BSKI to celebrate 100 years in St. Louis area


Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel will celebrate its centennial year, marking 100 years since the founding of one of the two congregations that merged to form BSKI.

In 1908, Brith Sholom was incorporated as a Conservative congregation for Austrian-Hungarian Jews, located just west of downtown St. Louis. It wasn’t until 1960 that Brith Sholom merged with Kneseth Israel congregation, which had been formed by Jewish salesmen in the Clayton area in the 1940s, according to a congregational history.The newly-merged BSKI, which served around 500 families, purchased the land where the congregation’s current synagogue is still located, in Richmond Heights on Linden Avenue.


On Sept. 7, the congregation will celebrate the centennial with a gala dinner featuring comedian Joel Chasnoff, and honor the congregation’s past presidents.

For the congregation’s current president, Rick Kodner, the milestone speaks volumes about BSKI’s place in the community.

“With the Conservative movement nationwide shrinking, it’s nice to be able to point out, that we’re still here, and we’re still moving as a congregation. We have a congregation that is still going strong,” said Kodner.

Kodner, 50, said he has been a member of BSKI since 1961.

“This is my home, it’s my place,” Kodner said.

Rabbi Mordecai Miller, who has served BSKI since 1991, after the retirement of now Rabbi Emeritus Benson Skoff, said BSKI has worked “to balance tradition and change” in creating a comfortable, spiritual home for its families.

“That is kind of the fulcrum, where I see the congregation: balancing tradition and change, and serving as a resource where people can access their traditions in a warm, welcoming environment,” Rabbi Miller said.

Kodner said the congregation, which currently serves around 300 families, or around 900 members, has been working to look long-term at the congregation’s needs.

An advisory committee was formed, and the top four priorities outlined by the committee, Kodner said. “Already we’re working on renovations, updating the sound system in the sanctuary and we have hired a new programming director for young families.” That focus on younger families and members is key, according to Miller and Kodner.

“Our tag line for the centennial celebration is ‘honoring the past with a vision of the future,’ and we’re really trying to do that. I want to make sure that the synagogue is going to continue to be strong into that next generation,” Kodner said.

“I want this to be a place that my children will want to grow up in, and continue our family’s tradition.”

The centennial celebration will take place at BSKI on Sept. 7, beginning with a reception and dinner at 5:30 p.m. and the program beginning at 7:30 p.m. The event has been organized by co-chairs Susan Cort and Marcia Sokol-Anderson and honorary chairs Bonnie and Phil Levens, Naomi and Saul Silvermintz and Rabbi Benson Skoff.

After dinner, a program will honor BSKI’s past presidents, followed by a performance by comedian Joel Chasnoff, who entertained the audience at last year’s community Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration. His comedic talents often include anecdotes from his Jewish day school education, and his service in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Tickets range from $36 to $125.

For more information call BSKI at 314-725-6230.