, full issue of Upper Midwest Jewish History 2 (Fall 2000).
Peterson, Garneth O. "Jewish Settlement in Minneapolis, 1860s-1972," Historic Context for Minneapolis Preservation Plan, 1997, State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society.
The congregation Mikro Kodesh (Holy Assembly) is founded in 1890 under the name Anshei Russia (Men of Russia) and goes on to build a synagogue on Oliver Avenue North in Minneapolis.