Temple Emanu-El offers a wide range of worship and learning experiences and a warm environment. We support each other in joy, in healing, and in religious observance. We hope you will become an active part of our congregational family.
Temple Emanu-El was founded in 1882 by early Jewish settlers who came to the small town of Birmingham. By 1886, the Temple’s membership had grown to 86 families, and the congregation laid the cornerstone for the first synagogue to be built in Jefferson County. This house of worship, located on the southeast corner of 5th Avenue North and 17th Street, served the congregation for the next 24 years. These early settlers assumed leadership roles in all aspects of civic affairs beginning a tradition of community involvement that continues among our Temple membership today.
In 1895, Rabbi Morris Newfield, a young Hungarian immigrant, was elected to lead the congregation which he continued to do for over 45 years. Under his leadership, the congregation grew to 300 families and a “new” sanctuary was built in 1912 at 2100 Highland Avenue South. We still worship in our majestic and beautiful sanctuary.
Arriving the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rabbi Milton Grafman took the reins of Temple Emanu-El. He led our congregation for the next 34 years through World War II, the establishment of Israel and the struggle for civil rights in Birmingham. Temple Emanu-El has played a vital role in the history and life of Birmingham’s Jewish and secular community.
Temple Emanu-El Today
Today, our congregation’s spiritual leaders are Interim Senior Rabbi Douglas Kohn, Cantor Jessica Roskin and Rabbi Laila Haas. Under their enthusiastic leadership, our congregation continues to grow and flourish in both numbers and activity. They embrace our philosophy of community and are exceptionally innovative in their programming and service to the Temple family and community at-large.
In recent years, with extraordinary leadership and participation from both the congregation and our clergy, Temple Emanu-El completed several multi-million dollar campaigns for renovation of its spiritual home on Highland Avenue and to further build our Endowment Fund.
We celebrate our past and we take joy in knowing that Temple Emanu-El’s best days are ahead. We welcome you with open doors and open hearts.