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The first documented Jewish settler in St. Louis was Joseph Philipson, a merchant who came to the city in 1807. The number of Jewish residents slowly increased over the next thirty years. These early families were German Jews. They did not have a cemetery or synagogue.
In 1840, about forty or fifty Jews were living in St. Louis. They banded together to buy a plot of land, outside the city limits, for a cemetery. Within two years, they had also organized themselves into United Hebrew Congregation, and the cemetery officially became the United Hebrew Cemetery.
As a strictly Orthodox congregation, United Hebrew was just not liberal enough for many of the newly arriving German Jews. During the 1840s and 1850s, several new congregations began, and over the next few decades, congregations that embraced Reform Judaism as well as Orthodox Judaism became well entrenched in the city.
When Eastern European Jews began immigrating to the United States in large numbers, from 1880 to 1920, many made their way to St. Louis. For the most part, these new immigrants created a Jewish “ghetto.” They lived in an area on the near north side of St. Louis, between Cass Avenue on the north and Delmar Boulevard on the south, spreading westward from the riverfront. As the population grew, they continued moving to the west, first to Jefferson Avenue, then to Grand Avenue. By the 1940s, as the city expanded westward, so did the Jewish population into the Central West End of the city and to University City and Clayton in St. Louis County.
Jewish Resources in St. Louis
There are many resources available in St. Louis for doing Jewish research.
St. Louis Jewish History
There have been Jewish people in St. Louis since 1807, when merchant, Joseph Philipson from Pennsylvania arrived in the territory and established a general merchandising store. For a complete timeline of Jewish history in St. Louis,click here. (This Jewish history courtesy of Joel Shedlofsky.)
A list of many of the Jewish congregations may be found by clicking here or by consulting the Jewish religion research page on congregations.
Many Jewish cemeteries have come and gone over the years, and Jewish cemetery information is being actively processed for all of the currently active ones. For a list of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, click here. To access names that have been indexed in some of these cemeteries, click here.
Two funeral homes in St. Louis have served the Jewish community in recent years. They are Rindskopf-Roth Funeral Chapel and Berger Memorial. Volunteers have been working with the records of both homes and have partially indexed them. To access names that have been indexed in these funeral homes, click here.
One monument company in St. Louis creates most Jewish tombstones. That company is Rosenbloom Monument Company, 7511 Olive Street Rd.; St. Louis, MO 63130; 314-721-5070. They do not have a website, but will answer queries in person, by writing, or phone.
Newspapers that contain information useful to Jewish research can be found by clicking here.
Government agencies also possess information. Those agencies can be found by clicking here.
A number of local libraries also have resources to aid the Jewish researcher. Those libraries can be found by clicking here.
The St. Louis Genealogical Society sponsors the Jewish Special Interest Group.. That portion of this website provides a list of St. Louis synagogues and cemeteries and a timeline of St. Louis Jewish history.
The St. Louis County Library Special Collections offers a special finding aid outlining the Jewish resources available at the library. An online bibliography of their Jewish book holdings is available at St. Louis County Library Finding Aids.
Bronson, Rosalind Mael. B’Nai Amoona For All Generations. St. Louis: Congregation of B’Nai Amoona, 1982.
Ehrlich, Walter. Zion in the Valley, The Jewish Community of St. Louis, Volume 1, 1807–1907. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1997.
Ehrlich, Walter. Zion in the Valley, The Jewish Community of St. Louis, Volume 2, The Twentieth Century. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2002.
Jewish Genealogical Society. Tracing Your Jewish Family Tree: Its Roots and Branches. St. Louis: Jewish Genealogical Society, 1997.
Krasner-Khait, Barbara. Discovering Your Jewish Ancestors. Salt Lake City, Utah: Heritage Quest, 2001.
Kurzweil, Arthur. From Generation to Generation. New York: Harper/Collins, 1994.
Makovsky, Donald I. The Philipsons: the First Jewish Settlers in St. Louis, 1807–1858. St. Louis: Judaism Sesquicentennial Committee of St. Louis, 1958.
Mokotoff, Gary. Where Once We Walked: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust. Bergenfield, New Jersey: Avotaynu, 2002.
Mokotoff, Gary, and Warren Blatt. Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy. Bergenfield, New Jersey: Avotaynu, Inc., 1999
Rosenkranz, Samuel. A Centennial History of Congregation Temple Israel, 1886–1986, 5647–5747. Creve Coeur, Missouri: Congregation Temple Israel, 1986.
Sack, Sallyann Amdur, and Gary Mokotoff. Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. Bergenfield, New Jersey: Avotaynu, Inc., 2004.
Weiner, Miriam. Jewish Roots in Poland. Secaucus, New Jersey: Roots to Routes Foundation, 1997.
Weiner, Miriam. Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova. Secaucus, New Jersey: Roots to Routes Foundation, 1999.
Young, David A. St. Louis Jewish Community Archives: Guide to Archival Collections. St. Louis: St. Louis Jewish Community Archives, 1995.
St. Louis Genealogical Society · #4 Sunnen Drive, Suite 140 · St. Louis, MO 63143 · 314-647-8547