Discovering Shaw, 19: Old B’Nai El Synagogue

One of the most historic Jewish congregations in America, B’Nai El called the Shaw neighborhood, at 3666 Flad, home from 1905 to 1930. I realized I photographed their next location on Delmar and several years ago. They are now located on the outer road north of Highway 40 just east of I-270 (you’ve seen it but maybe didn’t realize it).

As was common of many Jewish synagogues in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, the architectural style is Romanesque Revival, but there is always something distinctive about the expression of it that makes it obvious from first glance that this is not a church.

For example there is no bell tower, and there is also no nave, as one would see in a church.

It is a beautiful structure, and is now apartments, as many houses of worship have now been converted. It was once used by St. Louis Public Schools as a gymnsium, I learned.

Below are two images from the Missouri History Museum collections; as can be seen from the undated engraving below, there was originally a small cupola on the peak of the sanctuary’s roof. Otherwise, the appearance of the buildings has changed little over the last century.

Engraving of B’Nai El Synagogue, Missouri History Museum, N39341

Former B’Nail El Synagogue, Photograph by W. Bohley, 1949, Missouri History Museum, N39340

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Chelsea says:

    B’nai El closed its doors in 2013 and merged with Shaare Emeth a few years later, sadly losing its individual identity and effectively ending its long-time presence in Saint Louis. I practically grew up at their outer 40 location. Thanks for sharing some of its great history!

  2. Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman says:

    B’nai El’s religious artifacts are found in the “B’nai El Chapel” of Congregation Shaare Emeth at Ladue and Ballas Roads. Much of B’nai El’s records are now in the possession of the St. Louis Jewish Archives.

  3. Susan Mayes says:

    I attended 6th grade in this building from 1966 to 1967. St. Margaret of Scotland School was overflowing with baby boomers, so they had an annex here. We moved to a new building next to the 1918 St. Margaret’s School on Castleman Avenue in 1967. I can still remember the wonderful decorations in the former sanctuary, which served as our gymnasium. I’m glad to see that this historic building has been preserved.

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