Why St. Louis? #usa


My great grandfather, Zalman Rudman, emigrated from Zaslav in what is now Ukraine in 1894. He came in through New York and settled in St. Louis. I would like to know if there was a particular reason why he traveled to and settled in St. Louis rather than in NY. To my knowledge, there were no other family members in St. Louis at the time of his arrival. Was there a community of landsmen from Zaslav or environs in St. Louis? Was there a program that encouraged Jewish immigrants to settle in St. Louis? Was something going on in St. Louis at the time that would have attracted immigrants?
I would appreciate any information, comments or ideas. Thank you.


Barbara Ellman


There was a program called the Industrial Removal Office that was created to encourage Jewish immigrants to move out into the country.  The program provided the fare to relocate the people and had contacts to set the immigrant up with a job.  My grandfather went to Detroit and worked at Ford for a while and then returned to NY.  The Center for Jewish History has a database of those that went west with the IRO.  https://genealogy.cjh.org/familycollections.php

The other possibility is that some people from the same town had settled in St. Louis and that's why he went there.

Barbara Ellman
Secaucus NJ USA
ELLMAN, COIRA, MAIDMAN - Minkovtsy, Ukraine
KAGLE, FASS - Ulanow, Poland

Judy Floam

I thought of the IRO (which I had just read about in a book “Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear”) but when I looked it up online, it said it was created in  1901 and the gentleman in question came here in 1894.


Judy Floam


Zalman Usiskin

In 1890, St. Louis was the 5th largest city in the United States (after NY, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn which was considered separately).  It was the hub for traffic from the east going west and south along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers - and lots of traffic could only be transported over water.  By 1900, Brooklyn was considered part of New York City, and so St. Louis became the 4th largest city in the U.S.  When the American League was formed in Baseball in 1901, five cities had teams in both the National and American leagues, and they were situated in the five largest cities in the country: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Boston.  And in 1904, St. Louis hosted a world's fair.  In short, when your great-grandfather came to the U.S., St. Louis was a large bustling growing metropolis with lots of opportunities for jobs and filling the American dream. 

Zalman Usiskin


My Young,Ying relatives from Zaslov also  went to St. Louis but starting in 1903-1904. I have often wondered the same thing.
Louise Hajdenberg
New York


The comments above mine are all correct in general. Please refer to the book "Zion In The Valley" by Ehrlich, hardback, The Jewish Community of St. Louis, Volume 1, 1807-1907. University of Missouri Press, 1997 for more details. The main attraction of St. Louis was easy transportation there on the great rivers to the edge of the frontier. A vibrant Jewish community had existed there for 50 or more years. The first synagogue west of the Mississippi was established there. 

Dan Brockman
Jewish Gen #50584

Judith Singer

There was definitely a community of people from Zaslav in St. Louis. You can go to Ancestry.com and search for people who lived in St. Louis, not using anyone's name, but adding Zaslav as an exact key word, and get a starting point for your research. Among other mentions, there are a couple of obituaries online that will furnish names in addition to just the name of the deceased. 

You can also look at the website "Jews in Saint Louis" from the St. Louis Genealogical Society at https://stlgs.org/research-2/community/ethnic/jews-in-stl and the references (but not the article itself) in the Wikipedia article, History of Jewish Americans in St. Louis, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Jewish_Americans_in_St._Louis.

Judith Singer
studying CHARNE (and variations) in Lithuania

Peggy Mosinger Freedman

There is an excellent history of the Jewish Community of St Louis called Zion in the Valley by Walter Ehrlich.  According to Ehrlich, there was an active United Hebrew Relief Association (UHRA) founded in 1871.  This group provided direct and immediate relief to Jewish immigrants, was instrumental in the founding of Jewish Hospital in St Louis and establishing a Home for Aged and Infirm Israelites.  They were in contact with relief organizations in New York and arranged to help settle many Jewish immigrants in St Louis and elsewhere in the Midwest in the 1880s and 1890s.

Ehrlich's book is well footnoted and lists many organizations that helped with these projects.

Peggy Mosinger Freedman


It is possible that he didn't go to St. Louis right away, but availed himself of the opportunity when the IRO was established.  He may have gone on his own.  For what it's worth, my great-uncle went to Mississippi for a while around 1908 at age 20 and apparently ran a grocery store, but he returned to NYC after a short time, where he was naturalized in 1913. He was not yet married at the time.  
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC

JoAnne Goldberg

As a Jew with no known New York connections -- at least not before WWII!
-- it's not at all uncommon to find clusters of Jews in cities outside
the East Coast. My Lithuanian ancestors (immigrated 1880s/1890s) all
went to places like Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. I
know that there was a beloved Lithuanian rabbi in Pittsburgh who may
have been the draw for many. The Chicago contingent probably entered the
country near there and found that it was a vibrant, growing city.

I grew up in Kansas City. which, like St Louis, is located on a river,
and must have been a pretty exciting place back in the day. I will say
that it's much easier to track down family, especially those with
relatively common names, in places that aren't New York, and to find
contemporaneously-written histories that mention family members. Seems
that in the 1880s, immigrants didn't have the "just a flyover state"
mentality that is so common now. The cities we see today are not the
cities that attracted our great-grandparents.

JoAnne Goldberg - Menlo Park, California; GEDmatch M131535


Sherri Bobish

Good afternoon Genners,

Further to Zalman's post regarding Brooklyn and NYC, anyone interested in learning more detail on the January 1st, 1898 consolidation may want to read Steve Morse & Joel Weintraub's detailed history at this page:
A History of the Geography of New York City (revised version)
By Stephen P. Morse & Joel D. Weintraub

Nothing about NYC is, or ever was, easy or simple!


Sherri Bobish

Amy Mitchell

Hi Bernard,

I have often wondered that myself, as my family is from STL.  

Although St. Louis has never grown into a city that can rival the size of Chicago or NY, it had a large Jewish population in the late 19th and early 20th century.  (Although I have also found documentation for Jewish "pioneers" with emigration years as early as 1850.)  If you're interested, you can also research "Little Jerusalem" or the predominant Jewish quarter that was in the Biddle Street area.  My entire family lived in that area after they emigrated to STL.

And as Zalman pointed out, the STL World's Fair was a HUGE deal.  Although smaller than the Chicago World's Fair, it was considered a rival at the time.

Also as Louise mentioned, the St. Louis Genealogical Society is a great resource if you haven't used them already.  The StLGS J-SIG is here: https://stlgs.org/about-us-2/sigs-and-special-programs/jewish-special-interest-group

Perhaps additionally, as the Jewish community built up over the years, it might have been attractive to other Jewish immigrants.
Amy Mitchell

Sally Bruckheimer <sallybruc@...>

My ggrandfather and his brother went to Rocheport, near St. Louis after the Civil War. They sold stuff off of a cart, according to a cousin; they both married then, my ggrandfather in NYC, and his brother in St. Louis, to sisters. Apparently there was an opportunity and a need.
By 1880, they were back in NYC.
Sally Bruckheimer
Princeton, NJ

Risa Heywood

Barbara mentioned the Industrial Removal Office (IRO). That is the subject of one of my presentations that will be available in the IAJGS Conference presentation library. The presentation was designed to help answer the question, "Why did they move there???" Even if your family member wasn't specifically moved by the IRO, they may have been impacted by the program because they followed an extended family member or landsman who was. I discuss the history of the program, its impact and how to use the index and records.

I checked the records and there was an M. Rudman who moved with the IRO to St. Louis in 1904. The connection may be worth exploring.
Risa Daitzman Heywood
Lisbon, Portugal

Felissa Lashley

Various members of my family went to St. Joe, Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, West Plains and Joplin MO where they established successful businesses. My grandfather brought out many relatives to give them a start after emigration but most went to nyc after a year or so. The Missouri cities along the rivers especially were bustling with commerce and opportunities at the time they were there.
Another resource is the Missouri Historical Society at library@.... There is a book there called Book of Memories by Abrams which has some information about the Jews in St. Louis in a period before 1930 or so. There may be sections pertaining to other Missouri towns as well.
Felissa Lashley
Austin, Texas


Lee Hover

Sort of on topic:  I searched all over for my GF 's immigration.  Finally found him in Galveston from where he went (was sent?) to Kansas city.  It was noted he was a button hole maker.


Searching KLEIN, Hungary; LAP(P)IN, Kretinga, Lithuania; ALTSCHULER, ALTSZULER, Poland; MESSING, Warsaw


My great aunt, newly married at age 18, emigrated from Belagorodka to St Louis before 1900.  She had many relatives from Zaslav [and Shepetovka] some of whom joined her in the early years.  Her husband [Icheal/Israel Rich] had kin who were in St Louis.  I suspect that as has been mentioned, St Louis was seen as a hub of opportunity and discussed well in advance of immigration. 
Shirley Ginzburg

RICH [St Louis], BOCKSER & SCHLAGER/ SHLUGER [Boston, Lynn MA]  all from Zaslav & Shepetovka area, Ukraine
KANTER/OWITZ & dEMATOFF [Mir, Belarus to Chicago]

Judy Floam

This book was been mentioned here so I got a copy – it was fascinating.  “Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear” – letters from people thinking about immigrating to various groups that were set up to help them.   There was a lot of investigation before people made a decision about where to go when they left.


Judy Floam

Baltimore, MD


I've enjoyed all the responses about Jewish history in St. Louis. One other prominent immigrant who got his start in St. Louis was Joseph Pulitzer.

Taking this discussion a century forward, my family immigrated to St. Louis from Kiev in 1979. We had no family in the United States and were randomly assigned to this unknown city in the middle of the country. The Jewish community did a fantastic job of resettling the refugees (although I really didn't enjoy the label New Americans). We were met at the airport and taken to a fully furnished apartment -- new furniture, linens, kitchen utensils. In addition to receiving financial assistance, the community provided ESL classes and employment services. Families who wanted to send their children to the private Jewish day school could do so free of charge. In addition, each family was assigned a volunteer sponsor family to help get further acculturated with holiday celebrations and outings. I grew up and lived in University City, where historic Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregations occupied the same block.


Mikhailina Karina

Alexandria, Virginia

Emily Rosenberg

-- How nice to hear your "next generation " story and the effort the community made to help you and others resettle 
Emily Rosenberg
Oakland, California

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