About CRC

Our Mission

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.


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

History Timeline

The Beginnings: Why and When
CRC Ground Breaking Ceremony

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.

Group of Families to create Central Reform
Group of Families to create Central Reform

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.

CRC founded in 1984
Rabbi Susan Talve consults with founding members of CRC

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.

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 Evolution: How and Where
First officers installed at CRC

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.

CRC breaks ground
Mosaic on Oneg Floor

The answer was to rent space in an existing community facility, and this has been accomplished in a number of locales around St. Louis. 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 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, High Holiday services, religious and Hebrew schools, the Nest Early Childhood Center, a wide variety of CRC and community events, and our administrative offices.

Our most recent addition, the Oneg Floor mosaic, designed by Indian Jewish artist Siona Benjamin, provides a unique setting in our front foyer for all visitors.

Rabbi Randy Fleisher comes to CRC
CRC Staff Grows

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.

Tikkun Sculpture Installed
Photo by Illene Berman

The large stones you see are a sculpture called “Tikkun”, created by local artist Ilene Berman. Its form is based on the Jewish mystical story of creation about the shattering of vessels, the gathering of hidden sparks, and the repair of the world. The “Shema”—the holiest Jewish prayer–is written inside. The largest opening is facing the First Unitarian Church. A path, comprised from clay pieces decorated by the community, leads from the sanctuary to the vessel. The clay pieces represent shards from the shattered vessel. CRC and community members took part in creating the art by decorating, etching or hand printing the clay pieces. The sculpture is a reminder for the CRC members to do the work of Tikkun Olam.

The Central Reform Congregation building on Waterman Blvd was built in 2000. In May 2004, the Tikkun sculpture was officially dedicated and installed on the corner of Kingshighway and Waterman.

Learn more at the Regional Arts Commission page.

Rabbi Karen and Daniel Bogard join CRC’s Rabbinic team

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.

In the forty years since our founding, 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.