The seeds of Temple Emanuel were planted in 1953, when a group of parents — seeking to educate their children in a manner consistent with the historical, ethical, and religious elements of classical Reform Judaism — formed the St. Louis School for Judaism, meeting at the Taylor School in Clayton with 46 students enrolled.
With the growth of this school and its first confirmation class, the congregation was incorporated in February of 1957 and became the first new Reform Jewish congregation in St. Louis in 70 years.
In 1961, Rabbi Joseph Rosenbloom was engaged as Temple Emanuel’s Rabbi. His exceptionally long tenure was a great blessing to our community for almost 60 years. Rabbi Joe, as he was known to everyone, was active and engaged the entire community as Rabbi Emeritus and Senior Scholar until his death in August 2020.
The Temple Emanuel sanctuary was designed by renowned architect William Bernoudy (an early apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright) and built in 1962. Its stunning natural brick—and—wood design expressed the founders’ artistic vision for a place of worship and study that reflected their ideas about modernity.
Situated in a seven-acre park-like atmosphere, but just minutes from the intersection of 1-270 and I-64 (map), Temple Emanuel is home to an intimate but inclusive community of families. It is large enough to serve all of our community’s needs, yet small enough so that the Rabbis can know everyone’s name.
Temple Emanuel’s Sanctuary has an intimate first-floor seating area that allows for up to 100 members to worship at one time – perfect for intimate Friday evening Shabbat services and small lifecycle events. During larger events, such as Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrations or the High Holy Days, the first-floor Social Hall and second-floor balcony are available, expanding the seating capacity to about 400. This flexibility reflects not only our approach to design, but also the way we approach all matters secular and spiritual.
The Ark in the Sanctuary houses our sacred Torah scrolls.
Of note is our Czech Torah, sacred treasure Number 420 of the 1,564 Torahs salvaged from the Holocaust, which originally came to Kol Am Synagogue as a symbol of tragedy and loss, having witnessed the unthinkable. However, with its restoration and new life, and now with Temple Emanuel, Torah Number 420 has emerged as a symbol of hope, celebration and extraordinary tenacity of faith.
This Torah originated in a synagogue in the small Czechoslovakian town of Trebon. According to deportation records, its former congregants were deported to Terezin in 1942, and from there to Auschwitz, Treblinka and other sites. Unfortunately their story had an ending that was all too representative of the mass slaughter which defined the age. There was no one of the 76 local deported Jews who survived.
Czech memorial scrolls are now in use in many parts of the world. The United States has been the main recipient, but many requests from Israel have been met, as have others from virtually every country in which Jewish communities flourish freely. In addition, scrolls appropriate as memorials are to be found at Yad Vashem, at Westminster Abbey, in the Royal Library at Westminster Castle, and in many other places where they serve, in Harold Reinhart's words, "to live, to commemorate, to inspire a saddened but not hopeless world, and to glorify the holy Name."
For more information about Czech memorial scrolls, please visit the Memorial Scrolls Trust website by clicking on the link below:
During the 1960s, Rabbi Joe Rosenbloom was doing research through Washington University which brought him to Morocco as well as several other countries. The Jewish population of Morocco had a long history of persecution, but following the creation of the State of Israel, persecution intensified until the vast majority of Jews had left the country. Many of them settled in Israel. Rabbi Rosenbloom wanted to interview some of the few remaining Jews in Morocco to better understand their lives and the current conditions in the country.
One day he met a young rabbi who invited Rabbi Rosenbloom to explore his synagogue. The synagogue's Ark was full of Torah Scrolls and Eternal Lights, obviously meant for storage rather than use. Rabbi Rosenbloom asked the rabbi what would become of these scrolls and was shocked when the rabbi asked if he would like to take some. Fearing that the scrolls might eventually be destroyed, Rabbi Rosenbloom accepted three scrolls and one Ner Tamid (Eternal Light). Taking possession of the items, however, was the least of Rabbi Rosenbloom's problems because it would be virtually impossible to take them out of Morocco.
Rabbi Rosenbloom took the scrolls and the Ner Tamid to the American Consulate and explained his problem. The Consulate agreed to help send the scrolls out of Morocco. The three scrolls and the Ner Tamid were wrapped in carpets, packaged, and placed on a ship headed to the United States. Rabbi Rosenbloom donated one scroll to the Washington University Library, and the other two to Temple Emanuel. He donated the NerTamid to Temple Emanuel as well. It hangs in the entrance to the Temple.
Temple Emanuel's Moroccan Torah Scrolls are unique on many levels besides their story of rescue. Each is approximately 300 years old. They are both written in Sephardic Torah Script. The parchment of both scrolls is exceptionally dark, primarily because it is deer hide rather than the more commonly used cowhide. A scribe who recently evaluated Temple Emanuel's scrolls was surprised to find that one of the scrolls has writing on the outer or "hair" side of the hide. It is substantially more difficult to write on the hair side and requires a great deal of expertise. The other scroll has writing on the inner side of the hide. Both scrolls are currently used for reading during Temple Emanuel's services.
It is unknown how this scroll came to be part of the Temple Emanuel collection. We do know that it is Polish and its age is approximately one hundred and fifty years.
A scribe of almost unequaled talents and abilities wrote the Polish Scroll. The scribe was probably older with many decades of experience. Sadly, the scribe is also unknown but Temple Emanuel will appreciate the beauty of his work for generations to come.
Rabbi Hersh refers to the Polish Scroll as the "Pristine Scroll" and the reason for such a name is obvious to call who have looked at or read from this scroll. The parchment and lettering of the scroll are in near perfect condition. The letters are beautifully and consistently formed, with the spacing uniform throughout the scroll. It is a visual feast of beauty every time the Polish Scroll is opened for reading during Temple Emanuel's services.
Temple Emanuel has two Israeli Scrolls. Though these are relatively modern (55 and 65 years old), one of them has a special place in the history of Temple Emanuel: it is the original Temple Emanuel Scroll.
The Freund family, founding members of the Temple, obtained this scroll. TE member Michael Freund was sixteen when his family evaluated four potential scrolls for the Temple. Michael drove the scrolls to other rabbis in town for them to examine and to see which one they would advise Temple Emanuel to purchase.
As a testament to the quality of this decision-making process, Temple Emanuel still uses the original Israeli Scroll for most Bar/Bat Mitzvah training and celebrations, and for holiday and Shabbat readings. The scroll if of such quality that we will use it at Temple Emanuel for many generations to come.
The Social Hall
The Social Hall is perfect for small congregational gatherings of up to 100 seated guests, or 125 for receptions. It is situated right next to the sanctuary so that worshipers can flow seamlessly from one venue to the other, using two separate doors, making the transition from a wedding ceremony to the reception easy, yet private.
The Social Hall is served by a full kitchen that is just a few steps away. Whether dishes are prepared by our own congregation members or brought in by an outside catering company, the kitchen serves as a staging area for a wide variety of preparations.
We have two wings of classrooms, with enough rooms to serve all twelve grades: pre-Kindergarten through 10th Grade (confirmation class). During the week, these two wings can be closed off from the rest of the building.