Shaara Tzedek

Shaara Tzedek Synagogue, date and photographer unknown [Image: Upper Midwest Jewish Archives]

402 E. Ninth St. | Architects: Holstead & Sullivan | Built: 1922 | Lost: 1967

Many Jewish immigrants from Russia found homes in Duluth high on the hillside above downtown along Ninth Street between Third and Fifth Avenues East. They called their neighborhood “the Barg,” a Yiddish take on the German “Berg,” meaning “mountain.” Their non-Jewish neighbors called the area “Little Jerusalem.” In 1906 a group of Jewish men formed the Jewish Orthodox congregation of Shaara Tzedek (“Gates of Righteousness,” also spelled Shari Zedek). Early members included Jacob Fishman, Louis and John Gallop, Mayer Glazman, David and Max Goldfarb, Samuel Goldstein, Meyer Green, Harry Karon, Sam and Frank Karsner, Ben and Joseph London, and David Paul. They first met in a room in Karsner’s house at 421 East Ninth Street.

By 1909 the congregation had twenty-five members and a growing building fund. They used it to buy a house at First Avenue East and Ninth Street and moved it to the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue East and Ninth Street, just up the street from Karsner’s house. A dozen years later the group, now fifty-eight members strong, decided to build a new temple on the site, laying its cornerstone on September 3, 1922. They hired Duluth architects Abraham Holstead and William Sullivan to design a simple two-story, wood-framed vernacular building that sat on a foundation of native stone. Entries were located on either end of the Ninth Street façade, and the building featured several Roman-arch windows, including a large light carrying a Star of David on the gable end. A modest cupola rose from the center of the roof. It soon became known as the Ninth Street Shul.

Shaara Tzedek never had a formal rabbi of its own. Special cantors and “pious and learned men” were hired to conduct High Holiday services; the rabbi from Adas Israel also conducted holiday services. During the 1940s, rabbis were hired for a year or two by all three of Duluth’s Orthodox congregations. In a 1978 article in Jewish Fellowship News, published in Duluth, lifelong member Louis Fishman remembered that three hundred people would attend its High Holiday services and that “the rabbi would alternate. One year he would come for Kol Nidrei to one, and the next year to another. But the Third Street Shul [Adas Israel) always paid the biggest share.”

In 1911 the congregation purchased land for a cemetery north of Duluth on Maple Grove. Its membership peaked in 1946 at three hundred congregants. Twenty-one years later, citing declining attendance, the congregation voted to disband. Many of its members thereafter attended Adas Israel, which now administers to the cemetery, whose original name has been retained. Bulldozers came for the Ninth Street Shul in 1967.