Relics photo essay: B’nai Abraham synagogue building in Virginia

“If you are going to restore a building, you have to have a function,” said Marjorie Ostrov, part of a nonprofit group that has turned the former B’nai Abraham synagogue in the Iron Range city of Virginia into an arts and culture center.

Restoring old buildings in outstate Minnesota is a topic Ground Level is exploring over the next week or so in a project called Reviving Minnesota Relics. MPR News reporter Dan Kraker told the story of the former synagogue on Morning Edition today.

B’nai Abraham was the last active synagogue on the Range. But as the Jewish population in the area dwindled, it became harder to find enough people for a service. Its doors closed two decades ago and the building fell into disrepair.

But it has good bones, as they say. “The building is built like a fortress,” said Charles Ostrov, also working to restore the former synagogue. “It has 13 beautiful stained glass windows.”

The group has made dramatic improvements, often paid for with grants, from repairing the roof to putting in handicapped bathrooms. Group members fixed basement sewage pipes, tuck-pointed the exterior and eradicated mold. In short, they’ve given the building new life, as host to speeches, concerts and historical displays.

“We hope it’s filling a gap,” said Marjorie Ostrov. “We think it is. People are starting to see this can serve different purposes.”

Location: 328 5th St. S.