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Jewish Heritage Initiative

Jewish Heritage Initiative

In 2002, the National Park Service, Midwest Regional Office of the National Historic Landmarks Program awarded the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology (DHPA) a $30,000 grant to conduct a statewide survey of Indiana’s Jewish heritage and the related built environment. The purpose of the survey, as stated in the project scope of work, was to identify and study Indiana’s Jewish heritage sites, their potential for National Register listing, and their potential for National Historic Landmark designation. However, the Division additionally hoped to better understand the impact that Jews played in the development of Indiana cities and counties, and to use the results of the survey to educate the public about Jewish contributions to Indiana.

The Indiana Jewish Heritage Initiative promoted the conservation of Indiana’s Jewish cultural resources through the identification, preservation, interpretation, and recognition of sites representative of historic Hoosier Jewish communities.

Dr. Wendy Soltz conceived of the Indiana Synagogue Mapping Project (ISMP) in 2018 while Executive Director of the Indiana Jewish Historical Society (IJHS). Over the course of five years, Soltz made 45 survey stops and conducted archival research to reveal and document 66 purpose-built synagogues across the State of Indiana from 1865-2015. The survey concluded that Indiana’s Jewish congregations are merging and closing, and synagogues are being abandoned and demolished at an alarming rate. In fact, 24 synagogues (including nine of the original eleven 19th-century synagogues) have already been demolished and several others are in danger of being razed. Thankfully, there are now photographs and documents to tell the story of the 42 Indiana synagogues still standing.

The ISMP was made possible in part by the National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund administered by the DHPA.

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