BSKI: in 1960, Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Congregation was born from the merger of 2 congregations, Brith Sholom and Kneseth Israel. The following provides a history of the individual beginnings through to the congregation as it exists today.
The Brith Sholom Congregation was first organized on September 27 and November 2, 1908 and incorporated under the laws of the state of Missouri on December 8. 1908, located at 1020 Franklin Street. St. Louis, Mo. Per the "Articles of Agreement," on this date was "incorporated for the purpose of forming an Austrian-Hungarian conservative Jewish congregation (church) to erect or secure a suitable building wherein to carry on religious worship according to the Jewish orthodox usage connected with a religious Sabbath School and also to secure a cemetery.... Every Israelite can enter the congregation Brith Sholom (Covenant of Peace) and belong to the Synagogue (church) having all the privileges thereto, but only Austrian-Hungarian Israelites and their children can become active members." Later this statute was changed to accept Jews of all origins as members. Also stated in the "Articles of Agreement of 1908 was "The congregation will remain conservative (Jewish Orthodox), and the house of worship shall be so arranged so that the ladies and gentlemen shall be separated therein."
This has also changed as "Articles" also stated, "The Congregation shall reserve the right to amend these articles."
Brith Sholom First Officers: I. Rossman was the first president, Sam Dankner was vice-president and Bernard Jacoby was the secretary, Charter members included: Aaron Freidman, Emil Graff, JD Gross, Nathan Hirschfeld, Solomon Jacoby, Sam Kahn, Adolf Klein, Dr. Solomon S. Kohn, L. Kram, H. Levy, M. Moskowitz, M. Maorowitz, M. Newberger, , Mauritz. Rich, Sam Rich,I. Rossman, S. Schlesinger, Max Schultz, M. Urbach, and Paul Weinberger.
The first house of worship for Brith Sholom was a rented in the Spring of 1909, Smith's Hall, located at Fourteenth and Carr Streets in the city of St. Louis. (From 1909 to 1911). Dr. Solomon S. Kohn acted as the spiritual advisor to the congregation and it was mostly due to his suggestion that the name Brith Sholom be selected as a permanent name for the congregation.
The first Brith Sholom sisterhood was also organized in December of 1908. Its first officers were Mrs. M. newberger, President, Mrs. P.Weinberger, Vice President, Mrs. Sonnenschein, Secretary, Mrs. E. Graff, Financial Secretary, Mrs. Max Schultz, Treasurer.
Dr. Solomon S. Kohn was the lay spiritual leader of the congregation from the very beginning. He volunteered to lead services and provide spiritual leadership an advice to the new congregation..
Rabbi Adolf A. Rosentreter (b. Dec, 27, 1854 ? d. Apr. 14, 1930) came to Brith Sholom in 1910 and continued as the spiritual leader until his death on April 14, 1930. Rabbi Rosentreter was remembered for his great humility, revered for his service to his God and beloved for his unbounded devotion to his fellow man. The late Rabbi was especially helpful to the congregation when in 1911 he volunteered to devote much of his time, efforts and services as Rabbi to help build the congregation. Rabbi Rosentreter was born in Galancy Germany. He had served a congregation in Berlin. Dr. Rosentreter had been the first full-time Rabbi at B'nai Amoona, where he remained for 27 years. Reverend Rosentreter served at B'nai Amoona, then Beth David, Brith Sholom, Beth Hamedrosch Hagodol and finally returned Brith Sholom, where he remained until he died on April 15, 1930. Reverend Rosentreter never received a salary from any of the synagogues as he earned a living in his brother's Washington National Bank and its successor, The American Trust Company. He was in charge of savings accounts. He did not charge couples for weddings but, instead, gave each couple $5 out of his own pocket to get them started. After the bank was sold, he went into the insurance business; but he never solicited customers - people just knew him and came to him to buy insurance. Reverend Rosentreter was also instrumental in the founding of Jewish Hospital. It is reported that the funeral for him was four blocks long and had six Rabbis present. He was married to Frommet Jaratsky Rosentreter, the parents of Michael Rosentreter, Henrietta Brasch, David Rosentreter and Rose Meyer. Rosentreter was acting Rabbi at Brith Sholom from its inception, officiating at various times on holidays and other special occasions. He received no compensation for his services.
From 1911 to 1923 Brith Sholom purchased a fine stone synagogue building at Glasgow and Dayton Streets in North St. Louis city. In 1923 Brith Sholom purchased the former United Hebrew Temple at Kingshighway and Enright and occupied that location until the Spring of 1928. In 1928 the congregation purchased a building at 6166 Delmar (just east of the University City Loop, within the city of St. Louis) they remained there until 1959. The building on Delmar was purchased for $48,500.00. $20,000.00 was paid in cash and an additional $3000. was spent on alterations and repairs. The congregation borrowed $4000.00 from its members to help raise the cash down payment of $20,000.00 needed to make the purchase.
In 1924, Mr. Nathan Brand came to the congregation as Shamos and collector. He served fro many years, through 1939 and beyond. In 1927 the Hebrew school was established under the leadership of School Principal, Jacob M. Elbaum, who also helped helped organize the first Sunday School and Junior Congregation. Mr. Elbaum "touched" every family, and he was particularly good with children. Along with his service as principal and teacher in the Hebrew and Sunday schools for 56 years, he prepared 3 generations of students for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. In 1983, Mr. Elbaum moved to Israel, where he remained until his death in 1983. He was buried in Israel.
In 1930, the Sunday school, the Men's Club, and the Daughters of Brith Sholom came into existence. Brith Sholom needed space for classrooms so they acquired a house behind the Synagogue at 6169 Washington Ave. where they would hold classes. The house was purchased largely through the fund raising efforts of the Sisterhood and Men's Club.
Rabbi Jacob Rueben Mazur assumed spiritual leadership of Brith Sholom on June 1, 1930. His advent marked the beginning of a period of unprecedented change and unity. The first Bat Mitzvah was of Tina Zorensky at the Delmar location. During this period the Rose Fischmann Library was started; Sylvan Robinson organized a baseball team; the sisterhood and men's club came into being. And, step by step, the late Friday night service came about, Yiddish sermons became English sermons and separate seating became mixed seating.
Rabbi Mazur was born in Russia and later lived in South Africa and came to the US in 19??. He received his early education under the famous Rabbis in Slabadka and graduated from Dr. Bender's Theological Seminary in Capetown, South Africa. He continued his studies at Dr. Schecters' Seminary and at Cornell University.
Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur, the father of our own Naomi Silvermintz, joined the congregation, first on Kingshighway and Enright and then at 6166 Delmar.
The next major achievement was the formation of the Brith Sholom Cemetery Association, incorporated in 1937. The cemetery was purchased and located on Olive Street Road, just East of Hanley Road in University City. A bronze tablet in tribute to President Joseph M. Sacks' efforts in this work was unveiled in 1938 in the synagogue. President Sacks, who served five terms (1934-1945) gave the congregation an administration of united action and progressive policy.
On Sunday evening, January 8, 1939, Brith Sholom dedicated a book titled: "The Book of Generations". It was sold for $30 each and was presented at a congregational banquet held to honor the installation of its officers and affiliates. The banquet took place at the Jewish Old Folks Home at 1438 East Grand Blvd. and Blair. The event commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Brith Sholom. The money raised at this event was dedicated to the liquidation of $15,000.00 mortgage on the synagogue building.
1939 installation of Officers: J. Sacks, President; S. Honingberg, Vice President; E, Graff, Treasurer; L. Price, Secretary; H. Moskowitz, Financial Secretary; J. Kreisman, Sabbath Gabbi; J. Jacoby. Building Chairman. 1939 Sisterhood Officers: Mrs. L. Klein. President; Mrs. S. Wohl. Vice President, Mrs. D. Schneider, Vice President, Mrs. P. Subovitz; Mrs. M. Feldman, Recording Secretary; Mrs. J. Grosberg, Corresponding Secretary; Mrs. M. Handler, Financial Secretary; Mrs. E. Graff, Treasurer; Mrs. S. Baum, Chaplain 1939 Daughters of Brith Sholom Officers: Mrs E. Fendelman, President; Mrs. A. Miriam,Honorary Vice President; Mrs. A. Zwibelman, Vice President; Mrs. H. Gale, Vice President; Mrs. H. Baris, Vice President; Mrs. S. Bank, Treasurer; Mrs. H. Raven, Financial Secretary; Mrs. S. Huber, Corresponding Secretary; Mrs. A. J. Molasky, Social Secretary; Mrs. A. Klavin, Recording Secretary; Mrs. S. Kantner, Chaplain; Mrs. S. Kohn, Auditor;Mrs. J. Miriam, Guide; Mrs. D. Don, Trustee; Mrs. H. I. Gale, Trustee; Mrs. H. Binowitz, Trustee 1939 Men's Club Officers: Max Cohen, President; Jacob Beck, Vice President; Henry Baris, Vice President; harry Brown, Vice President; David Don, Recording Secretary; harry M. Raven, Financial Secretary; Jack Mariam, Treasurer
Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur, Rabbi of Brith Sholom from 1930-58, had urged Brith Sholom to buy land in the county; so, consequently land was bought in Richmond Heights where the Congregation now sits. Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur died in December, 1958, 10 days after the ground-breaking ceremony for the school on Linden. He got to see his dream come true and was at the groundbreaking ceremony and pitched up a shovel of dirt.
The program from the Installation of Officers 1958
In 1959, Rabbi Benson Skoff succeeded Rabbi Mazur and joined Brith Sholom congregation as its next Rabbi. Skoff had attended the United Conservative Seminary of America in New York. With this merger, the newly formed congregation, Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel joined United Synagogue.
In 1960, Brith Sholom merged with Kneseth Israel. At that time, Brith Sholom was making plans to move from Delmar with their new Rabbi, Benson Skoff. Rabbi Rivkin was with Kneseth Israel at the time of the merger. The newly formed congregation purchased land in Richmond Heights for the purpose of relocating and building a new home for the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel.
The first building (education center) of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel (BSKI) at 1107 Linden Avenue in Richmond Heights, Missouri, was dedicated on the 5th of June, 1960. The building was named for Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur, who served the Synagogue for many years. The dedication took place a few months after the merger of the two Congregations - Brith Sholom and Kneseth Israel. The merged Congregations then consisted of about 500 families, 400 from Brith Sholom and 100 from Kneseth Israel.
On June 5, 1960, the new Building at 1107 Linden Avenue in Richmond Heights was dedicated. The building was designed by St. Louis architects, HOK. At that time, Mrs. Jack (Betty) Chapnick was President of the Sisterhood and Paul M. Essman was President of the Men's Club. Albert L. Felberbaum was General Chairman of the Linden Building Venture and Building Fund.The Campaign Chairmen were Ben Allen, William S. Cohen and Harry L. Gale. In Founders' Hall is a list of the Founders of the Linden Center.
In a street procession, the Torahs were carried from the old places of worship to the chapel of the new center. Mezuzahs were attached to the door posts of the new building. The building was dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Jacob R. Mazur-. He was a humanitarian, civic leader and active in the promotion of interfaith understanding.
Years later, there was a "Retire the Mortgage" party, which almost all the members attended in Founders' Hall. The occasion was Retirement of the Mortgage" on the building at the Linden address. Marcia Sterneck had gone to the Board of Brith Sholom and asked them if she could form a committee to retire the mortgage. The remaining mortgage was $39,000, so they needed 39 people to give $1,000 a piece. Marsha told the Board all would be collected or none; and all was collected.
At the Linden locations, the USY and USI were organized as well as a Boy Scout Troop. Bea and Burton Sorkin organized a singles groups and the Young Conservatives - the doers of the congregation. The Young Conservatives organized the ushers, the minyans, got school parents active and promoted the nursery school, to mention a few of their activities. Bea Sorkin has served BSKI as a Sunday school teacher, Secretary to Rabbis Skoff and Miller and Director of Programming since 19?? (add biography of Bea Sorkin)
As the years passed on Linden, a choir emerged (including females), women started to be counted in the minyan and were called to the Torah. In 1991, Rabbi Benson Skoff became Rabbi Emeritus and the Sanctuary was named the Rabbi Benson Skoff Sanctuary. At the same time, Rabbi Mordecai Miller succeeded Rabbi Skoff as the Rabbi of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel.
Rabbi Miller came to St. Louis from Canton, Ohio where he served as Rabbi of Shaaray Torah Synagogue for ten years. Prior to his tenure at Shaaray Torah he spent seven years at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, Minnesota, two years as Assistant Rabbi and five years as Associate Rabbi.
The son of a Rabbi, Mordecai Miller was born in the United States and moved with his family to South Africa when his father, Rabbi Meyer Miller accepted a pulpit at Temple David in Durbin. After receiving his B.A. from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa, he returned to the United States and entered The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati where he was ordained in 1974, receiving both B.H.L. and M.A.H.L. degrees. Rabbi Miller is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly of America. He is the immediate past-president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association. Rabbi miller serves on the Boards of The Care and Counseling Assoc. and its clinical services committee, The St. Louis Jewish Light, The Fleischer Jewish Healing Center of St. Louis and a past member of the Cabinet of the Interfaith Partnership.
Rabbi Miller has taught various classes in Bible and Rabbinics at BSKI and throughout the St. Louis community. He has taught Mishna to the sixth grade at Solomon Schecter, offered courses at the Adult Melton Mini-School and the Robert F. Jacobs Adult Institute.
KNESETH ISRAEL History(Early 1940's to 1960 merger)
In the early 1940s, the Jewish merchants/salesman who worked along the Washington Avenue wholesale garment district in downtown St. Louis, all knew each other well and stuck close together. They had an organization of salesmen. Some of the salesmen had their widowed fathers living with them and supported them. The fathers needed a place to say Kaddish. Nolan Dewoskin said that his father-in-law, Ben Reuben, had died and he wanted to say Kaddish. Nolan was living on Rosebury in Clayton and needed a convenient place, close-by to pray before going to work. And to remedy this situation, he found an empty store on Rosebury near DeMun. So a group of fathers went to their sons and asked them to put up a $1 or $2 each to rent the store for Minyans. They had prayer books and chairs donated; and decided to organize a congregation. They obtained a charter and called their congregation Kneseth Israel. They had membership cards printed, and the salesmen went up and down Washington Avenue to solicit memberships at $2-$3 a year. Many salesmen joined because it was an "almost" free Shul, paid for by the salesmen of Washington Avenue.
Other Jews outside of Washington Avenue started coming to the Shul. Eventually, the members knocked out walls to expand into the adjacent store, and enlarged the capacity for the Congregation. Leroy Kopolow, President of Kneseth Israel in 1953-54, tells us that he started there in 1947 to say Kaddish for his father. There was no Rabbi. Reverend Fleigstein (called Reverend back then) ran the service and Davaned.
Morris Bean was active. The leader was also called "Baal Tefilla", one who could Davan, had a good voice and could lead the Congregation like the cantor does today. A Mr. Sorkin was a member. He was a very religious orthodox Jew with a wonderful memory. "Three Sachs brothers were involved. They were Harvey, who ""ran the show," Irving, the financial genius and Ben, the youngest brother. Ben is the only one living today. At that time, 17th and Biddle Street was a kind of Jewish Ghetto.
As time passed, more and more people became interested in Kneseth Israel and it eventually developed into a "real" Congregation. Money was accumulated as no one was ever paid to conduct services. The job of "Para Rabbi" was passed around among the members.
The Kneseth Israel congregation purchased an old school building on 4 acres at 700 South Hanley in Clayton. Charles Binowitz was President in 1959. The membership consisted mostly of businessmen, so they were able to run the Synagogue in a prudent manner. No one was paid to conduct services and few funds were going out. They were one of the few congregations in St. Louis not in debt.
In 1960, Kneseth Israel decided to merge with Brith Sholom to become Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel. Brith Sholom had decided to move from its Delmar location to Richmond Heights (less than a mile from the Kneseth Israel) It didn't make sense to have two Congregations that close - "didn't need two Synagogues on an island." Kneseth Israel sold the property on Hanley, as well as its cemetery and brought $35,000 to the joint Congregation. At that time, Brith Sholom was making plans to move from Delmar with their new Rabbi, Benson Skoff. Rabbi Rivkin was with Kneseth Israel at the time of the merger. He had come to St. Louis from New York and was with Kneseth Israel for two years. Kopolow's son was Bar Mitzvaed by him Rivkin moved to Seattle and later returned to St. Louis as Chief Rabbi. He is still Orthodox. Kneseth Israel had been part Orthodox,with separate seating but no divider.
Past Presidents of the of Brith Sholom: I. Rossman 1908, JD Gross 1927-1931 Simon Sorkin 1931-1933 William Siegelman 1933-1934 Joseph Sacks 1934-1945 Morris Rosenbaum 1946-1950 Paul Felberbaum 1950-1953 Ben Cohen 1953-1956 Charles Binowitz 1956-1959 William Rubenstein 1959-1960 Albert Felberbaum 1960-1961 Past Presidents of Kneseth Israel Congregation: Isaac Goodman 1934-36 Nathan Greenberg 1936-37 Moses Aaron Teitelbaum 1938-40 Gus Katcher 1941-43 Harry Feldman 1943-45 Nolan DeWoskin 1946-47 Ben Hoffman 1947-49 Sherman Blustein 1950-52 Leroy Kopolow 1953-54 Joseph Goldman 1954-55 Dr. William Parker 1956-58 Paul M. Essman 1959-61
Past Presidents of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel: Albert Felberbaum 1961-63 Paul M. Essman 1963-66 Michael Cutter 1966-69 Hymen S. Gale 1969-72 Maurice J. Frankel 1972-76 Irl B. Baris 1976-78 David Samuels 1978-80 Yusef Hakimian 1980-82 Shirlene Baris 1982-84 Alan I. Berger 1984-86 Dr. Phillip L. Gould 1986-88 Vernon M. Mendel 1988-94 Gerald Cohen 1994-96 Dr. Ralph J. Graff 1996-99, Margaret Israel, Gary Kodner, Paula Hamvas, Tobi Don, Rick Kodner.
Early HISTORY OF BRITH SHOLOM Draft rev. 3 Edited and revised by Gary Kodner (July 22, 2001) Excerpts taken from notes compiled (Dec, 12, 1938) by David Don, Emil Graff, Paul Weinberger, Aaron Freidman, J.D. Gross. Additional information gathered from (1-10-94) by Leah Hakimian, Claire Jacobs