Temple Beth-El

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Temple Beth-El in 2010

Temple Beth-El is a synagogue located at 2179 Highland Avenue in Birmingham, at the intersection of 21st Way South (formerly Beech Street). The congregation was founded in 1907 as Birmingham's second Orthodox congregation. The synagogue was the 3rd to be constructed in Birmingham after Temple Emanu-El and the Knesseth Israel Synagogue. It was formed by members splitting from Knesseth Israel.

In 1944 Beth-El became affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and is now the only Conservative-affiliated synagogue in Birmingham, and one of only four in Alabama.

Currently, Temple Beth-El serves approximately 700-800 Jewish families in the Birmingham area. The Temple's "Sisterhood" chapter is affiliated with the Women's League for Conservative Judaism, while the Men's Club is part of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs. The Temple's youth groups are organized under the United Synagogue Youth.

Temple Beth-El's rabbi is Stephen Henkin. The music and youth director is Sarah Metzger.


The current sanctuary, completed in December 1926, was designed by Charles McCauley in a Romanesque style. Beth-El is one of only a few Conservative synagogues in the United States to have its own mikveh or ritual bath.

The back part of the original building was added in 1950. William Chambers designed the renovated interiors at the time. A cultural center and classroom building was added in the 1990s, followed by renovations to the sanctuary, chapel and social hall in the 2000s.

The interior is graced by numerous sculptures by Phillip Ratner.

Temple Beth-El leases space to non-profit organizations, including the Reiki Association of the Southeast.

Bomb attempts

On April 28, 1958, 54 sticks of dynamite were placed outside Temple Beth-El in a bombing attempt. According to police reports, the burning fuses were doused by heavy rainfall, preventing the dynamite from exploding. Although the crime was never solved, police considered Bobby Frank Cherry, later convicted of bombing the 16th Street Baptist Church, to be a suspect.

In November 2022 officials responding to a fire reported at Temple Beth-El found a propane tank and clothing which had been set on fire in the basement. Gregory Earl Fuller was taken into custody by the Birmingham FBI and charged with second-degree arson by Jefferson County prosecutors. According to Rabbi Henkin, Fuller "admitted to lighting it" but added that "it had nothing to do with us being a synagogue."





  • Temple, C. and Hansen, J. (July 16, 2000) "Ministers' homes, churches among bomb targets" "Birmingham News".
  • Wiener, J. (June 11, 2001) "Southern Explosure". "The Nation".
  • Robinson, Carol (November 4, 2022) "Propane tank, burning clothes found inside Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El; man held on suspicion of arson." AL.com
  • Yurkanin, Amy (November 6, 2022) "Rabbi: ‘No evidence’ of antisemitic attack in suspicious fire near Birmingham synagogue." AL.com
  • Robinson, Carol (November 7, 2022) "Birmingham man charged with arson in Temple Beth-El fire." AL.com

External Links