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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Historic Preservation & Archaeology > Learn About Topics > Cultures > Jewish Heritage Initiative > St. Joseph DHPA Jewish Historical Resources

St. Joseph County Map

St. Joseph

St. Joseph County Jewish History Located in central northern Indiana along the Michigan border, St. Joseph County was established in 1830. Some of the county’s earliest residents operated trading posts, exchanging furs, maple sugar, and baskets. Later residents, most of them Jewish, opened formal stores and sold clothing and dry goods. These Jewish merchants immigrated from Germany and settled largely in the cities South Bend and Mishawaka. They ran businesses, built houses of worship, and bonded with each other and local German Christians through social clubs. In 1878 South Bend’s population included 125 individuals. By 1912 that figure had increased to 1,200, the third largest Jewish population in the state. A 1960 survey counted 805 Jewish households and 2652 individuals. This number declined throughout the 1970s as younger generations moved to larger cities. Nevertheless, the present local Jewish community, the remaining built environment, and documentary evidence serve as reminders of the rich St. Joseph County Jewish heritage.

Temple Beth El
Temple Beth El

Dedication plaque, Jewish Memorial Chapel
Dedication plaque, Jewish Memorial Chapel