United Hebrew Congregation (Chesterfield, Missouri)

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United Hebrew Congregation
Basic information
Location 13788 Conway Road, St. Louis, Missouri,
 United States
Affiliation Union for Reform Judaism
Country United States of America
Status Active
Leadership Rabbi: Brigitte S Rosenberg
Website www.unitedhebrew.org

The United Hebrew Congregation (or Congregation Achdut Yisroel) at 13788 Conway Road in St. Louis, Missouri is a Reform Jewish synagogue. It is the first Jewish Congregation established west of the Mississippi River.[1]


The United Hebrew Congregation formed on Rosh Hashannah, 1837 in St. Louis when ten members rented a room for services. There is a debate among historians regarding the exact year this minyan was organized.[2]

Abraham Weigel, who was to become UHC’s first president, and Nathan Abeles, the first secretary, rented a room over a grocery and held the first minyan in St. Louis.[3] Louis Bomeisler, a German from Philadelphia, probably conducted the first service in St. Louis for Rosh HaShanah on September 29. He proceeded to order a Torah, prayer books, and Taleisim for the new group.[4]

Twelve men met four years later at the Oracle Coffee House at 2nd and Locust to write the constitution for Achdut Yisrael, the United Hebrew Congregation. In 1841, a constitution was adopted and United Hebrew was formally founded, the first Jewish congregation west of the Mississippi.[5]

United Hebrew established its first home in 1848 in the former North Baptist Church on Fifth Street near Green Street (now Broadway) between Washington and Lucas.

In 1854, United Hebrew Congregation hired the first documented rabbi to serve in St. Louis, Rabbi Bernard Illowy. His term of service lasted about one year, and in 1856, he left for Syracuse.[6]

In 1857, the congregation moved to a new building next to the Benton Public School on Sixth Street between Locust and St. Charles. The building was consecrated on June 17, 1859, with Rabbi M. J. Raphall of New York officiating.

United Hebrew moved steadily westward, next to Twenty-first and Olive Streets in 1879, and then in 1903 into a remodeled Mount Cabanne Church at the southwest corner of Kingshighway and Von Versen (after 1917, Enright).[7]

In 1927, the United Hebrew Congregation dedicated a new home at 225 S. Skinker. Designed by the architectural firm of Maritz and Young with consulting architect Gabriel Ferrand, the notable, Byzantine revival structure was said to be one of the three largest synagogues in the nation. The United Hebrew Congregation worshiped there for 62 years until 1989. An educational building, also designed by Maritz and Young, was added in the early 1950s.[8] The Missouri Historical Society purchased the historic Skinker building in early 1989. It is now the Society's library and research center.

As its membership continued to move to the suburbs, United Hebrew Congregation purchased land at Conway and Woods Mill Roads in the West St. Louis County suburbs of Town and Country and Chesterfield, Missouri. The Religious and Hebrew schools began operating there in 1977. The administration and sanctuary moved to the Conway site after the construction (1986–1989) of a notable Pietro Belluschi building.[9]


The United Hebrew Congregation is currently a member of the Union for Reform Judaism. It is the furthest west large reform congregation in Greater St. Louis. The congregation contains a Religious School, Hebrew School, Early Childhood Center, and Summer Camp. Programs include Youth (including a North American Federation of Temple Youth group called UHTYG, Adult Education, and Bible Study. The congregation is a member of the Synaplex initiative.[10]

The Senior Rabbi is Brigitte Rosenberg. Cantor Ronald Eichaker and Rabbi - Educator Roxanne Shapiro make up the rest of the clergy team. Rick Recht is the artist in residence. The Rabbi Emeritus is Howard Kaplansky. The Cantor Emeritus is Murray Hochberg.

Torah Scroll[edit]

In 2006, United Hebrew Congregation commissioned a Torah to be written by a woman soferet. On September 9, 2007, the Torah was dedicated and Jen Taylor Friedman became the first woman known to have written a complete Torah scroll.[11]

Rabbinic Leaders [12][edit]

Name Years
Rabbi Bernard Illowy 1854–1856
Rabbi Isaac Ritterman 1860; 1864–1865; 1869–1870
Rabbi Henry Kuttner 1857; 1870–1875
Rabbi Henry J. Messing 1878–1911
Dr. Goodman Lipkind 1912–1914
Rabbi Samuel Thurman 1914–1958
Rabbi Jerome W. Grollman 1958–1990
Rabbi Howard G. Kaplansky 1990–2011
Rabbi Brigitte S Rosenberg 2011-


  1. ^ American Judaism By Jonathan Sarna; Yale University Press, 2004, p. 72
  2. ^ Makovsky writes that the date is between 1836 and 1838 (Origin and Early History of the United Hebrew Congregation, p. 167-71) while Walter Ehrlich maintains that it was definitely 1836 (Zion in the Valley, vol. 1 p. 49-50).
  3. ^ "Jewish Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  4. ^ "Missouri.org History". Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  5. ^ "United Hebrew Congregation History". Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  6. ^ Orthodox Judaism in America By Moshe D. Sherman and Marc Raphael; Greenwood press, 1996
  7. ^ "St. Louis Republic Newspaper 1903-12-21". Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  8. ^ "Skinker Building History". Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  9. ^ Pietro Belluschi: Modern American Architect, By Meredith L. Clausen, MIT Press, 1999, p. 396
  10. ^ "Synaplex Synagogue Listing". Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  11. ^ Jill Kassander (November 2006). "Torah Alive! is celebrated at United Hebrew". St. Louis Jewish Light. Retrieved 2007-07-24. Those associated with the project said they are not aware of any other Torah completely written by one woman. 
  12. ^ "Congregations - Past & Present in St. Louis". Retrieved 2010-11-17. 


  • The United Hebrew Congregation, St. Louis, MO, 1837–1963, By Jane Priwer, Published by United Hebrew Congregation, 1963
  • Origin and Early History of the United Hebrew Congregation of St. Louis, 1841–1859, By Donald I Makovsky, Published by First Jewish Congregation in St. Louis, 1958

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°38′52″N 90°30′35″W / 38.64779°N 90.50964°W / 38.64779; -90.50964