Kol Rinah votes to move forward with building swap

At the September 2015 signing of the building exchange are (from left) Kol Rinah Rabbi Noah Arnow, Kol Rinah President Mitch Shenker,  The Journey Lead Pastor Jeremy Irwin, and The Journey Director of Operations Mike Duncan.

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

More than one year after the Conservative congregation Kol Rinah agreed to swap buildings with a church in Clayton, the synagogue board voted that the new building is suitable for a move.

The congregation will relocate from 829 N. Hanley Road in University City to 7701 Maryland Ave. 

The vote comes three years after Kol Rinah was created by the merger of two Conservative synagogues, Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and Shaare Zedek. Leaders of the synagogues viewed a merger as a way to consolidate resources amidst declining membership. The merged congregation moved into the Shaare Zedek building on Hanley Road. Journey Christian Church will now take over that space.

When the plans were originally announced in 2015, Kol Rinah leaders acknowledged that the decision could alienate some longtime members, particularly those from BSKI, who will now have moved twice. 

“Leaving any home, whether it’s a residence or business — certainly for a congregation — that you’ve been in for many years, it’s a loss,” Rabbi Noah Arnow of Kol Rinah said at the time. “That’s been hard for a lot of people, and it’s going to be hard when we leave the building we’re in right now.”


The board meeting Thursday night took nearly five hours, according to a letter sent to members by the congregation president and board chair.

After “many years of deliberation, study, hard work, debate and literal blood, sweat and tears, the Kol Rinah board of directors voted by ballot regarding the suitability of the Clayton property as the future home of Kol Rinah,” the letter stated.

Gary Kodner, a past president of Kol Rinah, described the vote as an “historic event because you are talking about two legacy congregations now being able to realize” the vision of “having a common home.”

Kodner said that while there was not unanimous support for the move, there was excitement at the meeting about the move to Clayton. The congregation plans to hang the BSKI plaques and memorials which had been in storage, he said. “I think that the people from the legacy congregations now see it as an opportunity to move into a neutral space.”

The Jewish and Christian congregations will each renovate their new buildings and share space until the projects are completed. Arnow said he expects to be fully moved into the new space sometime between September 2018 and January 2019.