Birmingham shul downsizes

By Sasha Brenner, June 11, 2009

Birmingham Central Synagogue is close to tying up a £1 million-plus deal with a local housing association to redevelop its Edgbaston site for a declining congregation.

At the shul’s AGM early next month, its 200 members will be asked to support the sale of two-thirds of the site to Birmingham-based housing association Optima.

Shul president Geoffrey Clements and treasurer Arthur Gremson have been in discussion with Optima over the scheme, which would see the Malcolm Locker Hall converted into a 180-capacity state-of-the-art synagogue, plus community facilities. Optima would then build a housing complex on the remainder of the site.

“The current synagogue, with seating for over 700 people, is too large,” Mr Clements explained. “It has simply not been economically viable to keep the site as it was. Optima has been very understanding and accommodating.”

After the estimated £1 million cost of redeveloping the synagogue hall, the sale of land to Optima would leave “a considerable amount of money” to strengthen the congregation’s financial position.
The plan follows failed attempts to agree a merger with the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation in Singers Hill. The synagogues have spent years trying to reach agreement on joining forces, but Singers Hill members have twice voted down proposals.

Mr Clements was saddened by the rejection as “it doesn’t make sense to have two Orthodox communities in such close proximity”.

Minister Rabbi Shlomo Odze is “very much in favour of this development. It is a great opportunity to have a new modern shul.”

Last updated: 5:22pm, June 11 2009