It's been nearly a decade since a new Jewish synagogue was built in Minnesota. In fact, a number have closed in the past 20 years as congregation sizes dwindled.
But Darchei Noam, the only Modern Orthodox Jewish congregation in the Twin Cities, is bucking the trend. The growing congregation will break ground on June 24 in St. Louis Park for a new synagogue.
Construction on the 5,000-square-foot structure at Minnetonka Boulevard and Joppa Avenue should take about six months, with the synagogue opening by January.
"We're really excited about it," said Judy Shapiro, president of congregation Darchei Noam. "It's going to give us more freedom" and space to hold large gatherings, such as bar mitzvahs and holiday events.
The congregation started out with about 30 families in 2005 and met in members' basements for about a year before moving to St. George Episcopal Church in St. Louis Park. The congregation rented space in the education wing of St. George's before buying the site for the new synagogue in 2008.
The house on the site was rented by the congregation for a several years before leaders decided it was time to tear it down to make way for a new synagogue, Shapiro said. Since its establishment, Darchei Noam's congregation has doubled.
Modern Orthodox, one of the smaller sects of Judaism, is described by Shapiro as the "leftward flank of Orthodoxy. It's modern, meaning we participate fully in modern life."
Shapiro attributes the congregation's growth to members being "open minded. We have a lot of intellectual curiosity. We have a lot of learning that goes on as well as more traditional Torah learning."
When Darchei Noam opens its new synagogue, congregation members will hold a dedication ceremony and plan to walk or dance with their Torahs through the neighborhood, Shapiro said.
"It's a very joyous event," she said. "Although it's harder to do that in January. But we'll figure something out."
Rose French • 612-673-4352