Birmingham’s Beth-El to dedicate marker about attempted bombing

As the World Games wind down in Birmingham, Temple Beth-El will hold a ceremony dedicating its new historical marker about the attempted 1958 bombing of the synagogue.

The ceremony will be held at 12:15 p.m. on July 17. Lisa McNair, national speaker and author, and sister of Denise McNair, one of the four girls killed in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, will speak.

Margaret Norman, director of programming and engagement, will also speak, as will Melissa Young, the project historian.

The day’s events will also include a siyyum and study session with Rabbi Steven Henkin at 11 a.m., a luncheon at 11:30 a.m., and the congregation’s annual meeting at 1 p.m.

The bombing attempt was on April 28, 1958, when a satchel with 54 sticks of dynamite was discovered in a now-filled window well below street level outside the social hall. The bomb failed to detonate, but had enough power to level a city block.

The attempt was part of a rash of bombings against Jewish institutions in the South that year, with The Temple in Atlanta being the best known. The Beth-El attempt was never officially solved, despite fingerprints being taken from the bomb. A couple of individuals verbally threatened a similar attempt at Temple Emanu-El a couple weeks later.

The marker is part of the new Beth-El Civil Rights Experience, which explores the city’s civil rights history through the lens of the Jewish community’s experience, and works to build current connections. Phase II fundraising is currently underway.

When completed, the Experience will include an interactive exhibit, a short documentary film, self-guided audio tours of downtown Birmingham, and space for additional research, education and programming.

Several groups from across the country have already visited Beth-El as part of their civil rights tours in the area.

A “sneak peek” event for the Experience will be held on Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m.