Faith — Construction moving along on new synagogue

By Matt Russell

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

As Passover arrives this weekend, an historic moment is getting closer for B’nai Israel Synagogue in Rochester.

Construction is moving along on the congregation’s new home, which B’nai Israel leaders say is the first building in southeastern Minnesota designed specifically for use as a synagogue. The opening is slated for July, with bar mitzvahs already scheduled for the new building.

The roughly $6 million, 15,000-square-foot synagogue at 621 Second St. S.W. will nearly double the space B’nai Israel had in its previous building, giving the congregation more space for hosting holiday services, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs and weddings.


The former Mormon meeting house B’nai Israel used as its worship space was demolished along with other buildings on the block to make room for the larger building, along with a small garden area and parking lot.

The sanctuary in the new synagogue will seat around 135 people and can be expanded to 250 seats by using space in the adjoining social hall. Other features of the synagogue include a teaching kitchen where classes for traditional Jewish cooking can be held, classrooms, a youth lounge and a library and cultural center.

B’nai Israel has held its regular services at Ronald McDonald House in Rochester during the congregation’s transition period, also using Holy Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for larger holiday services.

"It’s been like a community-wide outreach program for us — it’s been wonderful," Rabbi Michelle Werner said.

Congregation treasurer and construction liaison Bruce Kall said that as the opening date gets closer, he’s looking forward to having more space.

"It’s obviously exciting thinking of the possibilities in our new building," he said.

B’nai Israel was incorporated in 1917, seven years after 14 families formed the first Jewish congregation in Rochester. The congregation met at various buildings before purchasing the Mormon meeting house in 1977.

For more information, go to


Passover celebration

B’nai Israel will hold its community seder celebration at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Marriott Hotel, 101 First Ave. S.W., Rochester.

B’nai Israel Synagogue

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