United Hebrew Congregation of St. Louis: The First Synagogue West of the Mississippi

United Hebrew Congregation of St. Louis

United Hebrew Congregation's 175 year Logo, 2012

United Hebrew Congregation’s 175 year Logo, 2012

On Rosh Hashanah in 1836, the first minyan was founded at 2nd and Spruce Streets (above Max’s Grocery & Restaurant) in St. Louis, Missouri.

Services were led by Louis Bomeisler.

In 1841, this minyan became the United Hebrew Congregation, the first congregation established west of the Mississippi.

Herman Van Beil was instrumental in organizing the congregation.

In 1840, first Jewish cemetery was dedicated in St. Louis – at 2700 Pratte Avenue – paying $200 for the land.

The Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Association of the United Hebrew Congregation was also established at this time.

United Hebrew Congregation began its life as an Orthodox synagogue.


The First Building – 1848

In 1848, the United Hebrew Congregation opened its doors on Fifth Street between Washington and Lucas.

This was the former home of the North Baptist Church.

In 1854, the congregation hired their first Rabbi – Dr. Bernard Illowy, who had been chaplain to the Austrian Court-Jew Oppenheim family as well as the head of a beth din and a yeshiva in Austria.


The Second Building – 1859

In 1859, the congregation moved to Sixth Street between Locust and St. Charles.

In 1866, they bought the Mount Olive Cemetery, located on the corner of Canton Ave. and North & South Road.

In 1878, United Hebrew Congregation joined the Union of American Congregations (Reform movement).


The Third Building – 1881

In 1881, the United Hebrew Congregation moved  to a larger facility at Twenty-First and Olive.

In 1885, the congregation withdrew their membership from the Union of American Congregations.


The Fourth Building – 1903

In 1903, United Hebrew Congregation moved to Kingshighway and Von Versen.

In 1904, they, once and for all, became members of the Union of American Congregations.


The Fifth Building – 1927

United Hebrew Congregation's Fifth Location

United Hebrew Congregation’s Fifth Location

In the early 1920s, United Hebrew Congregation bought land across from Forest Park for their new synagogue building.

Some residents protested this building, taking their lawsuit to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The suit was dismissed and the new synagogue was built.

In 1927, the new Byzantine style building at 225 S. Skinker was dedicated.

It was one of the largest synagogues in the United States and was designed by Gabriel Ferrand.


United Hebrew Congregation was the first Reform synagogue with its own Cantor.

In the early 1950s, they added an educational building to the synagogue campus.

In 1960, they changed the name of Mount Olive Cemetery to the United Hebrew Cemetery.

The building currently houses the Missouri Historical Society.


The Sixth Building – 1989

United Hebrew Congregation's Current Location.

United Hebrew Congregation’s Current Location.

In 1977, United Hebrew Congregation bought land in West St. Louis county and built the Ann and Ullus Gudder Educational Building to house their school facilities.

In 1987, the congregation began constructing a new synagogue to house its growing population.

In 1989, the present home of United Hebrew Congregation was dedicated at 13788 Conway Road in Chesterfield.

In 2007, the United Hebrew Congregation commissioned the first Torah scroll completely written by a soferet (Jen Taylor Friedman).

Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg is the current spiritual leader of United Hebrew Congregation. (2017)



  • Ehrlich, Walter. Zion in the Valley: The Jewish Community of St. Louis.  Volume 1. Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri Press, 1997.
  • United Hebrew Synagogue website. http://www.unitedhebrew.org/
  • Our Building. Missouri History Museum and Research Center. http://www.mohistory.org

We could use some earlier building photos.

Samantha Silver is the curator for this United Hebrew Congregation Exhibit

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