Birmingham Jewish Federation History
HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
The first three Jewish families that arrived in Birmingham in 1873 were attracted by potential business opportunities in the burgeoning coal and iron ore industries. 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 Jews to Birmingham and in 1882 Temple Emanu-El was formally created. With a membership of 100 families, the Reform congregation dedicated its first synagogue building in 1889.
Knesseth Israel, a young Orthodox congregation, erected its first synagogue in 1903 to serve the large numbers of Eastern Europen immigrants. The Jewish Community Center held its first meeting in 1907, taking up residence briefly in the Northside area of Birmingham, which had become the first Jewish neighborhood. Also, in 1907, Temple Beth-El, a second Orthodox congregation, was chartered. In 1944, Temple Beth-El became a part of the Conservative movement.
In response to the growing threat of Hitler’s Germany in the 1930’s, Birmingham developed the United Jewish Fund to assist threatened communities in Europe and Russia. In 1970, The Birmingham Jewish Federation was born. Its mission evolved as it added social welfare and community relations agendas to its existing fundraising goals.