Monday, September 3, 2012

A weekend of Indiana's Historic Synagogues!

Beth El, 1925, Indianapolis
Temple Israel, 1867, West Lafayette
This Labor Day weekend, I met with Isaiah Kuperstein and his wife Elana at the Ahavas Sholom synagogue building. Thankfully, Jed Mast was there to help us into the building. Isaiah is currently working on a project to help restore the 1925 Beth El temple on 34th and Ruckles streets in Indianapolis and create a new Jewish Heritage museum. We had a wonderful meeting at Ahavas Sholom, with the Marshmallow Festival going on nearby! Jed and I were also joined by Cyndi, Everett, and Jerry who are on our project team. It was great to catch up with them a bit and to brainstorm about our next meeting and next steps for the synagogue project. Isaiah got me thinking about the oldest synagogue building- created to be a synagogue- that is still standing in Indiana.

After our visit, he inquired about this synagogue and I sent him the information about Temple Israel's 1867 building in West Lafayette. This building is 22 years older than our Ahavas Sholom building in Ligonier. Of course there is a reason why I prefaced the above with "created to be a synagogue that is still standing." Temple Israel is in fact not the oldest synagogue in Indiana. This title belongs to Achduth VeSholom in Fort Wayne. I met with Rabbi Javier Cattapan at Achuduth VeSholom this past Friday and received a tour of their museum located at their 1961 synagogue built on 10 beautiful acres. This congregation, the oldest in Indiana, purchased an empty German Methodist Church and dedicated it as a synagogue in 1857 (a decade older than Temple Israel). However, this congregation did not actually build their own synagoge building until 1874. Unfortunately for those interested in historic architecture, both of these buildings in Fort Wayne have been demolished. The Achduth VeSholom congregation is currently in the midst of revitalizing their museum and are welcoming both the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Historical Society of Indiana onto their synagogue campus. I wish I could spend every holiday weekend learning about local Jewish History, and meeting brilliant new people who are passionate about celebrating diversity in Indiana!

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