Mount Zion Temple of St. Paul: Minnesota’s First Synagogue, est. 1856

Mount Zion Temple: Minnesota’s First Synagogue


Mount Zion Hebrew Association was founded in St. Paul in 1856 by eight German-Jewish families who came up the Mississippi from St. Louis.

The total population of St. Paul at that time was 1,200.


Joseph Ullman and Isidor Rose were in the fur business.

Other founders were in the clothing and liquor businesses.

Mt. Zion’s charter was signed by Minnesota Territorial Governor Willis Gorman in 1857.

Services were held in a rented room on Robert Street between 3rd and 4th Streets.

Mt. Zion Congregation's first building

Mt. Zion Congregation’s first building

In 1870, when the congregation was 14 years old, it built a wood-frame American Gothic style building for $750 on 10th and Minnesota Streets.

In 1871, Leopold Winter was hired as the synagogue’s first ordained rabbi.

In 1878, the congregation formally adopted Reform Jewish practices and joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

The original building was sold and moved off the site and a new brick building constructed in 1881.

Besides the congregation, other non-Jewish members of St. Paul contributed to the building fund.

In 1904, the advent of streetcars enabled the Jewish community to expand westward.

Now consisting of 120 households, the congregation moved to Holly and Avon in 1904, selling its older building to an Orthodox congregation.

The new building was in the new Classical style construction.

In 1948, Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut became its spiritual leader.


In 1954, with over 700 membership families to serve, Congregation Mount Zion moved to its current location at Summit and Hamline.

The new synagogue was designed by architect Erich Mendelsohn.

Mt. Zion's Current Building in St. Paul

Mt. Zion’s Current Building in St. Paul

In 1967, a young girl, Debbie Friedman, destined to be a famous Jewish songwriter, was confirmed at Mount Zion.

Debbie Friedman, z”l


  • Most of this information is from a plaque created with the help of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, May, 2017.
  • W. Gunther Plaut, The Jews of Minnesota: The First Seventy-five Years (New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959).