With many of its congregants already relocated, the former building is for sale and a deal could be completed within a few weeks.
Opened in 1956 at the corner of Highway 7 and Ottawa Avenue in St. Louis Park, B'nai Emet merged this summer with Minnetonka's Adath Jeshurun Synagogue—a necessity brought on by result of dwindling finances and reduced attendance, said past B’nai president Adeel Saad.
“When you start declining in membership and you want to provide the same services, it becomes very difficult,” Saad said.
B’nai’s membership was at about 225—down from a high of nearly 900 in the early 1980s—when the synagogue held its last service in June.
It was bittersweet to see things come to an end in St. Louis Park, Saad said, but he added that it was a decision that nearly the whole congregation supported—only three members out of more than 200 who attended a congregational meeting in May voted against the merger with Adath.
The past president said discussions about combining with another synagogue dated back well before that May meeting.
“Since 2003 (when I became president), people always said, ‘What if we merge with another synagogue?’” Saad said. “When you see your membership decline, you definitely start thinking about it.”
Those discussions got serious in the summer of 2010, when Saad and the rest of B’nai’s leadership first presented the congregation with the idea of merging—though not with any specific synagogue. The deal struck with Adath a year later was a perfect fit, Saad said, because the Minnetonka synagogue cared about B’nai’s history and welcomed the new members.
“The Adath commitment is, ‘We’re going to keep the legacy of B’nai alive,’” said Saad, who, along with around 145 other B'nai members, joined Adath.
Now, Saad and others await another bittersweet moment—when the old B’nai building eventually changes hands. The goal is to sell to another religious organization if possible, said Neil Meyer, an Adath member who is handling the sale. But Meyer added that he's ultimately open to any offer and is just looking to get a deal done. A listing on B'nai's website says offers are being accepted through Nov. 7, and Meyer said he hopes to complete a deal soon after that deadline.
“When the building sells, it will be a sigh of relief,” he said.