Recently, I was organizing my files and came across some photos I took in Birmingham, Alabama back in August of 2015. After completing my work in the city, I started to wander about looking for photographic beauty, especially doors.
And as many door enthusiasts know, you cannot let a good door go unappreciated. Therefore, today is a peek into my door archives (with more to come later).
This grand door is from a Jewish temple, specifically one that you got of hint of on Tuesday for my Monochrome Madness post.
As you can see though, there is not just one grand door but three. Combined with the columns and the details in the stone, it is really quite grand and noble.
This temple, Temple Emanu-El, caught my eye immediately as it reminded me of something I would think was from the Greek or Roman Empires. I loved the architecture of it just as much as the doors themselves.
Naturally, I wanted to find out some history of this grand structure. Here is what I found on their website..
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.
After photographing that temple, I drove some more and found another one that was actually very nearby. Of course, this one had a grand door as well.
However, like the first temple, Temple Beth-El also had three grand doors and glorious stone work. The added bonus were the stainless windows.
As a Christian woman dating a Jewish man, this was all very interesting and exciting to find. I did wonder about the why both temples had three doors though. My first thought was the whole Father, Son and Holy Ghost belief. But that doesn’t work for Jewish beliefs from what I am learning from my boyfriend. Perhaps they just like the power of three and know its appeal?
Either way, I looked to find out more on this building as well.
I didn’t find a very detailed history of the building itself on their website as I did the previous temple though. However, I did find out a very interesting and disturbing fact from Wikipedia about the building that was built in 1926.
In the 1958, during the Civil Rights Era, someone had placed 54 sticks of dynamite around the temple in a bombing attempt. According to historical police records, the dynamite fuses were saturated by heavy rains that prevented the planned explosions. Wow. That is a lot of dynamite and hatred. Fortunately though, God saw this evil plan and thwarted it with his rains.
I’d like to say this shocks me, but it doesn’t. The world has been and can still be filled with people with ugly hearts. Oh, and the crime was never solved by the way. But, “police considered Bobby Frank Cherry, who was later convicted of bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, to be a suspect.” Sounds like a Cold Case Episode, doesn’t it?
Another interesting fact about Temple Beth-El is that it is the only conservative-affiliated synagogue in Birmingham, and one of only four conservative synagogues in all of Alabama. It is also one of the few temples in the United States to have its own mikveh, which is essentially a purification tool that dates back before the first century.
All these interesting facts still had me wondering why two temples were so close together. Of course, this is the South and there are churches all over the place. They don’t call this the Bible Belt for no reason I guess. However, here is Wikipedia’s answer that is a lot more descriptive…
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.
Currently, 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.
So there you have it. Two Jewish temples that are close by and have some interesting history and bright futures.
May they both flourish and prosper in peace and love:)
For Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors Challenge.