There has been a Jewish community in Tuscaloosa since before the 1880s. Many of our historical documents have been lost, but we know that the first German Jews began coming to Tuscaloosa in the 1850s. For the next hundred years, most Jews in Tuscaloosa maintained businesses such as cotton brokering, dry goods, mining, clothing, and the paper business. Families gathered for worship in various homes and rented quarters, including City Hall, for the High Holidays. In 1912, the community started fundraising and bought a lot at 2624 Broad Street (now University Boulevard) in Tuscaloosa's "Original City." The deed to that land is dated August 24, 1912, and transfers the property to "I. Green, L. Rosenfeld, and A. Holczstein as trustees of Temple Emanu-El." By the fall of 1912 the first Temple Emanu-El building that we know of was in use, and had an active "Sabbath School" whose superintendent was UA law student Herbert U. Feibelman. (Mr. Feibelman became a prominent lawyer in Miami and was a founder of Miami's Temple Israel). We believe that the temple affiliated with UAHC (now URJ) in 1912 or 13. An early constitution and set of by-laws dates from that time. Sisterhood affiliated with NFTS (now WRJ) in 1913.
Our congregation thrived through the coming decades; by 1958 the original temple building was too small and the congregation purchased a former Methodist church on 10th Street (now Bryant Drive). At that point too, a small conservative congregation agreed to merge with Emanu-El.
By 1969, the 10th Street building had also become too small. On April 16, 1969, trustees Harry Cohen, Gordon Rosen, Bernard Ward, Roy Block, Morris (Munny) Sokol, Sam Pizitz, Dave Rosenfeld, Stan Bloom, and Jake Temerson formally incorporated Emanu-El for the first time in a move to purchase a large lot on the southeast end of Tuscaloosa. By 1971, a new building on Skyland Boulevard was dedicated. It remained the Temple's home until January 2007, when we sold it to the Alabama School for the Deaf and Blind.
In 2007, Emanu-El was invited by President Witt of the University of Alabama to locate on campus in the "God Quad" as the 'adult' half of a campus Jewish center. In 2010, Temple Emanu-El dedicated its brand new synagogue building, located on a lot shared with the Jewish student building, Bloom Hillel.
University of Alabama Campus, 809 4th Avenue