- Topics & Settings
Mapping Mount Zion: Relocations in Saint Paul
Over the years, Mount Zion has occupied several structures in the city of Saint Paul, slowly expanding to accommodate its growing community. These structures have housed religious and spiritual activities, social and community life, and educational programming. Each of Mount Zion’s four relocations reflect moments of transition in the community: As the congregation expanded in size, Jewish residential neighborhoods migrated across Saint Paul, and Mount Zion amassed greater resources, different facilities became necessary. And, with each move, Mount Zion further solidified their presence in Minnesota’s landscape.
Today, the Mount Zion Temple is an expansive complex on the prestigious Summit Avenue in Saint Paul. It boasts a large sanctuary, social halls, and facilities ranging from an educational wing, library, Judaica shop, and centers for community service.
See also Isaac Gamoran's website on Mt. Zion history created in 2018 for a Macalester College senior project: https://mountzionhistory.wordpress.com/.↩
Mount Zion Hebrew Association
In 1856, one year before Minnesota's ascension to statehood, eight Jewish families formed the first Jewish house of prayer in the Minnesota territory, calling it the Mount Zion Hebrew Association.2 These pioneer families were largely middle class German immigrants who had arrived during the first wave of Jewish settlement in Minnesota.
The Mount Zion Hebrew Association conducted their first prayer services in rented rooms on Robert Street, between 3rd and 4th Streets. During these early years, Kalmon Lion served as the cantor but also filled other important ritual roles for the community.3
After renting space on Robert Street for over a decade, the congregation built their first temple in 1870 on the corner of 10th and Minnesota.4 The first building was a simple structure. At the time, it cost $800 to construct, but Mount Zion had achieved an important milestone.5
Sally Rubinstein, “Historical Tidbits - Mount Zion in the 1850s,” n.d., 1.↩
Expansion at 10th and Minnesota
In 1881, Mount Zion began construction on their second building at the 10th and Minnesota address. Now with 68 congregants, a larger brick structure was built on 10th and Minnesota to accommodate Mount Zion’s needs.6 The structure, which no longer stands, was in service for 22 years as it served the growing community through the end of the nineteenth century.7
Holly and Avon
The third structure that Mount Zion called home was on the corner of Holly and Avon. The building (pictured left) was constructed in 1904 as the congregation needed a larger gathering space. It served the community for 49 years until the congregation moved to its current location in the 1950s.8
Summit Avenue: 4th and Current Location
Construction at Summit Avenue began in 1953. The cornerstone of the building was laid on August 16th, 1953 and it was oficially consecrated in 1954. The new structure was designed by famous Bauhaus architect, Eric Mendelsohn.9 The congregation had again grown in size and Jewish families now resided in different parts of the city; relocating to the impressive Summit Avenue neighborhood made sense for the community. The move to Summit Avenue began a signifincant and ongoing chapter of Mount Zion's history, solidifying its status as a major religious institution in Saint Paul. Mount Zion and its congregants share a deep sense of pride in their temple.
“Stands to represent the confidence and permanence of this Jewish community now firmly established in this mid-twentieth century.”10 - Rabbi Adam Spilker