Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Minnesota’s B’nai Abraham Synagogue to Reopen as Cultural Center in Summer 2008
By Samuel Gruber
B’nai Abraham of Virginia, Minnesota, is the only surviving synagogue of the MinnesotaIron Range. Next year the building will celebrate its centennial. It almost didn’t make it this long, but thanks to the efforts of local preservationists who banded together in 2005 as the Friends of B’nai Abraham, the building is undergoing restoration, and a transformation form a house of worship to a regional cultural center. To date close to $300,000 has been raised in grants and from private contributions and restoration of the building is far advanced. A new sub-floor has been laid, the arched ceiling has been repaired, and the original pews have been returned. A new lower level has been created nad new mechanical systems are being installed. Still ahead is the challenging and costly work of restoring the exquisite stained glass windows. Images of the windows and the progress of the restoration work can be tracked on the Friends’ excellent website: www.IronRangeJewishHeritage.org.
When completed, the restored building will be used for a variety of cultural and educational programs by the Virginia Area Historical Society, which will manage the building. Many programs are already planned for June and July 2008, including an open house and tour for all those agencies and organizations that have provided funding and other support for the project. The Minnesota Humanities Center will use the building as a site for its summer teacher-training workshop: Building America: Minnesota’s Iron Range, U.S. Industrialization, and the creation of a World Power. ISJM member Marilyn Chiat will speak about the synagogue’s architecture and historical context at one of the workshops.