Tuscaloosa congregation breaks ground

On Feb. 24, members of Tuscaloosa’s Temple Emanu-El were joined by University of Alabama officials for the groundbreaking of the congregation’s new building.

The groundbreaking was the next step in a process that is bringing Emanu-El to campus, to be situated next door to a new Hillel building.

University President Robert Witt, who has made increasing Jewish enrollment at Alabama a priority, said “The presence of this Temple will allow us to be able to say to parents that not only will their students receive an education, but they will be able to remain grounded in their faith, culture and tradition.”

The new site is located between Paul Bryant Drive and University Boulevard, at what is referred to as the “God Quad,” where several religious organizations are housed.

The synagogue will be roughly 6500 square feet, with a sanctuary, library, two classrooms and office space. There will be 12 Eastern cedars planted outside, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
Emanu-El co-presidents Joel and Toby Whitman said “The partnership of Temple Emanu-El, Hillel, and the University has contributed to the ability to service, counsel, and provide a broader dimension of activity for our students and congregational community.”

Rabbi Steven Jacobs, who is the Chair of Judaic Studies at Alabama and serves the congregation part-time, said the new building “will also enable us to do even more outreach than we have been able to accomplish,” and he envisions inviting clergy and congregants of other faiths for fellowship and study, as well as establishing a stronger relationship with Hillel.

Foundation work will be underway this month, as the congregation continues toward its $500,000 goal.

For Emanu-El, the move is a return downtown. The congregation moved to Skyland Boulevard in 1971. That facility was sold in 2007 to the Tuscaloosa Regional Center of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.

The Hillel House was located on the corner of Wallace Wade Avenue and Eighth Street, directly across from Bryant-Denny Stadium.