One of the major factors in Park's
remarkable growth after the War was the migration of the
Jewish community of Minneapolis to the suburbs. The same
advantages that other city dwellers sought in moving to the
suburbs drew this close community westward. Much of the
northernmost area of the Park was undeveloped, creating an
opportunity for a large scale relocation. The Jewish
community made an important and lasting impact on the city
and had contributed a great deal to the development and
image of St. Louis Park.
Much of the information for this section came from
"Jewish Settlement in Minneapolis, 1860s-1972: Historic
Context for Minneapolis Preservation Plan" by Garneth O.
Peterson, AICP, Landscape Research: August 1997. Information about discrimination
in Minneapolis in the 1940s is from the book
An Echo in My Blood by internationally renowned author (and
St. Louis Park native) Alan Weisman (Harcourt Brace &
Company: 1999.) A book
available from the Minnesota Historical Society Press is Jews in Minnesota by Hyman Berman and Linda Mack Schloff.
www.FilminFocus.com, the film culture website of film company
Focus Features (A Serious Man, Brokeback Mountain, Coraline),
has an editorial titled “Jews
in the USA” which looks at the smaller Jewish
communities across America. The site includes a
feature on the St Louis Park Jewish Community.
Also see our pages on
Race, Creed, and Color ,
Early Jewish Families, and the Hennepin County Library's page on
20th Century Growth and Diversity in Minneapolis.
WHAT IS A JEW?
In his essay in the book They Chose Minnesota
(Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981), Hyman Berman
Jews are a people with common historical and cultural
traits as well as a shared core of religious identity.
Some commentators identify Jews as a nation and others
have erroneously called them a race. We have
chosen to regard them as an ethnic group. Given
the diversity of national origins, the heterogeneity of
religious affiliations, the Babel of languages, and the
complexities of diverse historical experiences, the only
safe definition must be an eclectic one which depends
upon self-perception. A person or group of people
who identify themselves as Jews, participate in
institutions or activities - religious, cultural,
philanthropic, political or social - that seek to
perpetuate Jewish group identity will here be regarded
Jewish settlers first came to Minnesota. Abram Elfelt, know
to be Minnesota’s first Jewish settler, died in 1888.
The first synagogue in the state, the Mount Zion Hebrew
Congregation, was established in 1856 in
German Jews came to Minneapolis and established shops,
particularly selling clothing and dry goods.
Lodges of B'nai Brith (Sons of the Covenant) were
established in St. Paul in 1871 and in Minneapolis in 1877.
The first congregation in Minneapolis, the Reform Shaarai
Tov ("Gates of Goodness," later Temple Israel) was formed.
Shaarai Tov's synagogue, the first in Minneapolis, a frame
Byzantine edifice designed by LeRoy Buffington, was built on
Fifth Street between Marquette and Second Avenues. It is now
located at 24th Street and Hennepin Avenue.
Approximately 600 Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe
arrived in Minnesota, with fewer resources and English
skills as their German counterparts. The new immigrants
established mostly orthodox synagogues centered around their
country of origin at first.
In Minneapolis 11 Orthodox synagogues were formed between
1884 and 1905.
A Romanian Orthodox congregation called "Rumanian Schul,"
which became B'nai Abraham, was formed on the South Side of
Minneapolis. About 300 Romanian immigrants met in a building
on 15th Avenue South between Third and Fourth Streets.
From 1888 to 1928 Temple Israel was located at 10th
Street and 5th Ave. So. in Minneapolis.
Chapters of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)
were organized in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The Minneapolis Hebrew Free School opened to perpetuate
Jewish learning in modern, secular, urban America. It
became an afternoon school with a rigorous curriculum of
Jewish culture. It became Talmud Torah in 1911.
Approximately 5,000 Jews lived in Minneapolis.
Approximately 4,500 mostly Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish
Jews had settled in North Minneapolis, and approximately
3,500 mostly Romanian Jews had settled on the South Side.
North Side Jews began to move further north to the
Homewood district, across Olson Memorial Highway to Plymouth
and Penn Avenues.
Minneapolis had 20 active Ku Klan chapters in the early
‘20s. In Minnesota the Klan directed its wrath mostly
to Catholics and Jews.
Oak Ridge Country Club was started in Hopkins, by and
for Jewish golfers who had been excluded from other clubs.
Click on the link for an engaging history of the beginnings
of this club. It is still going strong.
See Early Jewish
The Minnesota Jewish Council was established in the 1930s to
monitor anti-Semite activities. The agency investigated cases of
discrimination, lobbied for legislation that would counter
its effects, and provide education to combat anti-Semitism.
In its blog, Hennepin County Library's
talks about the Jewish community on Franklin Ave. in South
Minneapolis. "From 1902-1950 the Agudas Achim
(Association of Brothers) Synagogue was located at 1820 17th
Avenue South. As you can see by the map above (courtesy of
Jews in Minnesota, 2002), the Jewish community in
south Minneapolis migrated west after 1935. The congregation
shrank in size and the land was sold to the highway
department for a Hiawatha Avenue expansion in 1950."
The synagogue was heavily supported by
Cann and his family.
The Jewish population on Minneapolis's North Side had
grown to about 11,000. Although there was a sizable
Jewish community on the South Side, a 1936 survey indicated
that about 70 percent of the city's Jews lived on the North
THE SILVER SHIRTS
In March 1936 a lunatic fringe group called the
Silver Shirts descended on Minneapolis, preaching
anti-Semitism and paranoia to what they claimed were 6,000
followers in the state. Eric Sevareid (using his real
name, Arnold) was a journalist for the Minneapolis
Journal and published a six-part expose of this group
starting on September 11, 1936. The organization was
led by William Dudley Pelley of Asheville, North Carolina,
who chose to blame all of his problems on Communists or
Jews, which he saw as one and the same. The
Silver Shirts was open only to men, but women could join the
associated Christian Party. Some of their most
ridiculous ideas include:
- President Roosevelt's real name was Rosenvelt, a
Jew. He will declare martial law and prevent the
upcoming national elections.
- The Pyramids of Giza predicted that the Jews would
arise and seize the world on September 16, 1936.
People were warned to hoard food, stay inside, and keep
away from the windows. In Minneapolis the uprising
would start in Kenwood and sweep eastward around the
- Jews started the World War and the Russian
Revolution was started by a Jew named Bronstein.
They have a king called Akha Dham.
- Maurice Rose, chauffeur to Minnesota Governor Floyd
B. Olson, is really a Jewish international banker in
- Secretary of the Treasury Morganthau buys quarters
from Russia for 5 cents and the Star of David is on the
- The NRA symbol hides the sign of the devil, and a
font that looks like Russian letters.
And so on.
In her book Easy Street, Susan Berman says that her
father, Jewish gangster David Berman, did not take kindly to
this attack on his people and he would go to the meetings in
Suburban Minneapolis and beat up the leaders. She described an incident where her
father and several of his employees busted up a meeting at
"the Elks Lodge" (doesn't say where), beating the
participants with clubs and brass knuckles. This
happened two more times, and after six months the Silver
Shirts gave up for fear of the beatings. No charges
were ever brought against Berman and his men. The
Silver Shirts reappeared in 1938, and the Journal decided to
reprint Sevareid's stories in a pamphlet, which you can
Evidence of anti-Semitism appeared in the form of a pamphlet
issued by the “American Christian Movement,” PO Box 485,
Minneapolis. The pamphlet was addressed to farmers in rural
Minnesota, and began with a diatribe against the New Deal.
The text reads “Are the Jews Really Being Persecuted?” and
“No one seems eager to die for the Jews!” It then reproduced
a few pages from the Talmud, with the intention of
alienating and frightening the populace.
Torah Academy was established in Minneapolis by a
Orthodox Jews who were dissatisfied with Talmud Torah.
An article entitled "Minneapolis: The Curious Twin,"
written by essayist Carey McWilliams, was published in
Common Ground magazine (September 1946). McWilliams proclaimed
is the capitol of anti-Semitism in the United States.
In almost every walk of life, 'an iron curtain' separates
Jews from non-Jews in Minneapolis."
Although only 4 percent of the population, Jews were publicly and unapologetically excluded
from membership in private country clubs, but also Rotary,
Lions, and Kiwanis Clubs, and groups like the Toastmasters.
Jews were even barred from the Minneapolis chapter of the
American Automobile Club. Discrimination had turned away
Jewish professionals, and in 1948 (1951), frustrated Jewish doctors
started their own hospital, Mt. Sinai, after being denied
access to Minneapolis medical facilities. Jews were
barred from local chapters of labor unions that had been
started in New York by Jewish organizers. Summer
resorts on Lake Minnetonka advertised that they catered to
"Gentiles only." Department stores such as Montgomery
Ward refused to interview Jewish job applicants. Many
neighborhoods were "restricted," barring Jews, Blacks, and
even Catholics and Italians. Jewish teachers were few
and far between. The discrimination was "much more
pronounced" in Minneapolis than in St. Paul, according to
situation was exacerbated by Reverend William Bell Riley at
the First Baptist Church in Minneapolis, whose sermons were
anti-Semitic diatribes. Along with
Rev. Luke Rader, Bell was identified as a "rabble
rouser" in McWilliams's article. An article on the
internet by Doug Linder in 2004 says "In early 1930s, he
(Riley) preached a virulent form of anti-Semitism and became
a fascist sympathizer. World War II finally softened his
anti-Semitism." And in the book Jews in Minnesota by
Hyman Berman and Linda Mack Schloff, it states "Expressions
of anti-Semitism in the 20th century spewed from the pulpits
of such popular Minneapolis evangelists as William Bell
Riley and Luke Rader." Rader was the minister of
River-Lake Gospel Tabernacle.
As a response to the charges of anti-Semitism, Minneapolis
Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey appointed a task force to
investigate the situation. The task force confirmed the
allegations, and also shone light on discrimination against
Blacks and American Indians. Humphrey turned the task force
into a permanent Mayor's Council on Human Relations.
Ordinances were passed in the next two years that outlawed
anti Semitic and racist practices in housing and employment.
The resultant migration from Minneapolis was almost
complete, with fewer than ten families still attending the
Romanian Congregation in South Minneapolis.
Race-specific real estate covenants were
invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1948, Humphrey gave a groundbreaking speech on civil
rights at the Democratic National Convention.
Mt. Sinai Hospital was opened in 1948 as a result of
doctors being excluded from practicing at the city's other
hospitals. Mt. Sinai was located at Chicago Ave. and
22nd Street in Minneapolis. See 1990 below.
As usual, the High School Prom of the St. Louis Park Class
of 1949 was to be held at the Automobile Club in
Bloomington. A manager there found out that a Jewish
student planned to attend, and banned him. St. Louis
Park School Superintendant Harold Enestvedt personally told
the Club that if all of his students were not welcome, the
Prom would be held somewhere else. The Club reversed
itself and everyone went to Prom as scheduled.
Issues of the St. Louis Park High School Echo
newspaper indicate that the school was overwhelmingly
Christian. The Glee Club sang at churches, the Brush
and Palette club decorated school windows to look like
stained glass at Christmas, holidays were for Christmas and
Easter, and there were very overt Biblical references to
articles. It is possible that the reason for this is
that the Jewish families were younger and their children
were still in the elementary schools. However, the
terms Winter and Spring vacations would not come to be used
A synagogue committee of the Park B'nai B'rith chapter
convened a meeting of Jewish families at Lenox School.
Discussions went on with Jewish congregations in Minneapolis
until an "amalgamation with B'nai Abraham evolved."
The St. Louis Park chapter of B'nai B'rith Women received
its charter on December 13, 1953. There were 93
charter members - membership in 1961 was 130. A 1961
Dispatch article states that "This philanthropic
organization supports hospitals throughout the country, the
Hillel houses on a number of campuses, and the
Anti-Defamation League and the B'nai B'rith Youth
The Anti-Defamation League, a branch of B’nai B’rith,
presented a booklet to the Superintendent of Schools that
included a schedule of the Jewish holidays and suggestions
In May, B'nai Abraham moved to a three-bedroom house at 3115
S. Ottawa Avenue on land purchased by Lewis Schwartz. The
original 27 members grew to 294 families by the fall.
Although the Echo (and the High School in general)
was overwhelmingly Christian, there was an editorial about
Hanukah in the December 1957 issue.
The B'nai Abraham Synagogue Center at Highway 7 and Ottawa
Avenue (3115 Ottawa) was built - the first in the Park. Moses B. Sachs was
the rabbi in 1959. By 1961, 400 families were members.
Construction began on the Talmud Torah and Emanuel Cohen
Center - later known as the Sabes Jewish Community Center. It
represented a merger of the Emmanuel Cohen Center and
Council Camp. Its aim, voiced by the Park Jewish Youth
Services in July 1959, was “to provide a community-wide
program to meet the social, cultural, and recreational needs
of every segment of the community.”
In the '60s, rival athletic teams would toss bagels at St.
Louis Park players.
Arthur E. Naftalin served as Minneapolis's
first Jewish mayor from 1961 to 1969.
Gemelus Chesed, a North Side congregation, moved to the
Phil Blazer presented the B'nai Shalom Hour on Sundays from
11 to noon on KUXL. The show featured "Jewish Music
Favorites, Israeli Folk Music, News of Jewish Community
Interest, Yiddish Comedy, and Interviews." An ad for
the show was in the February 5, 1965 issue of the newspaper
American Jewish World.
In an article dated November 22, 1967 in the Dispatch,
City Manager Camille Andre estimated that (with no exact
figures available) "the city's population included about 30
percent Catholics, 25 percent Jews and the remainder
Beth El, a North Side congregation with 900 families, moved
to 5224 W. 26th St. in St. Louis Park. A youth center had
been built at that location in 1960 to serve members of the
congregation who had already relocated.
A memo dated August 30, 1968 from the Jewish Community
Relations Council of Minnesota provided Superintendents of
Minnesota school and the President of the U of M with a
calendar of Jewish holidays from 1968 through 1973. “We are
hopeful that having a schedule of these holidays so far in
advance will avoid scheduling conventions, examinations,
etc., on days when Jewish youngsters and adults observe
their Holy Days.”
In the April 30, 1969 issue of the Park High Echo,
reporter Larry Hammermesh gave the results of his survey of
300 students regarding Jewish student
segregation. His research showed that a higher
percentage of Jewish students were more likely to make
Jewish friends than non-Jewish students; in other words,
there was self-segregation. His second conclusion was
that the the cause of this exclusiveness was that "Jews at
Park are uncomfortable in a society that is largely
Christian." There was some backlash after his article
John Milos, Greek owner of the New Dutch Grill (8005
Minnetonka Blvd.), closed his business on October 10, 1969,
claiming bad business was due to people thinking it was a
On January 6, 1970, over 125 students, mostly from Park High, discussed
the question "Is there anti-Semitism in St. Louis Park?"
Psychology teacher George Olson was the main speaker of the
program. A report in the Current, an
alternative student newspaper, reported on the event in
detail. The paper quoted Olson as saying:
I have noticed that the students who are anti-Semitic
usually have a D or a D minus average, are absent quite
a bit from class, have a bad attitude, and openly
display hostility. The worse off that they are,
the more violently anti-Semitic they become.
There is much resentment and jealousy among the Gentiles
about the Jewish students' scholastic standards.
What they don't understand though, is that the Jewish
heritage has always stressed learning and study and it
is a part of the Jewish student to be this way.
This is possibly why you won't find many Jewish students
out for sports in Park.
Olson cited Jewish parents disapproving of their children
dating non-Jews as a reason for resentment, and tackled the
subject of cliques:
Sure, Jews naturally stick together. When they
came from Europe they were thrown together in
neighborhoods in America that were like their European
ghettos. When a Jewish child is born he is sent to
a Jewish Sunday School, he graduates and is sent to
Hebrew school and joins a Jewish youth group.
Naturally most of his friends by the time he gets to
high school are Jewish. It's not that they don't
like Gentiles and purposely exclude the, it's just
natural for kids to stick together with the friends they
grew up with.
Sam Scheiner, Executive Director of the Jewish Community
Relations Council of Minnesota, addressed a remark that Jews
were prejudiced against Gentiles. He said that
in working with Jewish youth, he has found a few who
don't like particular Gentiles, but he didn't think that
there was one Jewish student in the audience who hated
Gentiles as a whole, but there are many Gentiles who are
anti-Semite to the whole sect. Sam earlier brought
up a case where a student complained that some members
of the Park hockey team pass anti-Semitic remarks and
taunt Jewish students in the lunch room. He called
the head hockey coach and asked him to look into the
complaint, an also offered to speak with the team about
the situation. So far, no return call.
On January 12, 1970, Mrs. Paula Beugen gave a training
session "What City Employees Should Know about the Jewish
People." She explained various situations which a city
employee might be confronted with in dealing with Jewish
people in an official capacity, the reasons of culture and
religion which might create those situations, and how to
deal with them.
On January 14, 1970, the school board voted to change
"Christmas Vacation" to "Winter Vacation" and "Easter
Vacation" to "Spring Vacation." The change came about
because of a request from the Social Action Committee of
Westwood Lutheran Church. See
Race, Creed, and Color for more actions taken to
secularize the schools.
Kenesseth Israel, organized in 1888, moved to a new building
at 4330 W. 28th.
B'nai Abraham, Mikro Kodesh, and Tifereth B'nai Jacob merged
to form B'nai Emet. A new building
at 3115 Ottawa Ave. was finished in April
Rudolph E. Boschwitz became Minnesota's first Jewish U.S.
Senator in 1978
In February the Echo reported that Nazi propaganda was
being distributed at local high schools, including Edina
East, Hopkins, and Southwest. Apparently not at Park.
However, someone did paint swastikas on the murals in the
Park High lunch room.
The May 7 issue of the St. Louis Park Echo (Park
High's newspaper) reported that many Russian students and
their families came to St. Louis Park through the help of
Jewish Family's Childrens Service. Sophomore Alla
Tsudek, from Odessa, said it took her family five and a half
months to get out of the U.S.S.R. The students
interviewed described some problems assimilating into the
Bloomington Jefferson videotaped their basketball game
with Park on December 16, 1980, complete with derogatory
commentary about Jews, coaches, cheerleaders, fans, and
players. Park coach Augie Schmidt showed the tape to
players, but it was unclear whether the comments were
broadcast over cable TV.
An article in the April 13, 1984 Echo indicates that despite
the large Jewish population at the school there were many
misconceptions about the meaning of Passover, just as there
were about Easter.
38 percent of the Jews residing in the Minneapolis area
lived in the Park.
Mt. Sinai Hospital, which was opened in 1948
specifically for Jewish patients and doctors, merged with
Metropolitan Medical Center but closed the next year. Over the years many of the Jewish doctors
moved to Methodist Hospital.
With the fall of the
Soviet Union, Russian Jews migrated to the U.S. In the Park,
a Russian community grew in the Aquila area, where there was
a Russian grocery store, Russian doctor, etc. It is
estimated that 30,000 Russians came to Minnesota.
Darchei Noam, an Orthodox Jewish congregation that first
formed in 2005, broke ground for a new synagogue at 2950
Joppa Ave. So. at Minnetonka Blvd. on June 24, 2012.
The congregation had been meeting at St. George's Episcopal
Church. See the story on the