The desire for a Conservative Synagogue on Minneapolis’ Northside began in 1920 when a group of young people began to meet on Friday nights in the Talmud Torah to hold modern, meaningful services. They soon formed the Young People’s Synagogue and A.M. Heller of the Talmud Torah served as Rabbi. As the group expanded, it became difficult to continue meeting at the Talmud Torah. In the early 1920’s, it was agreed that a synagogue be built and that the congregational name be Beth El. In November, 1922, a house and lot were purchased on 14th and Penn Avenue North.
At first, daily services were held in the little house on the corner of the lot. By June, 1925, ground was broken and in September the cornerstone was laid, containing the names of the 25 original members.
The new building was formally dedicated on March 14 – 21, 1926, and filled with activity. Women’s League was established in 1924 – 1925, as was the Religious School. The Young People’s League was organized in 1926 and was extremely active. Talmud Torah classes were held in the building, as were Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, an annual inter-faith Thanksgiving service with neighborhood churches and Tomchei Torah, a Yiddish-speaking group which presented a Yiddish play each year. The first confirmation class graduated in 1926. In 1930, Men’s Club was organized and the Shofar began publication. Beth El preschool, new Aleph School began in 1939.
From cultural activities to religious education to Bonei Byith (young married couples), the building was filled with constant activity and the excitement of an ever-growing Beth El family. More room was soon needed. On March 14, 1948, the Bet Hamidrash and Community House (built at a cost of $235,000) was formally dedicated.
From the original 100, the congregation…now 450 families…moved in innovative directions. Mr. and Mrs. Club was formed in 1948. The same year, under the guidance of Lee Gordon, Shirley Abelson, and Rabbis Aronson and Abelson, U.S.Y. was born at Beth El. It is now international in scope.
Beth El Memorial Park was purchased and constructed in the early 1950’s. In 1956, the first baby-naming occurred during regular synagogue services, two more achievements in Beth El’s commitment to provide for its members during the complete life cycle.
As the congregation moved in large numbers from the Northside, the Board approved the purchase of land in St. Louis Park. Ground was broken for the Youth and Activities Building on September 17, 1961.
A congregation now numbering 894 families dedicated this building two years later. Activities continued at both buildings…youth and educational activities at the new building, all others at the Penn Avenue location. A complete move became inevitable. The final service at 1349 Penn North was held on June 7, 1968 and the building was sold to the city of Minneapolis on June 10. In the fall of 1968, groundbreaking occurred in St. Louis Park.
With the old building sold and the new building incomplete, High Holiday services were held in Convention Hall, with 2300 members worshipping together at one service.
On May 15 – 17, 1968, our new synagogue was dedicated.
Beth El continues to grow creatively and programmatically as it strives to fill the needs of its congregants [now numbering over 1400 families] and to stimulate each of us to live fuller and more committed lives.