Temple Beth-El (Birmingham, Alabama)

Temple Beth-El is a Conservative synagogue located in Birmingham, Alabama, in the United States. Founded in 1907, Temple Beth-El is a member of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Temple Beth-El is the only Conservative-affiliated synagogue in Birmingham, and one of only four Conservative synagogues in Alabama.

Temple Beth-El
AffiliationConservative Judaism
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusSynagogue
LeadershipRabbi Steven Henkin
Location2179 Highland Avenue, Birmingham, Alabama
CountryUnited States
Temple Beth-El (Birmingham, Alabama) is located in Alabama
Temple Beth-El (Birmingham, Alabama)
Location in Alabama
AdministrationUnited Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Geographic coordinates33°30′00″N 86°47′25″W / 33.5000°N 86.7903°W / 33.5000; -86.7903
Date established1907 (as a congregation)

Rabbi Steven Henkin has served as rabbi since July 2022.

History edit

The first Jews arrived in Birmingham in 1873. They were attracted there by potential business opportunities in this burgeoning coal and ore center of the South. In 1881, a dozen families gathered for the first Rosh Hashanah services which were held in a private home. The 1880s saw a great influx of Jewish newcomers to Birmingham. In 1882, Temple Emanu-El was formally incorporated. With a membership of 100 families, the Reform congregation dedicated its first synagogue building in 1889.

An embryonic Orthodox congregation, Knesseth Israel, erected its first synagogue in 1903 to serve the large number of immigrants coming from Eastern Europe. The third synagogue in Birmingham, Temple Beth-El, was chartered in 1907 as a second Orthodox-affiliated congregation. This group became a part of the Conservative movement in 1944.

Temple Beth-El's current sanctuary was built in 1926 and the facility is located at 2179 Highland Avenue on the Southside of Birmingham. Renovations in the 1990s added a cultural center and classrooms, and further renovations were completed in the 2000s (decade) to the sanctuary, chapel, and social hall. Temple Beth-El is one of the few Conservative synagogues in the United States to have its own mikvah.[citation needed]

The mikveh at Temple Beth-El.

Currently,[when?] Temple Beth-El serves approximately 600-700 Jewish families in the Birmingham area. Other affiliations include a chapter of Sisterhood (affiliated with the national Women's League for Conservative Judaism), a Men's Club (affiliated with the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs) and youth groups active within the umbrella organization United Synagogue Youth.[citation needed]

Hillel Norry served as interim rabbi from June 2021[1] until July 2022. Rabbi Steven Harkin was installed in January 2024.[2]

Involvement in the Civil Rights era edit

The 1950s and 1960s were a period of upheaval in Birmingham as protesters and police often clashed in the streets during the civil rights movement, including the bombings of religious institutions. On April 28, 1958, 54 sticks of dynamite were placed outside Temple Beth-El in a bombing attempt. Police reported that the burning fuses were doused by heavy rainfall, preventing the dynamite from exploding.[3] Although the crime was never solved, police considered Bobby Frank Cherry, later convicted of bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, to be a suspect.[4]

References edit

  1. ^ Maxie, Chasity (July 7, 2021). "Temple Beth-El leaders say they will stand with family of missing Tuscaloosa doctor". WBRC. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  2. ^ Garrison, Greg (January 12, 2024). "Birmingham's historic Temple Beth-El installs rabbi: 'It's an amazing community'". AL.com. Retrieved January 18, 2024.
  3. ^ Temple, C.; Hansen, J. (July 16, 2000). "Ministers' homes, churches among bomb targets". The Birmingham News. Archived from the original on 2015-07-01.
  4. ^ Wiener, J. (June 11, 2001). "Southern Explosure". The Nation.

External links edit

  Media related to Temple Beth-El (Birmingham, Alabama) at Wikimedia Commons