Birmingham’s Knesseth Israel votes to move

A year ago, Birmingham’s Knesseth Israel held a groundbreaking for a new building at its current Montevallo Road location.

On Dec. 12, the congregation voted instead to build a new facility on Overton Road. The three-to-one vote in favor of moving was presented to the congregation’s board on Dec. 13.

The Orthodox congregation will now design a new building, demolishing the church currently on the site, and likely start construction this summer. The goal is to be in the new building for the 2007 High Holy Days.

The choice to move came after fundraising fell short of the amount needed to both build a new facility and provide a comfortable endowment to run the congregation. It was estimated that to do both would require close to $8 million. The campaign raised about $5.4 million, which was still considered impressive for the 100-family congregation.

The current location is across from the Birmingham Country Club’s golf course, surrounded by homes that have gone up in value tremendously. By selling the highly-desirable current site and moving, the congregation expects to come out significantly better financially.

The lack of affordable housing within walking distance of the congregation was also cited as a factor that keeps the congregation from growing. The new site, at 3100 Overton Road, is within walking distance to apartment complexes as well as more moderately priced homes.

On the other hand, there was a concern for members who currently live within walking distance who would have to move if they wish to walk to services on Shabbat.

The new location is a few doors down from the Bais Ariel Chabad Center, and across from a Publix that has vastly expanded the kosher food offerings available in Birmingham.