Birmingham backs synagogue downsizing
Model project: an artist’s impression of how the exterior of the planned new Birmingham Central Synagogue building will look
Birmingham Central Synagogue members have overwhelmingly supported plans to sell its Pershore Road shul and transform its community centre into a smaller synagogue.
The vote was taken after two hours' discussion at an EGM last week. Of the 108 members present, 90 per cent voted in a secret ballot to proceed with the scheme.
It is envisioned that a care home developer will purchase the land at the front of the 1.5-acre site, which houses the 50-year-old synagogue building and a large part of the car park.
Before work starts on the care home, the shul's Malcolm Locker Hall will be turned into a synagogue also featuring a functions hall, kitchens, cheder classrooms and a library in a £1 million redevelopment. Building firm Shaylor Construction is to be engaged for the refurbishment of the Malcolm Locker Hall complex.
For synagogue president Geoffrey Clements, who has masterminded the redevelopment with treasurer Arthur Gremson, the decision was "a wonderful start to the New Year. The membership is behind the plans that the shul executive has put together. This is a very exciting time for us. We have to be realists and understand that downsizing now is the right path to take."
Members' comments had been "extremely positive and encouraging and a number of excellent points were raised, which will be taken into account when the finer details of the redevelopment plan are being considered."
Mr Clements hopes Birmingham City Council will approve the plans by early next year.
The 200-member Edgbaston congregation has been investigating selling the 700-seater synagogue for two years. Housing Association Optima was in negotiations to buy the premises in 2009 but pulled out after losing some of its government funding.
At the conclusion of the EGM, it was announced that nine working groups will decide on the finer details of the new building and the process of transfer from the existing one.