South Bend synagogue for sale

Posted: Friday, January 02, 2004

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) A century-old brick synagogue that decades ago was at the heart of South Bend's once bustling Jewish neighborhood is for sale.

Congregation B'Nai Yisrael recently gave the synagogue, the oldest in South Bend, to the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, hoping the building could be saved and restored for a new purpose.

''We have tried since 1990 to find a buyer,'' said Mendel Piser, 84, a member of the congregation who has led the effort to save the former synagogue.

Todd Zeiger, director of the northern regional office of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, said the group was looking for a buyer who would be ''respectful'' to the building's architecture and history.

That means it would not be sold for use as a tavern, for example. Zeiger said it might make a good home for another house of worship or for business offices.

When the synagogue was built in 1901, it was located in the midst of a busy Jewish neighborhood just south of the city's downtown, with streets lined with butcher shops and bakeries.

The synagogue, once Orthodox, joined the Reconstructionist stream in 1982, and changed its name from Sons of Israel to B'Nai Yisrael. Membership declined and the last services were held there in 1990.

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