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Birmingham, England

BIRMINGHAM, city in England. The Jewish community there is believed to have come into existence around 1730. The early Jewish settlers included peddlers who used Birmingham as a base. The first known Birmingham glass furnace was set up by Meyer Oppenheim (or Opnaim) in or about 1760. In 1783 a synagogue existed in "The Froggery." A new synagogue, constructed in Severn Street in 1809, was wrecked in the riots of 1813 along with the Nonconformist chapels but was rebuilt and enlarged in 1827. Internecine strife at this period resulted in the formation of a second congregation, but the two groups united to build the Singers Hill Synagogue, consecrated in 1856, and still in use. There were then about 700 Jews in Birmingham. The Jewish community included jewelers, merchants, and manufacturers. In the 20th century Jews were leading figures in property development and in the entertainment world. On the other hand, immigration from Eastern Europe affected Birmingham less than other large cities. Rabbis of the community included M.J. *Raphall (1841–49) and George J. Emanuel (1863–1911), succeeded by Abraham *Cohen (1913–49). To serve the East European Jews who settled in Birmingham a bet midrash was opened in 1901, which later became the Central Synagogue. The Hebrew Philanthropic Society, established in 1838, and the Board of Guardians, in 1870, were consolidated in 1926 in the Birmingham United Jewish Benevolent Board. The Birmingham Jewish Representative Council was established in 1937. About 500 German Jewish refugees settled in Birmingham in the late 1930s. Jews have played a prominent part in the civic and business life of Birmingham. Sir David Davis served as lord mayor in 1922 and 1923, as did Louis Glass in 1963–64. Birmingham, whose Jewish population numbered approximately 6,300 in 1967, had the lowest percentage of Jews of any great city in England. By the mid-1990s the Jewish population had dropped to approximately 3,000, while the 2001 British census, which asked an optional question about the religious affiliation of respondents for the first time, found 2,340 declared Jews in Birmingham, although the actual figure was probably still about 3,000. In 2004, Birmingam had two Orthodox synagogues and a Reform temple, a *sheḥitah board, and other local institutions.


C. Roth, Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), 32–33; C. Gill and A. Briggs, History of Birmingham (1952). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Z. Josephs, Birmingham Jewry, 17491940 (1980); idem., Birmingham Jewry, Volume 2: More Aspects, 17401930 (1984); idem., Survivors: Jewish Refugees in Birmingham, 193345 (1988); JYB, 2004.

[Sefton D. Temkin]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.