B’nai El Congregation
The following index and/or records from this congregation are available:
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Established in 1852; merged with Shaare Emeth in 2016
B’nai El Congregation was founded on 17 October 1852, when two small Jewish congregations, Emanu-El and B’nai B’rith, merged. Although coming from a European Orthodox background, the members of the new synagogue preferred a liberal view of Judaism and the predominantly German-Jewish congregation built a more open approach into their bylaws.
Their first quarters were temporary rented rooms at the corner of Lafayette and Ninth Streets. [Note: Some sources say they also rented rooms at Fifth and Walnut Streets, but this has not been verified.] After they moved to a larger rented building at Seventh Street and Park Avenue, a member of the congregation offered them a piece of land on the east side of Sixth Street, between Gratiot and Cerre with the stipulation that they were to build a temple on the site.
It took until 1855 to raise sufficient funds to build and the cornerstone ceremony took place on 16 April of that year. The building was officially opened on 7 September; it was the first permanent synagogue built in St. Louis and the first west of the Mississippi. Its unique octagonal shape earned it the nickname of the “Coffee Mill.”
In the 1870s, they left their Orthodox roots behind and became one of the founding members of Reform Judaism. They moved into a remodeled Presbyterian church at 11th and Chouteau and remained in that location until 1905, when they moved to a new building at Spring and Flad Avenues. In 1930, as the Jewish population began moving westward, they moved to Clara Street and Delmar Boulevard. Again, in 1965, they moved; this time, much further west into St. Louis County, where they remained until beginning the consolidation process with Shaare Emeth. The original synagogue at Sixth and Cerre Streets is gone, but the remaining three locations are still standing. The Flad Avenue building, now apartments, is the oldest surviving structure in St. Louis built for Jewish worship.
11411 N. Forty Drive
|Location 1852–1855: (Rental properties)
Lafayette and 9th Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63104
GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6111387, -90.2044795 View Map
Park and 7th Street, St. Louis Missouri 63104
GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.612905, -90.1995377 View Map
Location 1855–1875: Cerre and 6th Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63102
(This location no longer exists; it is part of the I-64 highway interchange just south of Busch Stadium.)
Location 1875–1905: 11th and Chouteau, St. Louis, Missouri 63103 (This is now a parking lot.)
GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6186792, -90.2034338 View Map
Location 1905–1930: 3666 Flad Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63110
GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6113492, -90.2452011 View Map
Location 1930–1965: 5574 Delmar Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63112
GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6521216, -90.281595 View Map
Location 1965–2016: 11411 N. Forty Drive, St. Louis, Missouri 63131
GPS (Latitude, Longitude): 38.6377919, -90.4290922 View Map
B’Nai El Cemetery was established in 1852; most of the early graves were moved to New Mt. Sinai Cemetery, which is still open.
For access to B’Nai El cemetery data, click here.
For access to New Mt. Sinai Cemetery data, click here.