1000 Oliver Avenue No.
Architect: Septimus J. Bowler
The story of Mikro Kodesh (Hebrew for “holy assembly”; pronounced MICK-ro KO-desh) exemplifies the ups and downs of many U.S. Jewish congregations. In 1958 Mikro Kodesh was the largest Orthodox Jewish congregation in the Upper Midwest with 500 families. But the congregation no longer exists under the name Mikro Kodesh, and the building is now owned by the Disciples Ministry Church, a Christian congregation.
The Mikro Kodesh congregation, originally under the name Anshei Russia (Men of Russia), was founded in 1890 by immigrants who had fled antisemitic laws and pogroms. (“Pogrom” is a Russian word meaning “to wreak havoc” and denotes violent, state-sponsored massacres of Jews.) To dissociate itself from Russia, the congregation changed its name to Mikro Kodesh in 1895.
In 1927, the congregation built this, its second synagogue, designed by English immigrant Septimus J. Bowler. Bowler began work in Minneapolis as a carpenter under the tutelage of master builder Barclay Cooper, and, by 1888, had established himself as an architect.
Mikro Kodesh’s architecture combines several influences. Its round-headed windows and its appearance as a massive masonry structure (actually, its underlying frame is of reinforced concrete) are influenced by the Romanesque style of the 8th through 13th centuries CE. However, the vari-colored brick and stone facade and the small domes show the influence of 6th-century CE Byzantine architecture, such as Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. In turn, the Byzantine influence may reflect the Exotic Revival Style, which emerged first in the 18th-century as European traders experienced Middle Eastern and Asian building styles, and then was revived in the 1920s after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922.
The stone tablets between crowned lions at the top of the façade present the Ten Commandments in Hebrew. The Hebrew lettering below the lions translates as “Holy Assembly of the Sephardic People.” (While “Sephardic” sometimes refers only to Jews from Spain and Portugal, it can also refer to all Jews.) The crosses atop the domes were added when the building was acquired by Disciples Ministry Church.
The Jewish population of North Minneapolis, which was about 4,500 in 1910, grew until the 1960s when many Jews moved to suburbs including St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, and Minnetonka. The Jewish exodus from North Minneapolis was accelerated in 1967 when racial tensions boiled over into riots in which Jewish businesses on Plymouth Avenue were burned and looted. At that time, the Mikro Kodesh membership dropped dramatically. By 1972, after several mergers, the Mikro Kodesh congregation became part of Adath Jeshurun, a congregation with its synagogue in Minnetonka.