2323 Fremont Ave So.
Architects: Liebenberg and Kaplan
1928; addition 2016
Temple Israel is one of the largest Reform synagogues in the United States with more than 2,000 families. Founded in 1878 as Shaarai Tov (Hebrew for “Gates of Goodness”; pronounced Sha-a-RAY Tove), the congregation was initially made up of the families of well-established merchants, most of whom had immigrated from Germany and Prussia. Some had moved to Minneapolis after becoming established in eastern U.S, cities. By the early 20th century, many congregants had moved from the northern section of downtown Minneapolis to south Minneapolis neighborhoods, leading to interactions with recently immigrated Eastern European Jews. The native language of the newly immigrated population, Yiddish, impeded their integration into the existing English-speaking Jewish community. However, Rabbi Samuel Deinard who served at Temple Israel from 1901 to 1921, used his fluency in Yiddish to connect the two groups and to attract the immigrant families.
The rapidly expanding Temple Israel congregation built this, its third synagogue, in 1928. Its predecessors were a wooden synagogue in the Moorish Revival style, which burned down, and a stone replacement in the Byzantine Revival style. Both stood at the corner of 10th Street and 5th Ave. where the I-35W exit into downtown lies today.
The 1928 building was designed by the architectural firm of Liebenberg & Kaplan in the Neoclassical style. Its columned entryway creates an imposing facade that was certainly intended to project an image of pride and prestige. The synagogue’s five entrance doors represent the five books of the Torah, Judaism’s most sacred text. The building committee elected to have “My house shall be a house of prayer for all people” carved into the façade’s architrave, communicating an eagerness to welcome Jews from all walks of life into their congregation.
Since its founding, Temple Israel has been active in the greater Minneapolis community, engaging in political rallies and advocating for an end to antisemitism and discrimination of all kinds. The Sisterhood and Men’s Club, which were founded in the early 1920s, have organized numerous fundraisers and outreach programs. It was through these community connections that Temple Israel was able to thrive in Minneapolis despite financial struggles during the Great Depression and in the face of long-standing antisemitism.
In 2016, a new addition replaced outdated school and office buildings that had been added in the 1950s and 1980s. The new entrance facing north, just off Fremont Avenue, is a modern retelling of the Neoclassical Emerson Avenue entrance. The grey, textured walls match the original stone facade, and the narrow, vertical rectangular windows suggest a classical colonnade. These modernizations remind passersby that Temple Israel is part of Minneapolis’s past, present, and future.