Jews were legally admitted into the area of Missouri with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The first known Jewish Missourian was Ezekiel Block, a slave owner who was part of a traditionally oriented family which gradually left Schwihau, Bohemia, between 1796 and 1850. At least 23 family members settled in Troy, Perryville, and mainly Cape Girardeau, Louisiana, and St. Louis. They engaged primarily in merchandising, but one also became a lawyer and another became a mill owner and an insurance company resident. Most eventually married Christians. However, one married into the Philipson family of St. Louis, the first Jewish family in that town.
By 1837 St. Louis had a minyan and, although the city had less than 100 Jews, a cemetery was founded in 1840 and a congregation in 1841. By mid-century the Jewish population in St. Louis increased to between 600 and 700 due to the German immigration of 1848–53, which also led to a Jewish influx into St. Joseph and Kansas City where congregations were established in 1860 and 1870 respectively. Congregations were established in the mid-1880s in the state capital, Jefferson City, and by 1905 in both Springfield (south-central) and Joplin (southwest). By 1950 regular services were being held at University of Missouri Hillel in Columbia, Fort Leonard Wood, and in Cape Girardeau (southeast). In 1948 Eddie Jacobson, a once failed Missouri Jewish merchant, played a role – whose importance is a matter of dispute – when he approached his former partner Harry S. Truman and pressed for the recognition of the State of Israel. By the early 1960s the Jews of Sedalia (west-central) had organized their own congregation. Two of the most popular organizations in outstate Missouri are B'nai B'rith and Anti-Defamation League. Washington University had a fine Judaic studies program. Steven Schwarczchild taught there for a generation and Hillel Kieval was the Gloria M. Goldstein Professor of Jewish Thought. The University of Missouri had an active Hillel program. The St. Louis Jewish Light was the Jewish publication for the St. Louis area. Kansas City, Missouri, was covered by the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, which was based in Kansas.
As of 2013, Missouri's Jewish population was approximately 59,175 people.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved. AJHSP (1914), index; D.I. Makovsky, The Philipsons; the First Jewish Settlers in St. Louis 1807–1858 (1958); S. Bowman, Tribute to Isidore Busch (1920).