Rabbi Samuel Thurman

Rabbi Samuel Thurman

Death 22 Feb 1963 (aged 80)
University City, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA
Burial University City, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA
Memorial ID 6018425 · View Source
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Rabbi Thurman served United Hebrew Congregation, St. Louis, Missouri as senior rabbi for over 44 years (1914-1958) and he is listed along with other rabbis who served St. Louis congregations. The full list can be found at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS.

Rabbi Thurman attended the Hebrew Union College from 1905-1906. However, he did not graduate. To quote Thurman, "While it is true that I studied at Hebrew Union College, I did not graduate. I left it within a little more than a year of graduation." Even without that official ordination, Thurman become one of the most beloved rabbis in St. Louis history.

"Samuel Thurman of United Hebrew Temple descended from a long line of noted scholars. He was born in Russia, came to America as a child and grew up in Boston. There he attended Boston Latin Grammar School and then Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude. From there he enrolled in Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati to prepare for the rabbinate. After ministries in Lexington, Kentucky (ca.1908), Kalamazoo, Michigan (ca.1908-1912, and Trenton, New Jersey (ca.1912-1914, he came to United Hebrew in 1914, where he served the congregation until he died in 1963 at the age of eighty.

Rabbi Thurman's tenure at United Hebrew spanned an era in Jewish history that ranged from the deprivations of Russian czarism to the creation of a sovereign Israel. In St. Louis, it saw United Hebrew emerge as the largest congregation in the city, from ninety-two families in 1914 to twenty-one hundred families in the 1950's. Many credited Thurman's magnetism for that dramatic increase. Like local Rabbis Harrison and Sale, of course, Thurman's primary responsibility was to his own congregation. Members of United Hebrew considered he and his wife Hattie, loving members of their own families. One longtime congregant in fact posited that Rabbi Thurman had many families: his own Thurman family, the collective congregational family, and each individually of the more than two thousand families who belonged to Untied Hebrew. Fellow rabbis agreed that he was unsurpassed in pastoral ministrations. An exceptionally dynamic orator, he spoke frequently before other congregations, including many Christian churches. Thurman was instrumental also in bringing together rabbis of fellow Jewish congregations through his role in the creation of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association. His public career included many honors and awards. A Thirty-Third Degree Mason, he was a longtime fiend of Harry S. Truman. Thurman was singularly honored when he was invited to deliver the invocation at President Truman's inauguration in January 1949, the first rabbi in American history to participate in a presidential inauguration." Note that the participants at the inauguration all wore the obligatory top hats. Thurman did not bring one but his dear St. Louis friend Judge Robert Aronson was kind enough to lend him his.

Text excerpts source: ZION IN THE VALLEY VOL-II by Walter Erlich 2002.

Top photo Courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio AMERICAN JEWISH ARCHIVES.ORG

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United Hebrew Congregation
St, Louis, Missouri
Reproduced with Permission

1938 marks the 25th anniversary of Rabbi Thurman's service to the United Hebrew Congregation. He has guided the congregation through one-fourth of the history of UH.

His early rabbinical knowledge he gleaned from his father, a learned Talmudist; his more formal education he received at the Boston Latin School, Harvard University, from which he graduated with honors, and the Hebrew Union College.

He came to the United Hebrew Congregation in April 1914. Bringing with him a keen mind, a searching intellect and a sympathetic understanding heart, he soon endeared himself to a welcoming Congregation. By virtue of his crusading fervor and magnetic personality, he captivated young and old. Soon he was able to attract many new members to this Congregation, to enlarge and improve the Religious School, to embark on the Ladies Aid Society and the Temple Men's Club upon nee and enlarged programs and to make the United Hebrew Congregation a vital force both to its own community and in the community at large.

His vision, together with the cooperation of the Board of Trustees, soon brought to fruition the plans, construction and completion of the new Temple on Skinker Road. His tireless enthusiasm and never-failing faith have been the motivating forces which have in the last twenty-five years caused the United Hebrew Congregation to become the largest Congregation west of the Mississippi River, and a leading factor in St. Louis Jewry.

The Congregation, in its Centennial Year, and the community at large, extend to Rabbi Samuel Thurman hearty congratulations and deep appreciation on this Silver Anniversary Year of his ministry to the Congregation and the community. END

The rabbi featured on this Find A Grave page is one of many included in a "Virtual Cemetery" of rabbis who've passed but who served on St. Louis pulpits during their rabbinate. The complete "Virtual Cemetery" list can be found at SAINT LOUIS RABBIS. Questions about this "Virtual Cemetery" project may be directed to:
Steven Weinreich
Email: steveweinreich26@gmail.com

Family Members


  • Maintained by: Brent Stevens
  • Originally Created by: Patti Labell
  • Added: 8 Dec 2001
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6018425
  • Brent Stevens
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Rabbi Samuel Thurman (24 Oct 1882–22 Feb 1963), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6018425, citing United Hebrew Cemetery, University City, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Brent Stevens (contributor 47516363) .