Church restores Cape Girardeau synagogue after years of abandonment

Posted By on April 2, 2014

Restored synogogue on Main Street. Photo by Michael Ryan.

The building has seen its fair share of owners. But it's latest -- Lighthouse Breakthrough International Ministries -- hopes that the former synagogue can be fully restored.

"I'd like for it to be a community place that the city could see as, you know, as some place they could utilize for their needs, you know," Taylor said. "We're not open for anything that's crazy, but anything that's within reason that's going to respect what we do here and what the structure is."

The history of the B'nai Israel Synagogue is wrapped in both blessings and tragedies. A fire destroyed Cape Girardeau's Jewish community's previous place of worship in the 1930s. The synagogue was built shortly thereafter.

According to Southeast Missouri State University historic preservation professor Dr. Steven Hoffman, the history behind the building is quite interesting. Prior to the fire the Jewish community met at Capaha Park's clubhouse, but soon after its destruction the city came together and helped the Jewish community find a new place to worship.

"The Hechts, who were long-time business and property owners downtown were major donors, but there was certainly a lot of community support to build that facility, and so once upon a time we had a thriving Jewish community right here on the banks of the Mississippi in the Midwest," Hoffman said.

When Taylor first saw the old synagogue it was in a state of disrepair. The building had no working heat or running water and was layered in both dust and dirt.

"I have to be honest. I was really shocked because the building was just basically sitting. It was just kind of being used as a storage place," Taylor said.

According to Taylor, when a building sits in these conditions for a number of years it begins to deteriorate from the inside. The congregation has since been working diligently to restore the building to what it once was.

In order to prevent any further damage to the structure, one of the first steps Taylor took was getting the water and heat turned back on. The lack of heat had destroyed a lot of the interior's plaster. The most damage was found in the former rabbi's quarters, and Taylor believes it will be one of the last rooms to be remodeled.

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Church restores Cape Girardeau synagogue after years of abandonment

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