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Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives

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History of the Saint Paul Jewish Community

Synopsis of “We Rolled Up Our Sleeves” by Marilyn Chiat and Chester Proshan
By Judy Sherman

The early St Paul Jewish community, German immigrants at Mount Zion and more orthodox Eastern Jews at Sons of Jacob, had no unified social service organization and largely kept to themselves. But in 1882, when a trainload of Russian Jewish refugees fleeing pogroms began to arrive, members of Mount Zion and Sons of Jacob congregations joined forces to provide the impoverished new arrivals with food, clothing and jobs. This unified response set a pattern for community social action.

As more Eastern European immigrants arrived, many of them settled in “the Flats” on the West Side, a poor and bleak area abandoned by earlier groups of immigrants who had moved “up” into better housing. The earlier German immigrants separated themselves socially and religiously from the poorer, “greener” and more orthodox newcomers and shared in the prosperity of the growing city, although they continued to assist the poorer Jews. As the later immigrants prospered, they moved “up” as well and became less orthodox, founding the Conservative Temple of Aaron in 1916.

Anti- German sentiment during World War I, growing anti-Semitism between the World Wars and economic hardships during the thirties helped unify the community socially, and Zionism, which had been an important cause for some in the community since 1897, became a rallying point for many facets of the community. Increasing prosperity since World War II and the persistence of housing discrimination led to the concentration of Jewish population in areas such as Highland Park. Recently the number of Jews in St Paul has declined, and their average age has gone up.

 

History of the United Jewish Fund and Council (UJFC)

In Europe historically Jews had been treated as a people apart, and were forced to develop their own social and cultural institutions. By the 1870s religious institutions in St Paul, such as Mount Zion Congregation, needed to develop new patterns of service to remain viable. Did they limit their facilities and rituals to members only? In America, Jews were free to be members of the wider community, and many assimilated.

Traditions such as tzedakah, hevrah kadisha for burial of the indigent, and the “Ladies Benevolent Society” were supplemented by aid from the wider community, especially when poor immigrants poured in from Eastern Europe after 1882. The established community sought to “Americanize” the immigrants without losing them as Jews. To this end the community organized to fund and staff institutions such as employment bureaus, Sophie Wirth Camp “for tired Jewish mothers and children”, day nurseries, settlement houses and agricultural colonies in North Dakota. One aim was to keep the newcomers from becoming an embarrassment to the established community due to their poverty and foreignness.

The newer immigrants, many of whom came to St Paul by chance and not by choice, tried to meet their own economic and religious needs by establishing their own congregations. Many fraternal and “Landsmanshaft” organizations were founded along with at least eight Orthodox congregations on the West Side. There was little sense of a community as a whole, but as anti-Semitism and economic need grew in the ‘20s and 30’s the sense that unity was important grew. Many organizations meant inefficiencies in duplication of services and fund drives.

In 1932 the Council of Jewish Social Agencies was founded, formed by a conference of the Jewish Welfare Association. This precursor of the UJFC helped coordinate the activities of 28 organizations by 1940, and centralized Jewish fund-raising. In 1935 the United Jewish Fund was established, and a merger was proposed in 1943. By 1965 it was apparent that the patterns of Jewish assistance had shifted from the synagogues to the UJFC, influenced by the activism of non-religious Jews in the organization. Local rabbis were less active in the UJFC as the community became increasingly secularized. The UJFC and the synagogues had to work out an agreement about their roles and functions, as related to the specific beneficiary agencies.

Kokie Goldenberg speaking at a United Jewish Fund and Council rally in Saint Paul, Minnesota, 1949.

Kokie Goldenberg speaking at a United Jewish Fund and Council rally in Saint Paul, Minnesota, 1949.

 

Saint Paul Jewish Community Center (JCC)

The Neighborhood House, an organization to help poor immigrants on the West Side was founded in 1900 under the auspices of the Hebrew ladies Benevolent Society and the rabbis of Mt Zion. The settlement house offered classes in English, homemaking, and social and recreational activities. The Lowertown Community Center (Central Community House) opened in 1921 and moved to University Avenue in 1925, with the mission of preventing juvenile delinquency. Later in the 1920s both houses became more nonsectarian and Lowertown had become a Community Chest beneficiary. Other organizations such as B’nai B’rith, the YMHA and YWHA, and social clubs such as Aleph Beth sponsored activities at the houses with Jewish content.

All of these groups contributed to the emergence of the JCC in St Paul, but the main parent group was the Jewish Educational Center, which held educational and recreational activities in a 1930 building on the Hill to serve the needs of Jews who had moved west. The Depression severely affected the JEC’s financial status and in 1934 it received funding from the St Paul Community Chest, under the name Jewish Center Activities Association (JCAA). The JCAA developed musical, theatre and scouting groups, and indeed became the center of the St Paul Jewish community, although secondarily its programs were open to the wider community. By 1939 a popular day camp was established, and during WWII programs for servicemen were established. In 1948 connections with a Hebrew School were severed.

After WWII the community shifted to Highland Park, and in 1956 purchased a building on Cretin. Sophie Wirth Camp closed, and Jack Butwin Day Camp opened in 1958 to meet the needs of middle-class families. In 1963, under the auspices of the UJF, ground was broken for the current center building.

The growing membership is served by many programs including Israeli-oriented classes, retaining of a shaliach, physical education classes, programs for Russian immigrants especially the elderly, and programs for handicapped children. JCC realizes that it must be ready to change and grow if it is to meet the needs of a changing community.

Volunteer with sign at the Jewish Community Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota,1940.

Volunteer with sign at the Jewish Community Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota,1940.


Hillel

The Menorah Society was founded in 1903, originally as the University Jewish Literary Society, to “cultivate ….and discuss… topics related to Judaism”, but mainly as a social group. It enrolled Jewish faculty members and most of the Jewish students on campus (who were predominantly male). Funding and the lack of a permanent home were early concerns, and despite growing membership and activities Menorah never had its own home. In the 1930’s the UJF gave them an emergency grant. Several other Jewish groups also existed on campus, sponsored by Temple Israel and Jewish professional and social fraternities and sororities.

The U of Mn Hillel Society was founded in 1940, with Rabbi Milgrom its first director. By 1941 the membership of over 500 enjoyed a full agenda of programs including classes, discussion groups, debate, drama and social activities. Hillel activities were intended not to overlap with those of existing Jewish groups on campus, including Menorah, which eventually merged with Hillel. The lack of a permanent home was an issue as early as 1943, and the UJFC sanctioned a fund drive in 1945. A permanent building (the current one) was purchased in 1956. Even without a home, activities included a model seder, Friday night services and dinners, and activities, such as vocational guidance, for returning veteran students.

In the 1960’s and 70’s problems such as insufficient funding, unpaid pledges and declining student interest became more serious. New services such as non-credit Jewish studies classes, a kosher meat cooperative and a Jewish bookstore were offered to increase relevance for its constituency. A 1980 evaluation conducted with the Minneapolis and St Paul Federations suggested more ways to increase relevance and participation. The facilities were renovated in 1981.


Jewish Community Relations Council–Anti-Defamation League JCRC-ADL

Anti-Semitic incidents in Minnesota date back to the 1880s. They were addressed by the Anti-Defamation Committee of B’nai B’rith beginning in 1913. B’nai B’rith lobbied against real estate restrictions, but although legislation was passed banning restrictive covenants in 1918, housing discrimination against Jews continued well into the 1950’s. Rabbi Samuel Deinard in the American Jewish World publicized anti-Semitic incidents. The Klan was active in Minnesota through the 1920’s, and although its membership declined after that, the Great Depression brought an increase in hate groups such as the Silver Shirts, a nativist and fascist group.

In the 1938 gubernatorial campaign overtly anti-Semitic activities, including a raw anti-Semitic cartoon, accusing some in the DFL of being pro-Communist were fostered by some of Harold Stassen’s campaign workers. This galvanized the Jewish community to form a group to openly combat anti-Semitism, which requested a small amount of funding from the UJF and the Minneapolis Federation. The organization sought to remain independent of the national B’nai B’rith ADL, but to cooperate with the group. Samuel Scheiner, hired as Executive Director in 1939, was charged with investigating reports of anti-Semitic activities and maintaining outstate offices. This was the first completely independent state-wide Jewish community relations agency in the US. In cooperation with the Chicago and other offices of the ADL, information about anti-Jewish agitators was publicized, and anti-Semitic remarks by school teachers, hate-filled leaflets and swastika paintings were noted and protested. Typical activities included letter-writing campaigns, requests for apologies (and threats of boycotts) and monitoring of letters-to-editors in papers statewide.

In the 1940s self-monitoring of Jewish community, housing issue complaints and quiet attempts to settle problems were developed. Attempts to subvert anti-discrimination laws by real estate agents, resorts and employers using euphemisms such as “selected clientele” were exposed by the ADL. A cooperative relationship was formed with the NAACP, and anti-Semitic union practices were investigated, resulting in the United Labor Committee for Human Rights. Outreach to the rural Minnesota population, which was vulnerable to anti-Semitic propaganda because they had no contact with Jews, was developed, via the 4-H Radio Speaking Contest and other programs. As WWII ended, an expected increase in anti-Semitic activities was noticed, highlighted by the 1946 Carey McWilliams article calling Minneapolis the “capital of anti-Semitism in the United States”. By 1952 the number of overtly anti-Semitic incidents had decreased, and the focus of the organization shifted to overcoming ignorance and working for better community understanding.

In the 1950s Scheiner warned against McCarthyism, fearing that charges of Communism would discourage attempts at intercultural education. The increasing “Christianization” of public education, particularly at holiday times, was a concern. Unhappiness with the operation of the local ADL led to a reorganization in 1959 to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota, and in 1975 a merger with the B’nai B’rith ADL to form the JCRC/ADL. While continuing to combat anti-Semitism, the focus has shifted to the support of Israel in the community and defense of Jews abroad.

 

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JHSUM awarded 3 Legacy grants!

JHSUM is working to ensure the Upper Midwest Jewish Story is part of Minnesota Historical Society’s on line encyclopedia. We are hard at work creating 15 entries of Minnesota’s synagogues and 15 entries of our Jewish institutions and organizations.

MNopedia site makes history fun
KRISTIN TILLOTSON, Star Tribune

If you don’t know much about Minnesota history, here’s a chance to upgrade your ignorance — and add your own comments — without leaving your La-Z-Boy.

The Minnesota Historical Society has launched a prototype of the first online state encyclopedia, dubbed MNopedia, and it’s as easily surfable as it is informative. In a matter of minutes, you can bone up on John Beargrease of sled-dog race fame, the harrowing St. Anthony Falls tunnel collapse of 1869, and a wonderfully concise 3,000-year architectural overview by Larry Millett, beginning with Indian burial mounds and ending with suburban big-box stores.

Did you know that way back in the late 1800s, Fredrick McGhee, the state’s first African-American attorney, was a prominent St. Paul trial lawyer and that milling titan Charles Pillsbury started one of the nation’s first profit-sharing plans for company employees?
Well, now you do.

Mikro Kodesh, Minneapolis.

Mikro Kodesh, Minneapolis.

MNopedia entries may be scholarly, but they aren’t dry. In an essay by historian and professor Annette Atkins on the development of Minneapolis and St. Paul as both twins and rivals, the author muses, “Wouldn’t every citizen’s life be improved if, for example, the cities adopted the same snow emergency rules?”

The launch was paid for with $215,000 from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund segment of the state’s Legacy Amendment, and the grant has been renewed for 2012. As a “beta” site, it’s currently offering limited entries from Minnesota’s industrial era, and will continue building expert-provided content and photo archives, said editor Erica Hartmann.

The Historical Society had long planned to try to produce a print encyclopedia, but the online alternative proved much less costly, easier to update and more interactive, she said. Drawing inspiration from similar sites created by the states of Virginia and Georgia, as well as Sydney, Australia, and the country of New Zealand, the site’s developers consulted many local historians and educators on topic categories and content, which will adhere to state educational standards for use in classrooms.

Asked whether Wikipedia doesn’t already cover much of this territory, Hartmann stressed that while Wikipedia is “a valuable resource already out there,” MNopedia’s writers must have proven expertise, and that fact-checking will be more scrupulous on the state site.
“We name the authors and our content is vetted,” she said. Take note, students about to start school and get assigned papers.
Another difference: Because MNopedia’s scope is more limited than Wikipedia’s, “we’ll be more able to find the needles in the haystacks that a Wiki editor wouldn’t necessarily know about.”

These standards don’t mean citizens are prohibited from contributing to the site. The Historical Society wants public input on content to be added and offers the chance to comment after every entry.
“Minnesotans are paying for it, so they should help shape what’s in it,” she said.

To weigh in, go to www.mnopedia.org and click “Discuss.”

Click here to see JHSUM’s first article on MNopedia about Mikro Kodesh Synagogue in Minneapolis!

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Hat tip to our Legacy grant partner Adath Jeshurun

The Adath Jeshurun Foundation is the proud recipient of a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grant to fund the L’Dor V’Dor Archival Processing Project, a partnership between Adath Jeshurun Congregation and the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest (JHSUM). The grant will fund nine months of a twelve month project to access, organize and catalog 127 years of archival materials documenting the history of Minnesota’s oldest Jewish Conservative congregation, to preserve Adath’s heritage and make it available to Minnesota in a useful form. The final collection will span the history of Adath Jeshurun, Bnai Emet and its predecessor congregations, Mikro Kodesh, Tefereth Bnai Jacob, B’nai Abraham and Mikro-Tefereth, and will eventually be housed in the Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives at the University of Minnesota.

This makes 8 State of Minnesota Legacy grants for JHSUM and our partners!

Adath torahs removed form Dupont Ave.

Adath torahs removed form Dupont Ave.

 

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Cluster of Jewish cemeteries, once among farmlands, now rest in suburbia

Read MinnPost’s article “Cluster of Jewish cemeteries, once among farmlands, now rest in suburbia“.

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JHSUM Makes Some History of Our Own!

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150 years of Jewish Upper Midwest History is now safely secured at The Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives housed in the Andersen Libraries Special Collections Archival space four stories underground at the University of Minnesota. JHSUM has deeded our archival materials to the care of the University. We are very excited to have brokered a permanent relationship with the University ensuring our materials are now safe and secure for generations to come. Use of our collections increased 10 fold since introducing our on line database, an increase our very limited staff could not sustain. Now researchers from anywhere in the world can be served 24 hours a day as well as in person six days a week at the U of MN Berman Archives.

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Make no mistake JHSUM is not going out of business. JHSUM will still collect and preserve three dimensional cultural objects. We are turning to public exhibits and programming. Something we do very well. More exciting news about a future gallery of Upper Midwest Jewish Stories will be released soon.

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The new home for 150 years of Upper Midwest Jewish Experience

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Celebrating the Northside

Read American Jewish World’s article “Celebrating The Northside“.

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JHSUM lost a treasure with the passing of Theresa Ackerman Berman

All who cherish our Upper Midwest Jewish history were saddened to hear of the passing of one of our founders, Theresa Berman. Just a few short days before, we had gathered to celebrate the Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives new relationship with the University of Minnesota and celebrate her 100th birthday.

She leaves a legacy of community activism and quiet, stalwart leadership. It is because of her, Sharron Steinfeldt, and other leaders in our community, who saw the importance of not trashing our past, that JHSUM stands as the singular organization in the Upper Midwest dedicated to telling the story of 170 years of Jewish experience. JHSUM is dedicated to preserving these unique stories and educating the community about Jewish history in the region.

Theresa knew we could not let the stories of Upper Midwest Jewish experience slip through our fingers when she and others established the society in 1984. She remained a steadfast supporter and tireless leader building our organization. Our work today is a testament to her. We are forever indebted to her vision, leadership and plain hard work.

Please see the AJW article about her contributions to Minnesota.

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Guest Contributor Jodi Elowitz

When you speak to anyone who grew up on the North side immediately a smile comes to their face as they begin to reminisce about the neighborhood.

“It was a community, a truly special place that gave us all a sense of well being. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. It was a place you could be night and day and you knew you would be taken care of.”

The Jewish North side is gone, yet remnants remain in the bricks and mortar of a few buildings, but it truly exists in the heart and minds of those former residents.

On a recent historic tour, being someone who is not originally from Minnesota or grew up on that side of town; I was treated to just how special this neighborhood was; as each former resident would surprise us with a story about a significant place which would trigger a fond memory. “The hospital where I was born was over where that empty lot sits now. Over there was a gas station, there was a hardware store where the funeral home is now and there was also pharmacy and a doctor and dentist office.” Others pointed to the spots and joined in the walk down memory lane.

“My parents owned the Homewood Theater.” Someone else then said. “I was an usher at the Homewood.” Then there was laughter and another participant laughed and yelled out, “Ha who wasn’t.” Another conversation ensued. “Your parents owned the theater? I was just telling my friend about how we would sneak in there without paying; I think I might owe you 10-15 cents?” The child of the owners laughed and said, “I am thinking that might be 15 cents with 50 years of interest.”

Former residents pointed to their younger selves in photographs printed for the tour. “Yes that was me, and my friends waiting to get into a matinee.” We loved that theater and spent many a Saturday watching the double features.”

New residents of the area sitting on the steps of their house of worship across from the crumbling remains of a former synagogue questioned some of the tourists about what they were looking for. “We used to live here. This used to be the main street filled with shops, restaurants, and the building across the street was one of the first synagogues.” The residents replied that they had no idea there was so much history here. “Thank you for sharing with us.”

Of course not everyone is happy to see large crowds of people walking the neighborhood but for those who take the time to stop and ask the tourists what they are doing, all get a cheerful reply of “I used to live here, I grew up in the house down the street and have so many fond memories-I just wanted to relive it again.”

The North side story is one of survival and opportunity. The great grandparents of the North side Jews escaped Eastern Europe with nothing more but the clothes on their back. They sold chickens from their front yards, collected and sold scrap from push carts and horse drawn wagons. They sewed clothing, repaired shoes in small apartments, and baked bread, made pastries and candy that they sold out of their homes. The next generation moved into store fronts and worked 24 hours a day six days a week, sometimes seven. They were always on call which was not hard to do since they lived above or behind their stores. Every member of the family helped out in some way, stocking shelves, keeping books, delivering the goods.

Every need was catered to; there were tailors, dry cleaners, shoe makers, dry goods and grocers. Butchers, bakers, so many that Plymouth Avenue smelled like bread. There was a street car that ran down the main street, you could go to downtown Minneapolis but there was no real need. Barber shops, candy stores, bars and pool halls and of course the movie theater were whole afternoons would be spent watching double features, with cartoons and newsreels. There were give-aways, and special performances. In the summer the theater provided a place to cool off from the heat and hardly anyone cared what was playing as they paid their dime.

There were parks, and a library. It was a place not just for Jews but also for many other new immigrants who were not welcomed in other parts of Minneapolis. There were social services and houses of worship that kept the community centered, holding it together in hard times. No one went without. The North side was a place you could live and feel a sense of pride.

That spirit of community has not changed as new residents work just as hard to provide opportunities for their families. The buildings that once sheltered and catered to Jewish families now cater to the new residents. On our tours we saw neighbors tending community gardens, filling houses of worship for Sunday services, or sitting outside catching up on the latest neighborhood news and gossip.

As someone who loves and lives history, nothing captivates me more than walking down streets and imagining who walked them before. I love hearing the stories and think of my own childhood memories about the community I grew up in Detroit. I often wonder what will happen when the people who have these memories of the lost communities are gone.

The Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest asked that question and they answered with their new initiative Placeography. Placeogaphy is an online, interactive wiki that allows those who log on an opportunity to view photos of buildings and neighborhoods throughout Minnesota. Users are able to easily upload their memories and share their stories.

Placeography is about keeping memories of the once thriving Jewish communities alive for future generations but it also allows the current residents to see how their neighborhoods developed and that once there were others just like them who overcame the challenges they faced to provide good lives for their families.

The North side story is just one of the many that will be on Placeography. All areas of Minnesota that were home to vibrant Jewish Communities will be represented. From the Iron Range to St. Paul and all points in between. The first phase of the project has been completed as photos and informational content has been uploaded. The next phase is for people to provide their memories and stories to bring the places to life. The ultimate goal is for one day someone like me can take a walking tour armed with nothing but my iPhone (or whatever other devices we invent) with Placeography as my guide. Although I will always prefer the interaction of the people who lived in these places; at least we will forever be able to access their stories and share in their memories any time we choose. It is up to future generations to take these stories and make them their own.

View photos of our North Side Tour on Facebook.

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Guest Contributor: Steve Hunegs

The Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest held its “Taste Touchdown” last Saturday (October 16) at TCF Bank Stadium. I attended along with Jenifer and Dinah who appreciated the opportunity to play on the field and cross the goal line with regularity – a sadly rare feat for this year’s Gopher squad. Thanks to Katherine Tane, the JHSUM’s executive director and Jamie Heilicher, the JHSUM’s president, I had a couple minutes to schmooze with the large crowd in the company of Peter Levy, the emcee of the evening. Peter is part of the Levy Minnesota football legacy. His father, Butch Levy (see below) was a starting guard on Minnesota’s national championship teams of 1940 and 1941.

Peter was all-Lake Conference of St. Louis Park and played college football for Hamline. Below are some thoughts about the intersection of Minnesota’s 1941 football season and the portentous year of 1941.Amid the culinary memories of the Lincoln Del, Nanking and Cecil’s at the TCF Bank Stadium for the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest’s “Taste Touchdown”, there was an evocation of the Jewish connection to Gopher gridiron glory and the Fin de siècle season of 1941.

The Jewish communities have had a long, productive and occasionally glorious and sometimes jarring relationship with the University of Minnesota. Jews and football at Minnesota stretches back to Sig Harris (1902-1904), Sholly Blustin (1926-1927), Leonard “Butch” Levy (1939-1941) and Bob Stein (1966-1968) as well as many more players and generations of stalwart fans and contributors.

In the shadows of Greater Northrup Field (1899-1923) and Memorial Stadium (the home of Gopher football from 1924 to 1981), we heard Peter Levy (son of Butch Levy and St. Louis Park and Hamline University football star) talk about his father and the legacy of Gopher football.

I couldn’t help but bring a prized item of Gopher memorabilia – an autographed football of the 1941 National Championship, Big Ten Championand undefeated Minnesota Gophers. Heisman trophy winner Bruce Smith and All Americans Butch Levy, Dick Wildung, and Smith, along with Neil Litman and assistant coach Sig Harris were among the signators. The other side of the football is inscribed with the scores of the 8-0 season – victories over: eastern power Pittsburg; the rising west coast team Washington; top Ten Western Conference (not yet the Big Ten) titans Michigan and Northwestern (with their future Hall of Famers Tom Herman and Otto Graham); and fierce border rivals Iowa and Wisconsin.

Indeed, it was a perfect season with the Gophers outscoring their opponents a combined 186-38; securing the Little Brown Jug, Floyd of Rosedale and the Slab of Bacon (the predecessor of Paul Bunyan’s Axe); and national acclamation of Minnesota’s fifth national championship in eight seasons under coach Bernie Bierman. The 1940 and 1941 teams were undefeated national championships anchored by guard Butch Levy, graduate of Minneapolis North High School.

The drama of the 1941 season – the Northwestern game was won with the “Talking Play”, arguably the most famous play in Minnesota football history – unfolded against a backdrop of national and international events portending a world changed forever.

As fall practice began (all games but the opener were played in October and November), the American struggle between internationalists and isolationists reached an ugly and anti-semitic crescendo. Charles Lindbergh, on September 11, 1941, spoke to a national radio audience as he addressed the American First Committee on Des Moines’ WHO. Lindbergh warned the American Jewish community against “agitating” for the United States’ entrance into World War II. He said menacingly of the American Jewish community: “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our radio and our government.” Meanwhile, the Einsatzgruppen had begun their systematic massacre of Russian Jews following the evidence of the Wehrmacht into the Baltic states and Ukraine.

On October 31, 1941, the day before the Minnesota-Michigan game, a German submarine torpedoed and sunk the USS Reuben James, an American destroyer on convoy escort patrol near Iceland, drowning 115 sailors. Direct American involvement in the armed conflict of the Battle of the Atlantic had begun.

On November 22, 1941, Minnesota completed its championship season with victory over Wisconsin at Memorial Stadium – a stadium dedicated to Minnesota’s World War I fallen. On November 26, 1941, the Japanese Attack Force departs from Tankan Bay in northern Japan to attack Pearl Harbor. Among the first killed in action at Pearl Harbor is Ensign Ira Weil Jeffrey from Minneapolis, Temple Israel Family and graduate of the University of Minnesota.

The pre-war football dominance of the University of Minnesota was a tiny casualty of World War II as the conflict changed forever the world, the Jewish people, Minnesota and the Minnesota Jewish community.

Tens of thousands of Minnesotans went off to war. Hundreds were killed in action. Hundreds of Jews from the upper midwest went off to war. According to “American Jews in World War II: The Story of 550,000 Fighters for Freedom” (National Jewish World Book, 1947), 79 Minnesota Jews (and five from North Dakota and three from South Dakota) were killed in action. The hometowns of the Gold Star mothers and fathers included St. Paul, Minneapolis, Crookston, Virginia, Hibbing, Duluth, Hillman, Dickenson,Grand Forks and Fargo; and Huron, Madison and Aberdeen. As with all Americans, the Jews of the upper Midwest came from town and cities, small and large to defend their country.

For the vast majority of military personnel who returned from World War II, Minnesota was vastly changed as a result of the years 1941-1945. In Dave Kenney’s “Minnesota Goes to War: The Home Front During World War II” (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2005), he notes in conclusion the rise of Minnesota companies such as Minneapolis-Moline, Federal Cartridge, Northwest Airlines, Thermo King, Northern Pump and Honeywell. Thousands of returning veterans went to college and built their first home with assistance of the GI Bill. African Americans, Native Americans and women had higher expectations for the future after working in higher paying jobs in defense plants. (My great aunt, Sadie Idelkope, worked at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills taking the street car each day from north Minneapolis.

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