Over the last 111 years, the Nusach Hari B’nai Zion Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri has reflected the greater story of Midwestern American Jewry in its many forms. Recently, the synagogue underwent a transformation as it moved from its home of the last sixty years, now falling to disrepair, to a new building- reflecting both a shrinking in congregation size and the migration of members to progressively more western suburban neighborhoods.
Filmmaker Saul Sudin grew up attending Nusach H’ari B’nai Zion, and he weaves a portrait of how every inch of the now dilapidating older structure vibrates with history both personal and shared. Combined with personal reflection, Sudin traces the steps of how Nusach H’ari and the B’nai Zion congregation that merged with it have had many homes over the years. In visiting sites past, present and future, the history of the community as a whole unfolds.
In the summer of 2011, synagogue president Robert Kaiser guided the filmmaker through the still under construction new building. Kaiser revealed how the new Nusach H’ari reflects the 21st century not only in religious motifs, but also through cutting edge technologies being employed to make a highly efficient, energy conscious “green” structure.
Just before the high holidays, the parade of Torahs, carried by longtime members, made their way to the newly completed synagogue as they cemented the future of congregation Nusach H’ari B’nai Zion. The new location will undoubtedly be yet another stepping stone to whatever the future holds.