Congregational meeting July 1 will decide whether to merge or move
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
The roots of Bnai Emet Synagogue go back more than 100 years, to the founding of B’nai Abraham Congregation in 1891. The downtown Minneapolis house of worship was known as the Romanian shul. The congregation prospered after moving to St. Louis Park in the 1950s, growing to nearly 400 families in 1959.
Just as B’nai Abraham was coping with changes in the local Jewish neighborhoods, two congregations on the North Side of Minneapolis, Mikro Kodesh and Tifereth B’nai Jacob, negotiated a merger and became Mikro Tifereth Synagogue. The new congregation, which was led by Rabbi Marc Liebhaber (former publisher of the American Jewish World) and Cantor Shalom Markovits, eventually merged with B’nai Abraham and became Bnai Emet Congregation.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 1, Bnai Emet congregants will meet to determine where their dwindling congregation will meet to daven in the years to come.
The congregation’s board of trustees has decided that the time has come for Bnai Emet to either merge with another Conservative congregation or move to a new location, perhaps further to the northwest of Minneapolis — to Plymouth or Maple Grove, where many members have settled.
Adeel Saad, president of Bnai Emet Congregation, told the Jewish World this week that the shul’s building at Ottawa Avenue and Highway 7 in St. Louis Park is too large and too expensive to maintain for a congregation that numbers just 275 members.
No specific course for Bnai Emet has been set, Saad emphasized. “There is no ‘for sale’ sign” planted by the synagogue, he said; neither has the merger committee entered into talks with another Conservative synagogue.
The July 1 congregational meeting (which had originally been scheduled for June 17) will be another step in a process that will play out over the next year or so, according to Saad. Bnai Emet will observe the High Holidays in its present location.
“We are a whole year ahead of ourselves,” he commented.
Regarding a possible move to the northwest of the metro area, Bnai Emet’s successful Jewish preschool could fill a need in the Plymouth area, Saad allowed.
The 75th anniversary special edition of the American Jewish World, in 1986, included profiles of local shuls, schools and Jewish agencies. The entry on Bnai Emet (which recently dropped the apostrophe from “B’nai”) noted: “Looking at the long road that B’nai Emet Synagogue has traveled, it is a miracle that there is a B’nai Emet at all…. and there will always be people who believe that keeping the congregation going is more important than letting it fail.”
Nearly 25 years later, there are many Bnai Emet members who want to keep the shul alive.
The story at this point, according to Saad, is that there is a “congregation that is trying to figure out what do” — and that it will be staying put for some months to come.