Press Release by the Friends of B'nai Abraham
Historic Iron Range Synagogue To Be Restored, Reopened as Community Building
Friends of B'nai Abraham Forms Nonprofit to Preserve Virginia, Minnesota Landmark
Friends of B'nai Abraham may be the fastest-growing new nonprofit around. Dedicated to the restoration and reuse of the last surviving Iron Range synagogue, the group made great strides in 2006 toward its goal.
The Friends, which involves many Twin Cities and Iron Range participants, gained nonprofit status in 2005 and received a matching grant from the State Preservation Office of the Minnesota Historical Society for a Re-use Study of the 1909 synagogue building in Virginia, Minnesota. B'nai Abraham is the only synagogue in Minnesota on the National Register of Historic Places. Study results indicate the building is structurally sound but needs new plumbing and electrical systems, floor repairs and other modifications to bring it up to date.
The project was recently awarded a $15,000 matching grant from the Iron Range Resources board for preliminary architectural work and initial construction. With initial drawings in progress, the Friends are working to identify additional sources of funding to move to the renovation phase. The restored building will house a permanent display to tell the story of the Jewish presence on the Iron Range and serve as a non-sectarian community meeting space.
“What started as project initiated by the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest has become a community wide independent nonprofit endeavor,” explained Ann Shanedling Phillips, vice president of the Friends, whose forebears helped build B'nai Abraham. The tremendous support from the historical societies and the Iron Range community has been overwhelming. “This restoration is the ultimate win-win situation-for the entire Jewish community of Minnesota and the citizens of the Iron Range who will have a new community building,” commented Charles Ostrov MD, another member of the Friends group who also grew up at B'nai Abraham.
Progress to date would not be possible without monetary and technical support from collaborative partners, including Minnesota Historical Society, Iron Range Resources, Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest, Virginia Area Historical Society, St. Louis County Historical Society, and individual donors.
To make a contribution or to donate artifacts related to the B'nai Abraham Synagogue, contact Marjorie Ostrov, President, at 1788 Maryland Ave N, Golden Valley, MN 55427 763-544-6459. Find more information on the Friends web site at www.IronRangeJewishHeritage.org.