Historic Minneapolis Synagogue Building Up For Sale

The 98-year-old building in North Minneapolis that was once Mikro Kodesh synagogue is on the market with the list price of $5.4 million. The price includes several lots that the Disciples Ministry Church, which purchased the building in 1979, has bought in the past 35 years in efforts to expand its reach. The “for sale” sign was first noticed during the Doors Open Minneapolis event May 18 and 19.

The exterior of the building was designated as a city of Minneapolis landmark, which means city historic preservation staff review all exterior alterations that may be done to the building.

In the late 1940s, Mikro Kodesh had been the largest synagogue in the Upper Midwest but by 20 years later, the Jews of the North Side were moving to the suburbs. The congregation merged with St.Louis Park’s B’nai Abraham – later becoming B’nai Emet. That congregation merged with Adath Jeshurn in 2012.

Historian Laura Weber said the building isn’t as well preserved as another former synagogue-turned-church – the Tifereth B’nai Jacob building at 810 Elwood, which was sold to First Church of God in Christ, an African American congregation, which has operated at the location ever since. Tifereth B’nai Jacob moved to Golden Valley and eventually merged with Mikro Kodesh in the 1960s.

The building was boarded up from 1969-79, until Pastor Paul Arnopoulus purchased the building for his ministry.

“He was driving by on Penn Avenue, he saw the building boarded up, and he just loved the building the beauty of it. He could tell how nice it was,” said Jeanine Arnopolous, Paul’s widow and the real estate agent who listed the building. 

Arnopolous said her husband, who passed away in 2020, built a congregation as a non-denominational, evangelical, born-again street minister. The building became the home of Arnopoulous’ Disciples Ministry Church.

Jeanine Arnopolous said the early days of the church were challenging; crime in North Minneapolis kept the vast majority of her husbands suburban, mostly white congregation away. 

“Ten percent stayed, and basically his faith was tested at this point,” she said. “He really believed that the Lord had sent him to the synagogue, to work here in North Minneapolis.”

Pastor Paul then became a mission pastor as well as ministering to a congregation, which led him to start a food ministry. Jeanine Arnopolous said that they started going after perishable foods that food shelves didn’t want due to lack of infrastructure. 

The cornerstone of the former Mikro Kodesh synagogue in North Minneapolis. (Photo by Lonny Goldsmith/TC Jewfolk)

The cornerstone of the former Mikro Kodesh synagogue in North Minneapolis. (Photo by Lonny Goldsmith/TC Jewfolk)

“So he said we’ll build the infrastructure in the building,” Jeanine said, adding walk-in freezers and coolers on the lower level of the synagogue, and bringing in large semi-trailers that were coolers. “He turned it into a food depot. In 2012, we gave away millions of pounds of food by the truckload, and we had locations all over the Twin Cities. It wasn’t just a little food shelf; it was a huge operation.”

The building was constructed in 1926 for the congregation, which was founded in 1890 as Anshei Russia; Weber wrote that, at that time, many congregations organized based on the national origins of the community; to disassociate with Russia, the congregation renamed to Mikro Kodesh in 1895.

Weber’s family has a long history with the building. Her parents were married there, her baby naming was held there, and her grandparents lived a block and a half away from the building.

“I have a vague memory of dancing with flags with my grandfather on Simchat Torah,” she said. “I also found in my mother’s things after she died, a siddur from Mikro Kodesh that a nameplate where my grandparents had bought a book in honor of my aunt and uncle’s wedding.”

The venue was part of Open Doors in 2023 as well, and Weber was part of a very small group that wanted to tour it; the group included her husband and sister. They got to see all parts of the building.

“It looked like it had been preserved since 2012,” Weber said. There had been a clothing closet for people who needed clothing, with clothes still on the rack, and she said here were posters on the wall about, you know, the ministry pictures of the ministry, there had been a free clothing closet, and there were clothes still on racks. It was beautiful. To just stand in there was kind of cool.”

The building still has many connections to its past as a synagogue. The facade over the front door still has The Mikro Kodesh name and 10 Commandments tablets, as well as a number of Stars of David around the top of the building. Pastor Paul added a cross to each of the two domes at the front corners of the roof.

By 2018, Jeanine Arnopolous said that they had purchased five lots on Newton Avenue North, a block to the west of the Mikro Kodesh building, for future development. The original plan to was build a warehouse for the ministry, but she said the future funding of the expansion was uncertain.

The Arnopolous’ then pivoted to developing a 96-unit, four story apartment building on the open lots, potentially with some connection to the church. After Pastor Paul passed away in 2020, Jeanine Arnopolous kept moving forward with the plan.

“I worked on it for all these years. And just couldn’t get past a certain point,” she said. “I just was like, I think I need to try to sell everything and let a developer come in and and buy the property.”

“I would just hope that whoever purchased the property would have [the church building] open to the public. I would not like to see a developer come in and take the church building and turn it into housing. That was my big worry, for putting it on the market. I have been in the building for 40 years. And I really appreciate the building, and I just want to make the building better…so that people can get in and see that, how beautiful it is.”