Birmingham is a vibrant and active Jewish community. The first three Jewish families, arriving in Birmingham in 1873, were attracted here by potential business opportunities in this burgeoning coal and iron 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 1880’s 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 Orthodox congregation, Knesseth Israel, established in 1891, erected its first building in 1903 to serve the large numbers of Eastern European immigrants.
The Jewish Community Center held its first annual meeting in 1907. A second Orthodox congregation, Temple Beth-El, was also chartered that year. This group became a part of the Conservative movement in 1944.
Today’s Jewish community of approximately 5,500 enjoys affiliation with virtually every national, social, and religious Jewish organization. Almost every Jewish Birmingham person is a member of one of the congregations, contributing significantly to the overall strong and positive quality of Jewish life in Birmingham. In 1970, the Birmingham Jewish Federation was born. Their mission evolved as they added Social Welfare and Community Relations committees to their existing fund-raising campaign. Subsequently, the Federation spawned the Birmingham Jewish Day School (later renamed the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School), the Birmingham Jewish Foundation and Jewish Family Services.
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