Jews have been living in St. Louis since 1807. This early group of immigrants was primarily German. The first recorded prayer session with at least ten people (a minyan) was on 12 September 1836 or the first day of Tishri, in the Jewish year 5597. The occasion was Rosh Hashannah and they used a rented room over Max’s Grocery and Restaurant, on the corner of Second and Spruce Streets (now occupied by the St. Louis Arch grounds).
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. On 3 October 1841, the first Jewish congregation, United Hebrew Congregation, was formed, and the cemetery officially became the United Hebrew Cemetery. Today that area is the midtown of St. Louis and the cemetery has long been relocated.
The congregation was also known as the Polish Congregation and it was strictly Orthodox. Their first meeting place was rented at Broadway and Locust. Later, they moved to the Masonic Hall on First and Market Streets.
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.
By 1847, Emanu El Congregation, consisting mostly of German Jews, was formed and in 1848, they established a second Jewish cemetery. By 1854, there were enough Jews in St. Louis to warrant a rabbi, and by 1855 the first synagogue was constructed. By then, Emanu El and a group called B’nai B’rith had combined, and the new congregation, called B’nai El, built their structure on Sixth Street between Gratiot and Cerre Streets.
By 1900, there were about 40,000 Jews living in St. Louis. There were four Jewish cemeteries, four Jewish newspapers, two funeral chapels, a Hebrew Free School, and many Jewish charitable organizations.
For a comprehensive timeline of Jewish congregations and history in St. Louis, click here.
For a list of Jewish clergy in St. Louis, click here.
For a list of synagogues and temples in St. Louis, click here.
To learn more about the history of Jews in St. Louis and for links to more local resources, click here to visit the “Jews in St. Louis” page on this site.
Many Jewish cemeteries have come and gone over the years, and Jewish cemetery information has been processed for all of the currently active ones. 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 worked 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.
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.
Marriage Records of Rabbi Adolph Rosentreter, 1886–1911; St. Louis: Eisenkramer, 1987.
Rosenkranz, Samuel, editor. A Centennial History of Congregation Temple Israel, 1886–1986, 5647–5747. Creve Coeur, Missouri: Congregation Temple Israel, 1986.
Last modified: 30-Jun-2016 18:10