Adas Israel: A Talk and a Book

During the Twin Ports Festival of History, my friend Phil Sher gave a speech about the history of the Lithuanian Jewish community in Duluth. Phil is the author of a recent book, Adas Israel, available on Amazon, that was a product of a unique partnership between the University of Minnesota Duluth and the community.

As a faculty member at the University of Minnesota Duluth, it’s my job to connect my students to my community and, where I can, to serve the community directly. That is part of the land grant mission of the university, the federal law of 150 years ago that established the University of Minnesota to serve the citizens of the state, instead of the children of the affluent (as private colleges served at the time).

So when I heard that Phil was working on this project, I knew that I could help. I served as copyeditor, first, then graphic designer.

The graphic design was done using software called “Pressbooks.” Pressbooks looks a lot like WordPress, the software that makes this blog work. But everyone in Minnesota with a library card has free access to Pressbooks through the Minnesota Library Publishing Project. You can activate your own account in Pressbooks at, entirely free so long as you have a current Minnesota library card.

Pressbooks exports to filetypes usable by Amazon, which makes the book available widely.

It was a joy to work with Phil to make his story, and the story of his community, widely available. It’s both an archival masterwork, with translations of Yiddish documents that might otherwise be lost to time. It’s also a solid story of the history of Duluth — so many businesses and institutions alive in our lives today trace their history back decades to members of the Adas Israel community. And finally, it’s more than a little bit a touching memoir of Phil and his beloved wife.

If you see a copy around, grab it and give it a read. And I hope that Duluth Public Library, St. Louis County Historical Society and other institutions grab it, too.

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