Small talk makes sense in Birmingham

By Jessica Elgot, July 15, 2010

Birmingham Central Synagogue is set to sell its synagogue building to a care home developer and transform its community centre into a smaller shul.

The 200-member Edgbaston congregation has been investigating selling the 700-seat synagogue for two years. Housing Association Optima was in negotiations to buy the premises last summer but pulled out after losing some government funding.

In April, the shul management approached a care home developer and there is provisional agreement to develop a home on the site, on the same terms as the Optima proposal. A confidentiality agreement means the developer cannot be named.

The plan is then to convert the congregation's Malcolm Locker Hall into a 180-capacity state-of-the-art synagogue, plus facilities including a library, cheder classrooms, mikveh and function hall.

Central Synagogue president Geoffrey Clements, who has masterminded the redevelopment with treasurer Arthur Gremson, said: "We don't want to end up like the ghetto of Prague where all we have is a beautiful shul.

"We love that building, but the truth of the matter is it is no longer fit for purpose. Even if we get the Chief Rabbi with the Shabbaton Choir on Kol Nidre, we still won't fill the synagogue.

"What is important to us is the survival of our congregation. We want to have the money to invest in high calibre staff."

Members will vote on the proposals at an EGM in early September.

Last updated: 3:11pm, July 16 2010