Central Reform Congregation

Mission Statement

Central Reform Congregation is a vibrant urban Jewish community dedicated to supporting one another in holy ways, pursuing justice and lifelong learning, and providing a shelter of peace.

  • There’s a rich and lengthy history of synagogues in the City of St. Louis, dating well back into the 19th century.  With the growth and development of the Gateway City came dozens of congregations; with very few exceptions, synagogues here found their origins either in the City or the adjacent suburb of University City.

    By the mid 1980s, following a chunk of the St. Louis area Jewish population, several of the larger synagogues had relocated to newer, suburban areas along the Highway 40 (now Interstate 64) corridor.  Yet a new generation of young couples, seeking to provide a Jewish experience for their budding families, desired a way to honor the longtime connection between Jewish life and the City.

  • The congregation they sought to create, however, was not centered solely around religious practice.  They wanted a group of families that not only embraced Judaism but would also create and engage an inclusive, gender-neutral and non-patriarchal community committed to social justice and all aspects of Tikkun Olam, Healing the World.

    Wedding their social consciousness to their burgeoning Jewish awareness, the founders decided, after much soul-searching, to create a new Jewish place of worship within the City of St. Louis.  Out of that effort grew Central Reform Congregation. The name derived from the twin goals of having a central geographical location and a synagogue that would provide a central focus in congregants’ lives.

  • Rabbi Susan Talve, who had been serving Congregation Shaare Emeth, consulted with the founding families in 1984, as they determined what kind of community they wanted to create. The initial group held services in a park during the summer of 1984 to build interest about the new community.  CRC was formally founded that year, with 30 families attending the first High Holiday services (WHERE?)

    A year later, Rabbi Susan was hired part time for the congregation, and has been with CRC ever since. That same year, CRC formally joined the Reform movement by affiliating with what is now known as the Union for Reform Judaism.

     

  • The concept of CRC was of a spiritual community with shared values, rather than of a synagogue defined by a building and grounds.  But a congregation needs a place and, at peak times like the Jewish High Holidays, a rather large one.

    CRC began its synagogue operations with an office above the Straubs grocery store across the street from the historic Chase Park Plaza and just up the street from Forest Park, one of the nation’s preeminent urban parks.

    Having no place of its own for services, CRC entered into an agreement to have weekly Shabbat services at the First Unitarian Church, just down Kingshighway Boulevard from the park and across the street from where CRC now stands.

    The church, while a wonderful partner for most services and events, was not of sufficient size to house services for the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  The growth of the congregation, coupled with the High Holiday services being open to the public, meant that a larger facility would be needed for these days.

  • The answer was to rent space in an existing community facility, and this has been accomplished in a number of locales around St. Louis, even up to the present day. Several different venues have served as home to the High Holiday services: The Center of Contemporary Arts in University City; the Westport Theatre in northwest St. Louis County; the Chase Park Plaza, just down the street from CRC’s current home; and most recently, the Jewish Community Center campus, also in St. Louis County.

    In 1999, CRC broke ground for its own synagogue building, right across the street from the First Unitarian Church. Our Sukkat Shalom, or Shelter of Peace, houses Shabbat services, secondary High Holiday services, religious and Hebrew schools, a wide variety of CRC and community events, and our administrative offices. And our recent addition, the Oneg Floor mosaic, designed by Indian Jewish artist Siona Benjamin, provides a unique setting in our front foyer for all visitors.

  • As the congregation grew, the staff also expanded to serve the greater number and diversity of families and individuals. Rabbi Randy Fleisher came to CRC in 2000. Rabbi Ed Harris, a founding CRC member and a psychologist who later received his ordination, served as a part-time rabbi from 2008-2014. Rabbi Deanna Sussman, who had been a rabbinic intern for CRC, served full-time as the Rabbi Educator from 2014-2016.

  • Rabbi Karen Kriger Bogard and Rabbi Daniel Bogard (who grew up at CRC) joined the Rabbinic team including Rabbi Susan and Rabbi Randy in July, 2018.

    More than thirty years later, we’ve grown from just a couple dozen households to over 700 today. We remain a bastion of Judaism in the City of St. Louis, and have been partners in so many interfaith initiatives to make the City and our region a more just and equitable place to live.

    Our CRC family joins in service to our members, to the broader community, and to the universal need to make our world a better place for all.

Our Core Values

Our core values are central to everything we do and serve as guideposts for prioritizing our activities.

A deep sense of community where we, in part, draw strength from each other by connecting both in crisis and in celebration. It is a community that strives to make Judaism relevant and meaningful in the lives of its members.

A respect for diversity including the valuing and sharing between generations and inclusiveness of all who seek to be a part of our community.

A focus on others through commitment to social issues and a reaching out to the broader community. This is further supported by a deep belief in the possibilities of Tikkun Olam-the repair of the world.

An expectation of participation by all its members. To a large extent the activities and the governance of the congregation are only possible through the active involvement of members.

A lay-led congregation with a devotion to but not over-dependence on the Rabbi.

An open, accepting and safe environment where members feel they can “experiment” in expressions of their Judaism.

An insatiable appetite for education. At all age levels, we are a congregation of eager learners and will aggressively support Jewish education.

An embrace of struggle as a way to continually challenge and grow our beliefs as individuals, as a congregation and as members of the broader Jewish community.

A sense of humor to ensure that we never get in our own way as we try to build and maintain respect, authentic, intimate Jewish community for all who seek us out and call us their community.

A fiscally responsible congregation.

An urban congregation committed to being a Jewish presence in the City of St. Louis and dedicated to remaining in the City.

Membership

Central Reform Congregation, a Reform Jewish congregation in St. Louis, Missouri, represents the coming together of a diverse and inclusive group of individuals who accept the responsibility of maintaining a community of respect and friendship. Through the study of Jewish texts, both ancient and modern, we join together to address questions relevant to the quality of our lives and the lives of all humankind. We maintain an active commitment to tikkun olam, the repair of the world, through social change and social responsibility projects.

As a diverse and inclusive community, we seek equal roles for men and women and welcome members of interfaith backgrounds, Jews by choice, members of the gay and lesbian community, singles, and people of all ages. With a commitment to people paramount, member participation is a fundamental cornerstone of our philosophy.

Whether you are a member or a friend, you are welcome at CRC. Please join us at our upcoming services, programs or events. Financial Responsibility Each member of the congregation is expected to pay a fair share of the cost of running our congregation, but finances are never a barrier to membership or participation at CRC. We will work with you confidentially to determine a financial commitment that is fair and affordable for you.

PARTICIPATION

Central Reform relies on the active involvement of all members. Involvement can take many forms, including simply participating in events; providing food for and cleaning up after an Oneg; or planning a weekend program.

FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILTY

Each member of the congregation is expected to pay a fair share of the cost of running our congregation, but finances are never a barrier to membership or participation at CRC. We will work with you confidentially to determine a financial commitment that is fair and affordable for you.