The 1st Church of God in Christ is a long-standing African American congregation in the Oak Park neighborhood of North Minneapolis. It is a part of a large and vibrant African American community. But if you look closely at the Stars of David and other designs on the structure, you’ll see that 1st Church was, first, a synagogue.
In producing ‘Cornerstones: A History of North Minneapolis’ we interviewed elders and scholars within and around some of these ‘cornerstones’ of the Northside. The hope was that being there would make the interviews an atmospheric, visceral experience that would trigger reflections, reverie, and nostalgia. It worked. And no better than when we spent a day in this historic structure. For Janet Raskin, a proud daughter of North Minneapolis’ Jewish community, it was an emotional return the the building she last visited a half century before. Elaine Weber, mother of Cornerstones contributing scholar Laura Weber, joined her life long friend for the visit and the interview. This rebroadcast was special to the project team as it was the first time the film was seen on TPT2 – and the first time Laura watched it – since her mother passed away.
Tifereth B’nai Jacob was an orthodox ‘shul’ or synagogue nestled in the heart of what was one of the most notable Jewish neighborhoods in the upper Midwest in the early and mid 20th century. Because it was a safe-space in an otherwise anti-Semitic city, Near North Minneapolis became known in the Jewish community as a ‘gilded ghetto.’ Many Minnesotans of note, including the filmmaking brothers Coen, can draw their community lineage to the historic Jewish Northside.
The Jewish community, among others, began to migrate to the suburbs west of Minneapolis. The neighborhood’s African American population increased. In the 1950s the building was sold to the First Church of God and Christ, an African American congregation. A decade later a disturbance along Plymouth Avenue accelerated the exit of Jewish residents and others from the city to suburbs like St. Louis Park. This temple-turned church is among several buildings that represent past and present North Minneapolis.