CHAPTER I Early Beginnings ..
CHAPTER II - Rabbi Dr. Solomon Mayer Schiller-Szenessy
CHAPTER III Consecration of "Park Place"
CHAPTER IV - Professor Tobias Theodores
CHAPTER V - The Rev. Dr. Gustav Gottbeil
CHAPTER VI -- The Rev. Dr. Isaac Wiener
CHAPTER VII - The Rev. Laurence Mark Simmons, BA, LL.B.
CHAPTER VIII " " " " " (Contd)
CHAPTER IX - The Rev. Abraham Wolf M.A.
CHAPTER X The Rev. Harry S. Lewis, M.A.
CHAPTER XI - The Rev. Jacob Phillips ..
CHAPTER XII - Rabbi P. Selvin Goldberg, M.A.
CHAPTER XIII - Two Unique Institutions .. ..
March, 1957. P. SELVIN GOLDBERG
The history of all movements and organisations is basically the history
of the individuals concerned.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the story of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews is the
history of a group of outstanding people who impressed their personalities deeply on their fellow
citizens, and who were responsible for important and imaginative changes in the ways of life of their
It is also not surprising that Manchester was a pioneer in the particular
form of religious worship
evolved by the Manchester Congregation of British Jews; for Manchester was-and is-a vital city
which attracted to it many of the most vital of people. No small part of this vitality was given to the
city by Jews, many of them coming from a Germany and Central Europe where the vigorous growth
of liberalism was slowly but surely influencing every aspect of life. The aftermath of the French
Revolution had brought with it concepts which were exciting all branches of thought, philosophy,
and religion. Not the least affected by this gust of freedom were the Jews of Germany who saw the
stifling gates of the ghetto opening to a new and breath-taking liberty. Many of these Jews settled in
Manchester and brought with them their ambitious plans for social emancipation. Those who followed
them brought another ambition -religious emancipation.
It was from these Jews that the Manchester Congregation of British Jews
sprang. They brought the
ideology which at first gave strength to those who had long-standing though minor quarrels with the
ultra-orthodox, and which later produced the movement which, for want of a better name, has
become known as "Reform" in Judaism. But before proceeding further, one must relate how the
congregation, of which this is the history, came to be called "The Manchester Congregation of
A century has now elapsed since the establishment of the congregation,
but in those early days
conditions in Jewry and co-operation among Jews were far different from what they are to-day.
Lines of demarcation were drawn, according to the country of one's origin. The older and longer
established Sephardic (i.e. Portuguese) Jews tended to look askance at the newer immigrants
from Germany and Eastern Europe known as Ashkenasim. Differences were accentuated to such
a degree that hitherto it had been impossible to create a united congregation for Jews living in
Great Britain, irrespective of the countries of their origin. The founders of the Manchester
Congregation, following the example of London, tried to do this, and in order to suggest that the
new community would welcome both Sephardim and Ashkenasim, they chose the neutral title of
"The Manchester Congregation of British Jews."
One cannot do better than quote here the paragraph in the Prayer Book
which deals with this
point, and which can be found on page XI of the Introduction to Volume I of the "Daily and
Sabbath and Occasional Prayers" (dated Ab 5601, August, 1841).
"The difference which formerly existed between the Portuguese and German JewishThe history of Manchester Jewry can, however, be traced back to an earlier date than this, and
congregations, and which caused them to consider each other as half aliens in religious
matters, have happily, by the progress of liberal sentiments, been removed, in as far as
they obstructed that brotherly feeling which the unity of our religious system requires ; and
the efforts of our newly established congregation have been directed, we hope successfully,
to the obliteration of every vestige of that useless and hurtful separation. We have discarded
the names indicating a connection between us, natives of Great Britain professing the Jewish
religion, and the countries from which our ancestors immigrated, and we have adopted for
our place of worship the sufficiently explicit designation of "West London Synagogue of British
Jews." In making this statement, it is expedient to notice that the term "British Jews" has been
chosen only with a view to efface the distinction now existing between the German and
Portuguese Jews, and not in any way to constitute a new distinction, in a religious point of view,
between the Jews of Great Britain and those of any other country."
The first synagogue was established by two brothers from Liverpool,
Jacob and Lemon Nathan,
who had acquired a house in Long Millgate for that purpose. Lemon Nathan was elected its first
President. Jewish communal life in Manchester had commenced.
Rabbi Ahron Jacobs was the synagogue's first minister, and his son,
Alexander, became a leading
communal figure. In his time he was also elected president of the synagogue, and was instrumental
in forming the Manchester Philanthropic Society in 1804.
In 1824 the congregation-still very small-moved to Ainsworth Court in
Long Millgate, and the
following year, for reasons of communal growth, to Halliwell Street. Even in those early days the
progressive nature of Manchester Jewry was evident, for accusations of "reform" were frequently
levelled at the synagogue.
It was, however, in 1840 that the first shots in the battle which culminated
in the creation of the
Manchester Congregation of British Jews were fired. In that year schism occurred. One reason
among others was that some members were anxious to have an organ in the synagogue. The
quarrel continued and grew, and a second congregation was formed in Millers Lane, but shortly
afterwards differences were reconciled for the time being, and the two synagogues again united.
This happy state was not to continue for long, as difficulties of temperament and tendencies
developed. The culmination of this trend towards schism came with the arrival in Manchester of
Dr. Solomon Mayer Schiller-Szenessy.
The arrival of this outstanding and stormy personality stimulated the
creation of yet other
controversies, mainly concerning procedure and questions of an ecclesiastical nature, in which
the Rabbinical authorities in London finally intervened. At the same time demands from the laity
for improvements in the form of worship began once more to be heard.
The Jewish Chronicle of 23rd June, 1853, quotes a letter to the Presiding
Warden of the
Manchester Synagogue, signed by a number of seat-holders, requesting a special general meeting
"for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of electing a committee to deliberateA brilliant speech by Mr. (later Professor) Tobias Theodores swayed the meeting to such an extent
on the introduction of necessary and salutary improvement into the public worship of the
"the ecclesiastical authorities have no power to annul the decree in question until theDuring the next two years the situation developed and reached its climax. Schiller-Szenessy's
parties referred to alter the religious position in which they were at the time when the
same was issued."
The early history of Reform Judaism in Manchester is the history of
Dr. Schiller-Szenessy. This is
true not merely because he became the first Reform Minister in the city, but because this
outstanding person left his mark both on his congregation and on the character of Manchester
Jewry as well. He was a remarkable man. A Hungarian patriot, a partisan leading a resistance
movement in his native Hungary, and possessing an academic mind of great stature ; a Hebraist
of outstanding quality, and an Orthodox Jew who created and breathed life into a Reform Jewish
movement. To understand, therefore, the history of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews
it is essential to know something of its initiator. To appreciate fully this stimulating character with
all his strength, weaknesses, courage, and intellectual complexity, would be impossible it would be
in the nature of harnessing if not the storm, at least the March wind.
The Jewish Chronicle of 14th March, 1890, in its "Notes of the Week"
remarking on his death,
gives some key to his often uncomfortably uncompromising character.
"The death of Dr. Schiller-Szenessy makes a noteworthy gap in the rank of Hebrew scholars inIt was a man such as this who was to make his impact so strongly felt on the growing and
this country. Though his critical powers were not on a par with his learning, and he sinned at times
against the canon of good taste in speaking of himself and of others, he had the rare quality of
inspiring enthusiasm for his subject in his pupils….
However, before we deal with the Doctor, let us follow the history of
the community a little
further. Since it was manifest that the two religious approaches within the community could not
be reconciled, two synagogues were built, both in Cheetham Hill Road. The "Old" was
consecrated on 11th March, 1858, and the Park Place Synagogue on 25th March of the same
year. In Park Place, Dr. Schiller-Szenessy was the minister, and from the first the service was
fully choral and accompanied by organ music. The prayer book used was that adopted by the
Margaret Street Congregation, London, which was the forerunner of the West London
Synagogue of British Jews, Berkeley Street.
press report tells the story in factual terms.
"At a meeting held on the 17th February, 1856, it was unanimously decided that the mode ofThe names of those who attended that meeting are of interest. They include A. Kaufmann,
reciting the prayers and the ceremonial of public worship now in operation at the Margaret
Street Synagogue of British Jews be likewise adopted."
One of the main points of difference was the question of choir and organ
although this cannot be
accepted as the basic reason for the split. Neither the character of Dr. Schiller-Szenessy nor the
character of the congregation gives much credence to this minor issue as being the basis of the
quarrel. It is much more likely that it was a causa belli-a symbol of deeper differences, and of
sharper feelings, on issues of a more fundamental nature.
The introduction of music into the service did give rise to many interesting
issues. No doubt the
congregation felt that with the lighter mood, it was throwing off the shackles and dark restrictions
of ghetto-ridden Europe, rather than altering Jewish dogma or interfering with what the ultra-
orthodox considered, and still consider to be, Jewish tradition. This perhaps explains why the new
congregation turned to the freshly liberated community of Hamburg for inspiration. Much of the
music was copied from that Reform Synagogue, but one item was taken from Vienna, whose
synagogue used the Sabbath Psalm set to music by Schubert. This, Schubert composed in
conjunction with the Reader, and it is recorded that for his work he received the sum of thirty
From the very beginning of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews
a choir, formed by ladies
of the congregation assisted by a number of professional singers, took part in the services, under the
direction of a Mr. James P. Shepley, who was appointed organist and choirmaster. A few years later,
male members of the congregation joined, and a purely voluntary choir was established. Throughout t
he years the beautiful singing of the choir has been an integral part of our services.
It appears, therefore, that the history-in fact, the existence- of the
Manchester Congregation of
British Jews was involved with the knotty problem of religious music. In London the Reform
Movement started because a few families moved their homes from the city, and were not allowed
by the Bevis Marks Congregation to start a new synagogue and to incorporate improvements in
the form of worship. In Manchester, similarly, the congregation evolved because a few cultured
Jews wished to worship decorously, intelligibly, and to the accompaniment of a choir and organ.
Opposition to this produced the Manchester Congregation of British Jews. It also produced, in so
far as Manchester is concerned, the stormy petrel of nineteenth century English Judaism- the
Hungarian Hebraist, Dr. Solomon Mayer Schiller-Szenessy.
SOLOMON MAYER SCHILLER-SZENESSY was born in 1820, and died at Cambridge in 1891.
He was very much of a warrior but little of a buccaneer, for all his
fighting life-and that was throughout
his entire life-he fought for principles and ideas, whether on the plains of Hungary battling for Magyar
independence, or in the synagogues of Manchester.
Born in old Bude, he came, on his father's side, from a long line of
Rabbis, while through his mother's
family he was connected with the Baks who were fifteenth-century Venetian printers. In his extreme
youth he demonstrated all the characteristics expected from a son of Rabbis and Venetian craftsmen.
He had a distinguished academic career, graduating as a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of
Jena. He was later ordained as a Rabbi and then appointed Professor Publicus Extraordinarius at the
Lutheran College of Eperjes in Hungary. To the qualities necessary for these achievements were added
a high degree of piety and a deep love of Jewish traditionalism.
It is, therefore, a little surprising to see where his path next led
him. The revolutionary period of 1848,
with its almost universal demand for liberalism, freedom and independence, now occupied him to the
exclusion of his more academic vocations. The Hungarian rising under his friend Kossuth saw him in
the forefront of the struggle against the Austrian masters of his country. The situation and the man
were such that the Doctor of Philosophy, the Professor, the Rabbi, took to the field as a soldier, a
partisan, a saboteur, and as a nineteenth-century "commando-parachutist." A man of extreme courage
as well as of brilliant analytical mind, he was ordered by General Torok to check the advance of the
Austrian army,. The task was to blow up the bridge at Szegedin,which he did successfully.
He was wounded and captured, and sentenced to death. Fortunately h~
managed to escape the night
before he was due to be executed, and was next seen in Trieste where he boarded a ship which, after
a voyage lasting sixty days, landed him in yet another turbulent country - Ireland. Here he discarded
his role of patriot and returned once more to his perhaps equally violent intellectual life.
In Dublin t he soldier was forgotten and the Rabbi reappeared. Invited
by the congregation there to
preach, his reception was so enthusiastic that he was presented with a gold watch in appreciation of
his scholarship and eloquence. He then came to London and after a time was elected minister of the
United Community at Manchester. The impact of this extraordinary man was felt almost immediately
by his congregants, and it is not surprising that the secession which resulted in the establishment of
Manchester's Reform Synagogue occurred after his arrival and not before.
It was chiefly due to Professor Theodores that he was offered and accepted
the office of minister to
that congregation when it was formed. Schiller-Szenessy’s personality and scholarship had impressed
itself on Professor Theodores as, throughout his life, it continued to impress itself on all who came into
contact with him.
The Jewish Chronicle in a masterly understatement, in its issue of 14th
March, 1890, wrote "In the
discharge of his duties he displayed much energy." Energy-other than atomic-is hardly adequately
descriptive of the explosive violence with which Dr. Schiller-Szenessy applied himself to his duties-
either bridge- blowing or theological.
Within a very short time he had mastered English and his sermons, delivered
in that language, were
regarded with amazement both for their ;content and for the fluency of their form.
But with Schiller-Szenessy nothing was simple and easy to define, although
everything was almost
terrifyingly to the point.
For example, although he was an official connected with the Reform Movement
he was a thoroughly
Orthodox Jew, remarkably strict in his personal adherence to the smallest ritualisms. In spite of this
he had no difficulty and no qualms about conducting services according to the ritual of the "Reform"
Synagogue, nor of introducing the use of English into the service.
It was with considerable regret on the part of his congregants that
after a period of great energy he
resigned his post. It was also with considerable appreciation and gratitude that members of the young
Reform Movement of Manchester assessed the work he had done for them during his period of office.
In 1863 he went to Cambridge where his duties consisted of teaching
and examining Hebrew
manuscripts in the University Library. In 1866 he was appointed Teacher of Talmudic and Rabbinical
Literature, a post he held for three years. This appointment was renewed from time to time and after
the passing of the new University Statutes he was appointed Reader with a stipend of £300 a year.
With the addition of his name to the Electoral Roll of the University for the year 1878-9, it contained,
for the first time, the name of a Jew. In recognition of his services, the University conferred on him the
degree of M.A. (Honoris Causa) in 1878. He was the teacher of many distinguished non-Jews including
the then Bishop of Durham, the Master of St. John's, the President of Queen's, Professor Lumby, the
Dean of Peterborough, Professor Cowell, Dr. King, the editor of the Yalkut on Zechariah ; Mr. W. H.
Lowe, the editor of the Mishnah, and many other Fellows and graduates of the University.
But it is in his qualities as a teacher and a religious leader of the
lesser known academic figures of the
Manchester Congregation of British Jews that we are, at the moment, more interested. On 3rd
November, 1856, the following was written in the Minutes of the Council of the Founders of the
West London Synagogue:
"The Wardens stated that having understood that it would be agreeable to the Founders of theThis was followed in the Minutes of the Council of Founders of the West London Synagogue a few
intended Synagogue at Manchester that Mr. Schiller-Szenessy should be invited to preach in this
Synagogue and having seen a letter from Mr. Schiller-Szenessy to the Reverend Mr. Marks stating
the principles on which the intended Manchester Synagogue was to be founded they had thought
themselves authorised to invite Mr. Schiller-Szenessy to preach a sermon which had accordingly
been delivered on the Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly."
"It was resolved that the Reverend Marks be requested to furnish a copy of his letter to the Rev.
Dr. Schiller-Szenessy and of the reply thereto : and that the same be entered in the Minutes. A
letter from the Acting Committee of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews having been read,
it was resolved
1. That this Council have received with much pleasure a communication from the Acting Committee
of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews announcing the intended establishment of a Synagogue
adopting, subject to certain modifications, the Ritual and Mode of Worship adopted by this
2. That with reference to the wish of the Acting Committee that the intended Synagogue should be
acknowledged as the Manchester Branch of the West London Synagogue, it appears to the Council
that the appellation of a branch implies a dependence of the Synagogue so designated on the parent
Synagogue and an identity of usages between the two establishments which in the instance in
consideration will not exist.
3. That without desiring to discuss the points to which the intended modifications are to apply the
Council consider that the proposed solemnisation of the second day of Festivals suffices of itself to
prevent that identity which is essential to the very idea of a branch Synagogue.
4. That the Council therefore feels itself constrained to arrive at the conclusion that the appellation of a
branch would be inapplicable.
5. But at the same time the Council desire to express their hearty sympathy in the effort made for the
improvement of the Jewish Synagogue and find satisfaction in the adoption of the ritual of the
congregation and of many portions of its mode of worship sufficient reason for stating that when the
intended Synagogue shall have been established one year, as required by the 22nd Section of the late
Registered Act, the Council will be enabled to recognise the Manchester Synagogue of British Jews as
connected with themselves and so obtain for the Secretary of that Synagogue the custody of Marriage
The letters that passed at this point are of some interest. On the twenty-eighth of September, 1856,
the Reverend Marks wrote, as noted above, to Dr. Schiller-Szenessy in these terms.
"Dear Dr. Schiller,
It will afford me great pleasure to act in conformity with the letters
presented to me from the President and from other respected
members of the Congregation over which you are called to preside,
to facilitate the object you have in mind of seeing the practical working
of the West London Synagogue whose ritual you are about to adopt.
Considering the relative positions in which the congregations of
Manchester and Margaret Street may be placed, I think you will
agree with me that there should be between us a close understanding
with respect to the essential principle on which we are mutually to act.
In the principle that has invariably guided my Congregations' services,
that whilst Rabbinical dicta are to be regarded with great consideration,
they are not to be placed on a level with the Divine Code of the Bible.
Perhaps I cannot do better than translate here a paragraph found in my
inauguration discourse, which runs as follows `I will in concise terms
state our sentiments concerning the traditions known by the name of
the Oral Law and professedly contained in the Mishna and the Talmud.
The enemies of the Jews have never yet, since accusations against our
people have appeared, omitted to preface their charges with the assertion
that the Jews consider the whole of the Talmud as a work of Divine
inspiration and an assertion which has just as zealously been negatived
by every defender of the Jewish system as a condition without which the
advance of Judaism were impossible. Now let it not be supposed that it
is the intention of myself or of any member of this Congregation to infringe
in any way the character of traditionary records. On the contrary, we
recognise in them a valuable aid for the elucidation of many passages in
Scripture. We feel proud of them as a monument of the zeal and activity
of our ancestors. We hold it our duty to reverence the sayings of men
who, we are convinced, would have sacrificed their lives for the
maintenance of that Law which God has vouchsafed to deliver unto us,
but we must as our conviction urges us solemnly deny that the belief
in the divisibility of the traditions contained in the Mishna and the
Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud is of equal obligation to the Israelites
with the faith in the divinity of the Law of Moses.
We know that these books are human compositions and though we
are content to accept that reverence from our post-biblical ancestors
advice and instructions we cannot unconditionally accept their laws.
For Israelites there is one immutable Law, the sacred volume of the
Scripture commanded by God to be written down for the unerring
guidance of his people until the end of time.'
I should like to hear from you in how far the principles enunciated in
the foregoing extract fall in with your views and also whether you are
disposed to adopt them as the basis of your Synagogue practices.
I am with great esteem,
D. W. Marks."
To this, Dr. Schiller-Szenessy answered on 6th October, 1856:
"Dear Professor Marks, I have to acknowledge receipt of your favour
of the 28th ultimo and in reply thereto state that I do most cordially
subscribe to the principle so clearly laid down in the extract of the
sermon to which you called my attention. Permit me to assure you
that your doctrine is nothing more than I have invariably taught in
public and private. No one, who has made himself acquainted with
the writings of the Talmud can fail to entertain the highest respect and
veneration for such devoted friends to Judaism and I do not think that
any of their teachings should be rejected without a patient and critical
investigation of their object. But there is a vast difference between
appreciating the merit of the Talmudical writings and believing in the
inspiration of their contents. If you have by you a copy of my pamphlet,
published eleven years ago, you will perceive that it lays down the
same doctrine as that contained in the extract of your Margaret Street
discourse, a doctrine from which I have seen no occasion to swerve in
In the congregation over which I am appointed to preside, the second
days of Festivals will be kept, but such observances can in no manner
contravene the principle already admitted inasmuch as they will be
observed, not as Mosaic and Biblical ordinance but purely and
professedly as ancient institutions with which many of our members
look with a feeling of reverence.
Suffer me in conclusion, my dear Professor, to assure you of the high
regards which I entertain for
you and remain,
On this cordial note the Manchester Congregation of British Jews associated itself with its sister
congregation in London, although it will be noted that the Manchester Congregation whilst under
the spiritual leadership of Dr. Schiller-Szenessy adhered to the observance of the second days of
Festivals. Indeed it was not until the Rev. Dr. Gustav Gottheil became minister of the congregation
that the observance of the second days was discontinued, thereby bringing procedure in line with
the Margaret Street Congregation, London. Had this procedure been effected earlier, Manchester
would have become a branch synagogue of London, bound by its ritual and practice and unable to
create and follow its own local minhag. That circumstances prevented this from happening has
proved to be one of the strong points of the Reform Movement in England.
Dr. Schiller-Szenessy ministered to the congregation for only four years.
Throughout this period his
dynamism and vital approach to religious matters maintained the interest of his congregants after the
initial flush of enthusiasm had somewhat waned. His sermons were learned, profound and forthright.
Never a respecter of persons, he used his pulpit to exhort and teach, not to flatter. Many of his
sermons were printed verbatim in the Jewish Chronicle of the day, others were printed in pamphlet
form and sold. But it was in his capacity as a teacher that he excelled. Mention has already been
made of the fact that he gave religious instruction at the Jews' School. It was in tribute to him that
140 pupils and their teachers from that school walked in the pro- cession to "Park Place" on 11th
March, 1857, when the foundation stone of the synagogue was laid. Not only in the Jews' School,
however, but amongst his pupils in the synagogue as well, he was beloved and respected. One of
the earliest reforms which he introduced was the Confirmation of boys and girls. He believed, as
did many other Reform Rabbis then, and as many do to-day, that the Barmitsvah age of 13 was too
young for a boy to understand the responsibilities he was undertaking. The ceremony of
Confirmation at 16 was substituted for Barmitsvah at 13, and since one of the fundamentals of "Reform"
was the equality of the sexes, girls were allowed to participate in the same religious instruction and
confirmation ceremony as boys. It was amongst his pupils of the religion school and the confirmation
class that Schiller-Szenessy reached his full stature as teacher and expounder. A Jewish Chronicle
report of 1st June, 1860, which I quote in full, shows the esteem in which he was universally held,
and is a fitting tribute with which to conclude this account of his ministry:
"The examination of the children of the Manchester Congregation, who
had been instructed in religious knowledge by the Rev. Dr. Schiller, took
place on the 20th inst. Mr. L. Behrens, an active member of the educational
committee, was in the chair. There were in all 48 pupils present and a
considerable number of ladies and gentlemen. The examination gave proof
of the earnestness with which these children had been taught, and by their
ready answers to difficult questions it was seen that this was not an
examination only to make a show, but that the pupils comprehended the
subjects in their full bearing. At the close of the examination one of the
boys, in the name of all the children, presented Dr. Schiller with a splendid
silver goblet, on which a suitable inscription was engraved. After the
presentation, Mr. David Hesse was requested to express the thanks of
the parents to the Rev. Dr. for the great benefits bestowed on their
children, which this gentleman did to the satisfaction of all present. The
Rev. Dr. returned thanks and took his leave of the children. Our
correspondent says `it was really affecting to see so many of these
children with tears rolling down their cheeks when the Doctor took
leave of and addressed them, as he said, for the last time.' We also
learn that the children of the poor who attend the Jews' School have
also subscribed their pence, and bought a present as a remembrance
to their religious teacher, which will be presented on Friday next. This
is as it should be, for it must not be forgotten that Dr. Schiller introduced
religious instruction as a separate branch in the Manchester Congregation,
and had continued his instruction for more than nine years, without
remuneration of any kind."
On 25th March, 1858, the new synagogue of the Manchester Congregation
of British Jews was
consecrated. That it was an important event is recognised to-day, but even then, almost a hundred
years ago, it was appreciated as a landmark in Manchester's Jewish life. The Jewish Chronicle of
9th April devoted much space in fact, an entire supplement-to the ceremony. It portentously
announced that "A large concourse of persons, including the elite of Manchester and some of the
leading members of the Margaret Street Synagogue assembled on the 25th ult., to witness the
interesting ceremony of the consecration of the new synagogue to be conducted according to the
ritual of the Reform Congregation of London, and of which the Manchester Synagogue may be
said to be a branch."
"The service," the Jewish Chronicle continued "was most solemn andIt was a stirring and important day for that group of Progressive Jews. The sermon they were to
impressive, and interest was considerably heightened by the admirable
performance of an organ (which will be a permanent feature of the
Synagogue), and by the vocal aid kindly afforded by some forty or
more ladies and gentlemen, members of the Synagogue who had
formed themselves into a most efficient choir.The building is a noble
example of architectural taste, and is the work of our distinguished co-
religionist, Mr. Edward Salomons, who has obtained for himself a
lasting fame as the architect of the building for the Great Exhibition of
Manchester. After having made the seven circuits, the Scrolls of the
Law being borne by the Rev. Rabbi Schiller-Szenessy, the Rev.
Professor Marks, Messrs. H. J. Montefiore, S. H. Godfrey, H.
Micholls, David Hesse, etc., the Rev. Schiller ascended the pulpit
and pronounced the following address." "Beloved Brethren, it is with
a heart full of deep emotion that I ascend this sacred spot to-day, for
the first time, with the purpose of addressing to you the Word of God.
Scarcely have two years elapsed since you conceived the idea to form
yourselves into a congregation of Israel and behold, this day I see you
here assembled, not only in a considerable number- `may the Lord
increase you a thousand times `-but assembled in our own house, in
a house specially erected for the God of our forefathers."
Dr. Schiller-Szenessy continued
"Here are not four walls decked with variegated ornaments, standingWith these words Dr. Schiller-Szenessy informed the congregation that a new phase in Jewish
in non-connection with the Israelite idea which this house expresses no,
here is an edifice built by a Jew, for Jews, after designs peculiar to Jewish
architecture, the principal ornaments of which will ever be the resplendent
truth of the Law of Israel, and the animating presence of a devout congregation.
And this is not all, the principal point is, that the truth for the proclamation of
which this templehas been erected, is the only one that is Israelite indeed."
"Greater will be the glory of this latter house than that of the former,It is fairly obvious that the first Rabbi of the congregation was in no doubt as to the opposition he
for behold we have been allowed the privilege of improving our
experience in spiritual matters by our connection with the old
Manchester Synagogue. The erection of this second synagogue
bears, in more than one respect, a strong resemblance to the manner
in which the second temple at Jerusalem was erected. Here, as there,
the second sanctuary was erected by a part of the Jews only and here,
as well as there, the weapon was wielded with one hand, while the
house was built with the other..."
In his sermon Dr. Schiller-Szenessy outlined the reasons for the formation
of the synagogue and,
since this is perhaps one of the few extant statements on this issue, I am quoting his historic
declaration at length.
"What is it indeed we wanted to reform in Judaism ?" he asked hisOn that note the Minister drew to a close. His address, however, was of the utmost importance,
congregation. "Did we wish to swerve from the law of Moses and
Israel? Was not ours rather an earnest endeavour to return to
its integrity? Did we, perhaps, for the sake of convenience, or
any other motive, lay sacrilegious hand on the hallowed institution
of the Sabbath, the principal pillar of our holy religion? Did we
conceive the abolition of any of the Festivals of God ? Have we
not even retained the observance of the Festivals not demanded
by Scripture merely because the keeping of them is dear to many,
on the score of antiquity? Did we ever assail any of those post-
biblical ceremonials and laws which are not in direct contradiction
to the pure word of God? We did not! What we did, and what we
were, I hope, fully justified in doing, was that we laid down the
general principle that wewould return to biblical truth, and that we
would admit only such post-biblical usages in our synagogue teachings
and in our domestic practices, as are not contradictory to the law of the
Bible. Now, is this an innovation to be dreaded by Jews? Have not all
the learned and the good of Israel, in all ages, upheld the doctrine we
advocate? Was not this the ideal of many of the greatest and most
pious teachers of the Talmud? Still, for this we were driven to separate
ourselves, and to divide the feeble strength of the community in this city.
Indeed, not limiting ourselves to a mere apology of our position, we
confidently proclaim our right and title to the denomination of the truly
orthodox Manchester congregation."
"Now, with respect to our Divine service within the synagogue, we proceed on this principle,With these words, Rabbi Dr. Solomon Mayer Schiller-Szenessy neared the end of his first sermon
on the one hand, strictly to avoid all that was unseemly or calculated to damp devotion in the
worship at the late synagogue of Halliwell Street to avoid all that is detrimental to the dignity
and decorum of the Divine Service, or that destroys the awe that ought to be felt in a house
of God ; and, on the other hand, to encourage all that is deservedly dear to the thinking and
religious Jew ; to cause the whole congregation to participate in the hymns sung to the glory
of God ; to cause these hymns to be accompanied by instrumental music, so powerful in its
inspiring effects ; to reintroduce, instead of insipid compositions called Piyutim- many of them
are the efflux of ignorance, superstition, and a love of solemn trifling with our sacred language-
the Psalms of David, the crowned singer of Israel ; to reintroduce those very Psalms of David
which, though our legitimate inheritance, have been almost neglected by us while they have
been eagerly received into the worship of non-Israelites all over the civilised world ; to introduce
a prayer book which has, during sixteen years, given evidence of its capabilities to edify a
congregation of Israel-a prayer book which does not merely possess the negative merit of
containing nothing that is historically untrue, but which possesses the positive merit of containing
the best prayers of the two principal rituals ; and finally, to preach the word of God in the
vernacular on every Sabbath, Festival and solemn occasion, so that all who come hither may
sing of the Glory of God, and feel and understand it and take it to heart."
The early days of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews certainly
people. Alongside Dr. Schiller- Szenessy stood a group of intellectually active personalities who
were fully complementary to the "fire-eating" minister. Professor Tobias Theodores was perhaps
the most actively effective of the congregants. Born in Margulin in Posen in the year 1808,
Professor Theodores was to make his name known and respected amongst Anglo-Jewry. He
was also to become one of the leading academic figures in Britain. At the age of sixteen he
arrived in England and, with his uncle, settled for a time in London. Later he moved to Manchester
where he found a job in the counting house of a Hamburg firm, Messrs. G. Gumpel & Co.
It appears, however, that he was not destined for a commercial career and soon after he became
a teacher of languages.
His virtuosity in this was surprising, for not only was he fluent in
most European languages, but he
was also an expert in most of their dialects. His real talent, however, lay in oriental and modern
languages-speaking, writing and reading, fluently, Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit and Greek.
Theodores was later appointed to a teaching post at Owens College on
its foundation in 1851, and
ultimately became Professor of Oriental and Modern Languages.
Mr. John Owens, a Manchester citizen, who made a bequest for the founding
of a college originally
called after him, and which became the University of Manchester, was careful to say in his will that
the college was to be founded
"subject to the fundamental and immutable rule and condition that the students, professors,These are wise and fine words and, more than a century after they were first written, are worthy
teachers and other officers and persons connected with the said institution shall not be
required to make any declaration as to, or subject to, any test whatsoever of their religious
opinions and that nothing shall be introduced in the matter or mode of education of
instruction in reference to any religious or theological subject which shall be reasonably
offensive to the conscience of any students or of his relatives, guardians or friends under
whose immediate care he shall be."
Professor Theodores was a great Talmudist, and his lecture on "The Rabbinical
Excommunication" which was delivered in Manchester is regarded as a classic. It was the result
of the Herein which had been levelled against the founders of the Margaret Street Synagogue,
London, by the then Chief Rabbi-Dr. Nathan Marcus Adler-and to which we have already
Theodores was, in a sense, the "theoretician" or "tactical adviser"
of the new movement in the
Jewish religious life of Manchester. The combination of Schiller-Szenessy and Theodores was
powerfully effective and the two were to make their impact felt.
In the Jewish Chronicle Supplement of 9th April, 1858, a considerable
amount of editorial space
was given to a very significant speech by the Professor following the ceremony of the consecration
of the new synagogue.
Dr. Theodores, on this historic occasion, expressed the ideals of the
Manchester Congregation of
British Jews. He said that the basis of the Reform movement was its desire to assert itself as a
movement representing all that was best and most vital in Judaism and British Jewry. He took the
opportunity also of destroying the arguments of the anti-Semites who were anxious to reduce
British Jewry to a sorry civic state. Equally important, he gave out a blue-print for Reform
Judaism, asserting that it was a truly Jewish movement ; deeply involved in Judaism and denying
nothing of its intrinsic and historic beliefs, it was a movement rooted in Jewish tradition, and a
natural and logical development of that tradition.
One cannot conclude this short pen portrait of Theodores without mentioning
the Damascus Blood
Accusation which caused Sir Moses Montefiore to undertake a journey to the East.
A report from Damascus in 1840 touched off a crisis in Anglo- Jewish
life because it opened up a
new blood libel campaign. In England the accusation did not go unnoticed, and English anti-Semites
took good advantage of the occasion. The Times published a great deal of material on the Damascus
accusation, and this was followed by numerous "Letters to the Editor" from various people of
dubious intellectual and political qualifications, supporting those who accused the Jews.
The champion of the Jews, at this point, was Dr. Theodores, the man
who was to become the
lay-leader of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews. In a historic letter to The Times dated
5th November, 1840, and taking up no less than two-and-a-half full columns, he attacked those
(including many who had taken refuge behind a pseudonym) who wished to stir up animosity
against his co-religionists. He asserted that although all Jewish congregations had declared
unanimously and to the whole civilised world that their religion forbade the use of human blood for
any purpose whatsoever, the gentlemen who were attacking the Jews felt themselves impelled by
their professed love of truth to favour the world with the result of their rabbinical and cabalistic
studies, all tending to establish upon evidence the guilt of the then liberated Damascus Jews.
After demonstrating the errors in the theories of the letter-writers he went on to demolish their
arguments, one by one. With words, biting in their bitter and sad irony, Theodores en this
occasion effectively vanquished the leading anti-Semites of his day, and in so doing earned the
gratitude of his fellow Jews who, perhaps for the first time, had seen "Jewish defence" in action.
In the year 1883, feeling that he was growing old and somewhat feeble,
he resigned his professorship
at Owens College and a year later he was created Emeritus Professor. In his annual report for that
year, the Principal of the College wrote
"The Senate and the teaching body have had among them no one more loyal as aThe Reform Movement in general, and the Manchester Congregation of British Jews in particular,
colleague or more high minded and thorough as a teacher ; no one who by the refined
simplicity of his character and the singleness of his aims was more fitted to illustrate the
vocation of the scholar, and to commend it to the imitation of his pupils. He carries with
him the affection and sincere esteem of the members of the governing body of his
colleagues, and I am sure I may add of many generations of students."
There is no better tribute to his memory than the resolution which was
passed at the Council of
Founders' meeting immediately following his death, and which reads
"That the Council of Founders of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews desires to
record the severe loss the Congregation has sustained in the death of Professor Theodores.
He was one of the original founders of this Synagogue, and, to the very end of his life, its chief
mainstay. His wide erudition, his scholarly attainments, his uniform courtesy, and his enthusiastic
attachment tohis race and religion, gained for him the love of all the Jewish Congregations of
this city, and the respect of all his fellow citizens. His name will long be remembered by this
Council, of which he was the much esteemed President, and his wisdom and the influence of
his unique character will, over and over again, be missed from its deliberations."
With the arrival in Manchester, as successor to Dr. Schiller- Szenessy,
of the Rev. Dr. Gustav
Gottheil, the congregation came under the influence of a spiritual leader with advanced reform
ideas. Whereas throughout his ministry Schiller-Szenessy had remained orthodox in outlook and
practice, Gottheil, who was born at Pinne Posen in 1827, and educated at the Universities of
Berlin and Halle, was an exponent of what is now called "Classic Reform," and which emanated
His call to become minister of the Manchester Congregation of British
Jews was purely fortuitous.
The call came first to a friend of his, the Rev. Dr. Landsberger, of Berlin. His answer was "I do
not know a word of English and I have not the courage to learn it and undertake the job. But I
have a colleague here in Berlin who knows as little English as I do, but who is full of courage and
is an excellent preacher. Invite him to come to you." The invitation came and Gottheil expressed
his willingness to accept it.
At that time Dr. Gottheil was the third minister of the Reform Gemeinde
in Berlin. The Gemeinde,
which was extremely advanced for its time, was led by a well-known Jewish nonconformist,
Dr. Samuel Holdheim, who was not only a famous preacher but also a Hebrew scholar of note.
In the synagogue which was situated in the heart of Berlin, prayers were said in German in order
that they should be fully understood, and services were held on Sundays to make it possible for
business-men to attend. Even before leaving Berlin, Gottheil had gained a reputation for his
fearlessness. He was a devoted man with a wide outlook, and a love for teaching children. He
could not, however, tolerate the fact that he could never occupy the pulpit of the congregation
without the "permission"-not of the Senior Rabbi who enjoyed universal respect both from
colleagues and congregants-but of the Board of Management. Furthermore, the manner in which
the Board addressed the spiritual leaders of the congregation was undignified. Both he and the
second minister wrote a strongly worded protest against the manner in which a member of the
Board had upbraided them in the synagogue itself. When the Board refused to take satisfactory
action the two ministers resigned and published a little pamphlet-which was probably sent to the
members of the congregation-on the issue.
In April, 1860, therefore, when he received the invitation to become
minister in Manchester, he
had virtually resigned from the Berlin Congregation. But he wished his departure, in spite of his
resignation, to be in an atmosphere of mutual goodwill and peace. In his letter to the Board of
Management asking for a certificate regarding his work in Berlin, he says he does so "in the
certainty that the honourable Board will forget the differences that have arisen between it and
himself and make it possible for him to leave in an atmosphere of atonement and peace." His
"now that closer personal relations between the Board and myself are to cease, I wish toThe Board of Management were animated by a similar spirit, for they gave Dr. Gottheil a
remain near to it on the ground of our mutual desire for the welfare of Judaism and the glory
of the Almighty. I should like the Board to consider me still as a spiritual co-worker who will
preach the great Reform theories which have been put into practice by the Berlin
Reformgemeinde and which I will strive to continue on the free soil of Britain, so as to make
of them a living factor. This is my most honest wish. May the unpleasant feelings which to my
great regret have been brought en by recent circumstances be swept away by this loftier
It was in Manchester that the real life work of Gustav Gottheil began.
In Berlin he had been a
student at the University, a teacher in the religion school of the congregation to which he was
attached, a reader of prayers, and an occasional preacher in the synagogue. In the freer
atmosphere of England, and at the head of a congregation that played a part in the cultural
movement both of the Jews and of the other citizens of the city, his powers as a leader and a
spokesman were to be developed.
In Manchester, Gottheil met with "Moderate Reform" as against the "Classic
Reform" of his
previous congregation. Indeed, the changes in Manchester were few in number. The congregation
believed that the forms of worship in the synagogue, and the customary Jewish observances,
should be interpreted in the light of modern conditions, that second-day festivals no longer had
meaning now that there was a definite and fixed calendar (this was a change of mood from that
prevailing under Schiller-Szenessy), and that English should be introduced into the service, in order
to make it intelligible for the worshipper. Furthermore, contrary to the practice in Berlin, in
Manchester the wearing of hats during services was obligatory the (alit was worn by the men who
sat in the body of the synagogue, while the women occupied the gallery, and services were held on
all Sabbaths and Festivals as well as on the previous evenings. The members of the congregation
were for the most part Anglicised North Germans, many of whom had come to England for
business reasons. Many had kept their German names, but some had given them an English form.
They were cultured and even intellectual. Amongst them Gottheil spent thirteen of the happiest
years of his life.
He was unable to speak English when he came to Manchester at the beginning
of June, 1860, but
as the older members of his congregation were German by birth his first sermons were delivered
in the language of that country. However, he set himself with vigour to learn English, and he began
his first public utterances in that language by reading in the pulpit the printed sermons of the Rev.
Dr. Marks, the minister of the sister congregation in London. Before many months had passed he
began preaching his own sermons in English, though he continued to think in German.
Gottheil, as was to be expected, made many endeavours to have his congregation
the path of "Reform." It has already been mentioned that the second-day festival was not
abolished until he became the "incumbent" at Park Place. He was in constant communication with
Geiger-a paladin of early German Reform- on such subjects as marriage, Get, burial prayers and
formulas. The ceremony of Barmitsvah for boys, at the age of 13, was superseded by the
Confirmation service for boys and girls of a more advanced age. The Jewish Chronicle of the
day gives us a picture of the situation. It tells us that "Rabbi Gottheil preaches every Saturday"
and continues "the Reform Jews have expunged from their liturgy every passage which the
Orthodox have taken from the Mishna and the Talmud." Almost in parenthesis the writer adds
"common sense will thank them for it. Many a Jew thinks he is offering a prayer when rehearsing
a portion of the Mishna." The same writer tells us that "there are from three to five thousand Jews
residing in Manchester at the present time (1865). Orthodox can accommodate 550 males and
250 females. Reform has accommodation for 250 males and 100 females."
From almost the beginning of his ministry Gottheil wished to spiritualise
all his relations with the
congregation, and in a letter sent to the committee he claimed the right to bring questions of a
religious nature before the general body in the hope of making their meetings something more
than mere business affairs. It would appear that this right was granted him, He also began to
participate in the public life of the city. The slavery problem which was agitating the minds and
hearts of North Americans had also taken hold of large sections of English public opinion, and
so strong had the feeling become that he felt called upon to preach two sermons on the subject
"Moses versus Slavery" which the synagogue authorities thought worthwhile to have printed and
distributed widely. These sermons brought him to the notice of the non- Jewish religious
communities with whom he was anxious (as, later, he was in America) to establish friendly contact.
A warm friendship sprang up between him and the minister of the Bible Christian Church of
Salford, popularly known as the "Vegetarian Church." His relationship with the "Society of Friends"
or "Quakers" was also most cordial. He was one of those who helped to revive the "Eclectic Club"-
a society for the leaders of "liberal" religious life in Manchester, before which body he read a paper
on "The story of the Fall in the Haggadah".
In 1867 he joined the staff of Owens College as lecturer in German,
a position he held until 1873
when he left Manchester to become Rabbi of Temple Emanuel, New York.
Relationships between the Orthodox and Reform Communities appear to
have been reasonably
cordial and co-operative during the period of Dr. Gottheil's ministry. Whereas only a few years
previously feeling must have run very high, excitement by now had waned, and wherever the two
communities could co-operate for the common good they seem to have done so. Like his
predecessor in office Rabbi Gottheil was, together with Professor Isaacs (who was, I believe,
visiting preacher at the Old Hebrew Congregation), appointed joint supervisor of the Manchester
Jews' School. Furthermore, there is a record to the effect that an overture was made by the
Orthodox Community to have a united service of the two congregations in their own synagogue
in order to collect money for the Jewish charitable organisations which were upheld by the whole
community. The resolution which was carded unanimously by the committee of "Park Place" states
that "the Rev. Dr. Gottheil be authorised to deliver at the Synagogue of the Manchester Hebrew
Congregation the sermon in aid of the Local Charities, and to read on that occasion from the
Almemar of the above Synagogue, the Prayer for the Royal Family and such other prayers as may
be agreed upon with the authorities of the Manchester Hebrew Congregation from the Ritual of
our Synagogue." Whether or not these conditions were accepted, or whether the service took
place, I have not been able to find out, but the whole episode makes interesting reading in the
light of conditions appertaining to-day. It was Professor Theodores, that doughty champion of
"Reform" and devoted friend of Gustav Gottheil who, at a meeting of the Jewish residents in the
City and neighbourhood held to consider the desirability of establishing a Board of Guardians for
the relief of the Jewish poor in Manchester, moved that "it was highly desirable that there should
be established as speedily as possible a Board of Guardians for the relief of the Jewish poor in
Manchester." Replying to a discussion which then took place about sectional differences, the
Professor said "it was their duty to establish good from whatever quarter it might come and
especially when it came from such an honoured body as the Old Hebrew Congregation." Thus
it was that, as in so many other communal institutions, the members of the Manchester
Congregation of British Jews were ready partners in any effort directed towards the common
Mention has already been made of the Rev. Professor Isaacs, the minister
of the Orthodox body.
We find from a Manchester Guardian report of 10th May, 1870, that he took part with Dr. Gottheil
in the conduct of a Confirmation Service held at Park Place, when eleven candidates were
confirmed. On that occasion he also preached the sermon, taking his text from the Book of
Ecclesiastes. When the foundation stone of the new Synagogue of the Manchester Congregation
of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, Cheetham Hill, was laid in 1873, Rabbi Gottheil attended in an
official capacity, and at the meeting held for the purpose of forming a branch of the Anglo-Jewish
Association, held under the chairman- ship of Mr. Arthur Q. Henriques, both Professor Marks and
Dr. Gottheil were present, and the resolutions moved by them were responsible for the creation of
the Manchester branch of that Association.
It is obvious that at times Gottheil-a product of the school of "Classic
Reform," for five years
assistant Rabbi to that extreme "Reformer," Samuel Holdheim, and who attended the Synod of
Leipzig in 1869 (where he told the Assembly that in his synagogue everyone had an English as
well as a Hebrew Bible so that those who did not understand Hebrew could still follow the
Portion)-must have wanted to introduce many innovations into the procedure of his synagogue.
Whether it was the restraining influence of his dear friend Tobias Theodores or whether it was
because, as has been said previously, Manchester made haste slowly, we do not know, but
certain it is that the only changes he introduced into the services were the Confirmation for boys
and girls, the special Memorial Service for the Dead on the Day of Atonement, the reading of
greater parts of the ritual in English, and the seven year cycle of the reading of the Law on
Sabbaths. It is not surprising that at about this time we read an announcement in the Jewish
Chronicle stating "We learn that it is intended in the Manchester Reform Synagogue to provide
family pews, on application, in such parts of the Synagogue as the wardens may decide, so that
husband and wife may not be separated during their worship in the synagogue, as has hitherto
been the case, contrary to the spirit of the century." This, however, appears to have been a
"reform" well in advance of the times, and many years were to elapse before it was accepted by
Towards the end of 1872 the Trustees of the Temple Emanuel, New York,
desirous of obtaining
a Rabbi who could preach in English, having heard of the good work Dr. Gottheil was doing in
Manchester, that he was a man of learning, and a good English preacher, invited him to preach
before the congregation with the ultimate object of appointing him as their Rabbi. Although he
was extremely happy in Manchester and he and his wife had made many close friends, he felt
constrained to accept this most tempting offer, particularly as it gave greater scope for his
capabilities. On 24th March, 1873, after having received a request for leave of absence from
Dr. Gottheil with this purpose in mind, the Committee of the Wardens resolved "that the request
for leave of absence during six weeks beginning 20th April be granted. If to the regret of the
Committee a separation should ensue between the Rev. Dr. Gottheil and the congregation, the
Wardens feel that the Rev. Gentleman will make such arrangements as will enable him to continue
with the congregation until after the month of Tishri 5634" (1873).
Dr. Gottheil was successful in New York, and felt bound to accept the
call, not only to better his
condition, but also to enlarge his sphere of work. He was to receive a definite salary of six
thousand dollars per year, with additional perquisites for weddings, funerals and other similar
engagements. At a general meeting held in Manchester on 12th June, the resignation of
Dr. Gottheil was accepted on a proposal by Louis Behrens and seconded by I. Lieber. It was
furthermore resolved that a special general meeting be convened in order to give the members
a fitting opportunity to express their sincere regret at losing the services of the Rev. Dr. Gottheil."
At this special general meeting, a testimonial consisting of an address, handsomely engrossed
and magnificently bound in the form of a book, together with a purse of money, was presented
to the Rabbi by Mr. Louis Behrens. The leaders of the Community eulogised Dr. Gottheil. and
amongst those who spoke were the Rev. Professor Isaacs, Messrs. L. Behrens, J.P.,
R. S. Strauss, J.P., William Danziger and C. W. Haring (Professor Theodores was unavoidably
prevented from being present through illness). The last class which Dr. Gottheil confirmed on
15th June, 1873, presented him with the celebrated engraving of the Jews praying at the Wailing
Wall in Jerusalem, together with the following address
"To THE REV. DR. G. GOTTHEIL,
Reverend and Dear Sir, The ceremony of this day has brought to a fitting close the
instruction which you have so efficiently given to us and we cannot leave the
Synagogue on this solemn occasion without having expressed to you our heart-
felt gratitude ; which is, however, mingled with profound regret, that we should be
the last among the number of confirmants, whom you have introduced into this
We beg you to accept this token of our esteem and affection, fromYour ever grateful,R. HENRY A. SCHOLSS
L. HORUPES D. P. SCHOLSS
B. MULLER A. SELIGMANN
A. NATHAN E. STERN
A. J. STRAUS P. GOTTHEIL
Manchester, 15th June, 1873."
When Rabbi Gottheil accepted the call to the pulpit of Temple Emanuel
he found himself in the
unhappy position of having to offend either his old or his new congregation. The Board of
Trustees of Temple Emanuel wished to have him and his family settled as early as possible in
New York in order that he should be in a position to preach in English during the forthcoming
High Holidays. The Wardens' Committee in Manchester, on the other hand, in granting him
leave of absence to go to New York "had felt confident that, should he be successful, he would
remain with his Manchester Congregation until after the New Year and Day of Atonement."
Some arrangement must have been made in a most amicable manner (as the events recorded at
the end of the last chapter clearly show) and it is certain that it was Professor Theodores, by now
the leading member of the congregation, who stepped into the breach. Professor Richard Gottheil,
who wrote a biography of his father called "The Life of Gustav Gottheil, Memoir of a Priest in
Israel" states that he had sight of a resolution in the Executive Minute Book (lost when "Park Place"
was destroyed by enemy action in June, 1941) which read
"The Executive Committee are desirous of recording, and do so hereby, their warmest thanks forWe know that at this time the congregation had a Reader-a Mr. Stern-a relative, I think, of Regina
the great kindness of their Presiding Warden, Professor Tobias Theodores, in delivering such
excellent and instructive lectures during the absence, on leave, of the Rev. Dr. Gottheil. They feel
satisfied that this gratitude is also shared by the members in general ; and in order that they may be
able to give expression thereof, it is resolved that this resolution be also submitted to the first meeting
of the Council of Founders and of the members at general meeting assembled."
It was necessary, however, to secure a successor to Dr. Gottheil and
the following announcement
was inserted in the Jewish press
"Manchester Congregation of British Jews. Wanted for the 1st ofFrom the above advertisement it would appear (and there is nothing to suggest the contrary) that
September, 1873, by the above Reform Congregation, a Minister
acquainted with Jewish Theology and thoroughly competent to
deliver sermons in English exclusively. Fixed salary, £300 per annum.
From other sources such as private ministerial functions and religious
tuition within the community an additional income of £200 to £300 per
annum has hitherto been realised. Applications and testimonials to be
addressed before 1st August to Mr. Charles Henry, 22 King Street,
The result of the advertisement is seen from a report in the Jewish
Chronicle of 7th November,
1873. This states that at the annual general meeting of members, the attendance was "unusually
large." The balance sheet showed the financial position to be a good one, as the excess of
income over expenditure was more than £110. The report continues "Owing to there being a
somewhat greater interest evinced in the selection of wardens than hitherto, it was found best to
adjourn the meeting until Sunday, and the meeting constituted itself into a special meeting for the
purpose of electing a Minister. The choice fell on the Rev. Mr. Wiener of Leipzig."
The Rev. Dr. Isaac Wiener was a nephew of the famous Rev. Dr. Adolph
Wiener of Oppein.
The latter, who was a great writer, went through a period when the services in his synagogue
could take place only under police protection Unfortunately, very little is known about the
antecedents of Isaac Wiener. From a letter to Dr. Gottheil written by Professor Theodores,
we find out that Wiener commenced his duties in Manchester at the end of December, 1 873.
In this letter the Professor tells his old friend that he is not too happy at having to preach
regularly, and that he thinks "it is high time someone should be on the spot to represent God
on all occasions.
Isaac Wiener was minister of the congregation for four years only. Towards
the end of this
period he suffered a mental illness which necessitated his entering the Hospital for Nervous
Diseases at Cheadle (Cheadle Royal) where he remained for many years.
When he first arrived in Manchester Wiener carried on the good work
of his predecessors in
office. He never failed to take advantage of any opportunity which presented itself for the
Orthodox community and his own to come together. When the special services in aid of the
Manchester hospitals were held at the Old Hebrew Congregation he was always present in a
representative capacity, even though he held similar services in his own synagogue, and
conducted his own appeals by circularising his members. When the new Sephardic Synagogue
in Cheetham Hill Road was consecrated in 1874, Dr. Wiener attended, together with lay
representatives of both the Orthodox and Reform communities. He took a keen interest in the
work of the Anglo-Jewish Association which was supported by both communities, and in the
establishment of which his predecessor and many of his congregants had played an active part.
Symptoms of the affliction which caused him ultimately to give up his
active ministry must have
been apparent long before his contract was terminated by the general body of members in
December, 1877. Confirmation classes for boys and girls, which were such a speciality of
Schiller-Szenessy and Gottheil, appear to have been neglected, and in certain years discontinued
altogether, to the great regret of the congregation. This spirit of apathy seems to have crept into
the congregation generally as is shown by a Jewish Chronicle report which states
"The Manchester Reform Synagogue appears to be but poorly attended. Last Sabbath,The Jewish Chronicle correspondent on this occasion does not fail to put the sting into the tail of
were it not for the few visitors who were received with every courtesy, the congregants
could have only mustered the usual minyan. The Rev. Dr.Wiener conducted the service
throughout and delivered a discourse. The service is of the same order as that of the parent
synagogue in Upper Berkeley Street. It was very devotional and not protracted. A peculiar
feature of the choir chanting was the rendering of the finale-the Adon Olam-to the theme of
the March of the Israelites from Costa's `Eli'."
In an attempt to effect a cure, Dr. Wiener was sent by his doctors to
Kissingen. Someone signing
himself (or herself) "Traveller" wrote to the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish World criticising
Wiener's sermons. Professor Theodores, who was still Presiding Warden of the congregation,
although entirely innocent, was thought by the Rabbi to be the author of these letters. Although,
at the Rabbi's own request, Theodores preached on the Day of Atonement, and assisted in the
reading of the service, Dr. Wiener grew furious and began having delusions that the Professor
was his enemy. The Professor himself thought it judicious at this time to avoid meeting the Rabbi
either inside the synagogue or outside.
When Dr. Wiener returned from Kissingen two eminent doctors advised
him to enter the Hospital
for Nervous Disorders (then called an Insane Asylum) at Cheadle.
The finale of this sad episode in the history of the Manchester Congregation
of British Jews took
place at a general meeting of members held on 3rd December, 1877. In the words of a Jewish
Chronicle report the meeting was held "to consider the desirability of terminating the contract
entered 4th on 4th November, 1873, with the Rev. Dr. Wiener, the Minister of the Congregation,
who has become mentally affected." The report continues
"The Executive intimated to the Congregation that arrangements have been made with the Rev.
Laurence M. Simmons, BA., London (who has just completed his studies at the Breslau
Rabbinical Seminary at the charge of the Ministers' Training Fund of the West London
Synagogue of British Jews) to officiate as Minister for the ensuing three months, and that
discourses will be regularly delivered in the Synagogue every Sabbath on and after the
LAURENCE MARK SIMMONS was the first English-born minister to serve the
Born in London in 1852, he was educated at the City of London School where he became one
of the school's most brilliant scholars. In 1872, under the terms of the Ministers' Training Fund of
the West London Synagogue, he went to the famous Rabbinical Seminary at Breslau where he
completed his studies. At Breslau he came under the influence of the famous historian Graetz, and
had among his fellow pupils Moses Caster, later to become Haham of the Spanish and Portuguese
communities in the United Kingdom. It is in the nature of an understatement to say that no minister
in the whole history of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews exerted greater influence over
his community, and over the general Jewish community of Manchester, than did the Rev. Laurence
When Simmons died in 1900 at the early age of forty-eight, Dr. Hermann
Adler, the Chief
Rabbi, was represented at his funeral, and later that week, when distributing prizes to the pupils
of the South-East London Synagogue Religion Classes, he made the following remarks
"The sentiment uppermost in all our minds is grief-aye, consternation, at the terribly sudden andIn order to show the essential greatness of the man who graced the pulpit of the congregation for
untimely demise of the late Rev. Laurence Simmons. His death inflicts a well- nigh irreparable
loss upon his own congregation, and leaves a notable void in the Jewish community of
Manchester. Nay, entire Anglo-Judaism has reason to mourn his removal from our midst. For
Laurence Simmons had a higher conception of a minister's function than to imagine that it
commenced with the reading-desk and ended with the pulpit. The cause of all his brethren in
the great Northern city, with its surging masses of humanity, their synagogues and charities,
their schools and Talmud Torah, was dear and near to his heart. He succeeded in winning the
regard and confidence of all sections of the Manchester community by his unaffected piety,
his genuine modesty, and the power of his sympathy. And I may be permitted to say that,
while acting as minister of a synagogue professing Reform principles, he was deeply attached
to Conservative Judaism. In proof hereof I may mention that he diligently attended divine
worship on the second days of the Festivals, and refused to solemnise any marriage which was
not in strictest accord with Rabbinical Law. He was a ripe scholar, well versed in Talmudic lore,
as evidenced by his articles in the Jewish Quarterly Review and in other publications. In the
columns of a newspaper one does not, as a rule, anticipate pathos. But what can be more
thrilling than to open Friday's Jewish Chronicle, to see his name appearing several times as a
speaker in the report of the Annual Meeting and Distribution of Prizes held at the Manchester
Jews' School only this day last week, and then to turn to the `Obituary' page, with its
unspeakably sad announcement. We can only bow with resignation to the Divine will, and pray
that our Heavenly Father may sustain and soothe with his comfort, the sorely- stricken widow
and orphaned children."
"The sudden and totally unexpected demise of the Rev. Laurence M. Simmons, B.A., LL.B.,
Minister of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews, Park Place, Cheetham, as recorded in
the Jewish Chronicle of last week, came as an overwhelming shock to the inhabitants of
Manchester, both Jewish and Christian. It is indeed difficult to describe the sensations of grief felt
and expressed by the members of the Jewish community of the city when the news became
known. At first, when the sad tidings gained ground, people refused to believe it. But when it
was found to be no mere rumour, the sad event formed the sole topic of conversation wherever
our co- religionists foregathered together. Mr. Simmon's death, which occurred on Thursday
morning last at his residence, Belmont, Higher Broughton, was due to a sudden and severe attack
of pneumonia. For some time past he had not been in the best of health, though moving about in
public as usual. The trying winter weather must be to some degree also held accountable for his
death.As late as Sunday last, but five days before his lamented demise, he took a prominent part
in the proceedings at the annual meeting of the Manchester Jews' School. When, with his usual
grace, he proposed a vote of thanks to Mrs. Edward Henriques, who distributed the prizes to
the pupils of the school, little did those who listened to him think that it would be the last of his
public appearances, and that within one short week he would follow to the grave the remains of
those old friends and communal workers, the late Mr. David S. Bles and Mrs. Behrens, whose
loss by death he so touchingly dwelt upon at the time. Hard as it is to describe the feelings of the
general Jewish public of Manchester over the terrible loss the community has sustained, still
harder is it to try and estimate that loss, or to endeavour to render an account of the services
rendered to the community by Mr. Simmons during his lifetime. It may be possible to give a survey
of his scholarship or religious knowledge, but the actual work he performed in the communal
organisation it is impossible to relate in full. Though not the Minister of the Senior Congregation
of Manchester he could truly have been described as the premier Jewish minister of the city, so
thoroughly representative of all that makes for good in Jewish communal life was he. His profound
and ripe scholarship, in Hebrew, as well as in secular subjects, his admirable fluency of speech
and simple yet eloquent diction,his modest and unassuming manner, together with his sympathetic
attitude to all, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, procured for him the respect and admiration, yea, even
affection of all who knew him. The Minister of a "Reform" Synagogue, he was himself most
"orthodox" and conservative in all his religious duties as a Jew, whilst always tolerant and liberal-
minded to those who differed from him in religious thought. So highly was he esteemed as an ideal
Jewish clergyman, that his services on the second days of Festivals were eagerly sought after by the
Executives of the other synagogues in Manchester, whilst the majority of the boys and girls attending
the Sabbath Classes he conducted in connection with his synagogues were children of "orthodox"
parents. The interest he took in the Jewish youth of the city is shown by the fact that when the local
Battalion of the Jewish Lads' Brigade went into Camp at Lytham last autumn, he, in his capacity
as Chaplain to the Brigade, accompanied them, holding services every day, as well as on the
Sabbath in Camp, and taking such interest in the arrangements for the comfort of the members,
that when the time came for breaking up Camp the boys had learned to love him more like a father
than anything else, such was the place he had gained in their hearts and affections. Indeed, in him
the Jewish youth of the city have lost their best friend, for if there was any one ideal which he
endeavoured to pursue more than another, it was to inculcate into the minds of his young friends
and pupils the highest possible ethical conceptions of Judaism. A few years ago he organised
religious services at the Jews' School, for the benefit of girls engaged at business during the week.
These services he conducted himself every Sabbath afternoon, and their success and the good
influence they exercised was a source of great satisfaction to him. As Honorary Secretary to the
Manchester Ladies' Association for the Visitation of the Jewish Poor, he had a large field for his
energies, which he exercised unsparingly for the benefit of his poorer and suffering co-religionists.
He also acted as Honorary Secretary to the local branch of the Anglo-Jewish Association. He
was one of the most energetic members of the Manchester and Liverpool Visitation Committee,
and in that capacity periodically visited the different prisons and asylums of the district, never
sparing effort to restore to respectability any unfortunate Jewish inmates of these institutions. In
fact, there is not a single communal or charitable organisation which will not have cause to deplore
his loss. His counsel was often sought by the members of the Committee of the Manchester Jewish
Board of Guardians, and the Manchester Jews' School had in him an honoured and valued friend.
In order to be of use to the many who consulted him for advice in difficult situations, he studied
jurisprudence with such success that a few years ago he was awarded the degree of LL.B. Always
ready to promote the cause of education, he fell in eagerly with a suggestion made only last week
at the meeting of sub- scribers to the last-named institution, to the effect that the old pupils of the
School should be brought together annually, so that their efforts might be joined for the benefit of
the funds of their `Alma Mater.' He also took great interest in the educational work of the Jewish
Working Men's Club. It will thus be seen that his influence was exerted for good in every Jewish
organisation or charitable institution in the city or neighbourhood. Nor were his Christian fellow-
citizens slow to avail themselves of his services in the cause of social and moral progress. He
lectured frequently to large audiences at the meeting of the Ancoats Brotherhood on subjects
which he had made peculiarly his own, such as Post-Biblical History and the rise of
Mohammedanism. Together with Professor Alexander, he was a worthy representative of his
race on the professorial staff of Owens College, where he for many years occupied the Chair
of Oriental Languages. He was also often appointed upon the examining bodies of different
educational institutions in the district, his scholarly abilities being highly appreciated by those in
a position to judge them. Much more could be written in this strain, but enough we think has
been said to make clear what a terrible loss his death has been, not only to his co-religionists in
this city, and his fellow-citizens, but to the world at large. It need hardly be said that deep and
sincere sympathy is felt for and extended to his widow and the two young sons that have
survived him. `May the memory of his good deeds and virtues strengthen them in their affliction
and the remembrance of his works be to them a blessing. To the memory of the Rev. Laurence
M. Simmons may justly be applied the words of England's greatest poet
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mix'd in him, that Nature might stand up,
And say to all the world, `This was a man!'
May his dear soul rest in peace."
The report of the funeral must be of interest to those who will read this story, and therefore it is
here quoted in full
"The funeral took place on Sunday morning last at the cemetery at WhitefieldIn death, as in life, Simmons managed to unite the entire Jewish community of Manchester. To
which belongs to the Congregation of British Jews. The chief mourners were
Mrs. Simmons and her two sons, Vivian and Claude Simmons, his brother,
Mr. Samuel Simmons, of London, Mr.and Mrs.Kalisch, Mr. Max Kalisch,
Mr. Richard Kalisch and Mr. C. Van Biema. A special funeral service was
held at the Park Place Synagogue, where Mr. Simmons had for 22 years
officiated. The scene both inside and outside the sacred building was an
eloquent manifestation of the intense feeling with which the memory of
Mr.Simmons was regarded. Inside, the building was filled with a
representative gathering assembled to pay their last tribute of respect to
one who, alas, had been removed all too soon from their sight. A vast
crowd of men and women had also gathered outside the synagogue and
its approaches, who, unable to gain admittance to the building itself, remained
to pay their humble meed of respect to a man who had been to many of them
a dear friend and wise counsellor. Many workshops were closed in order to
give employees the opportunity of being present at the funeral which
partook, indeed, of a public character. The shops and private houses
on the line of the route all had their blinds drawn. No classes were held
during the morning at the Jews' School or the Talmud Torah. The
Manchester Jewish Working Men's Club was closed during the forenoon,
and a concert which had been arranged for the evening was postponed
out of respect to the memory of Mr. Simmons, who for many years was
a Vice-President of the Institution, and Chairman of the Literary Committee.
A social evening and dance, arranged by the teachers of the Jews' School
for Saturday, was abandoned as soon as the sad news became generally
Representatives of all the synagogues and communal institutions of
Manchester were present at the service (which, as stated above,
preceded the interment), as follows :
The Manchester Old Hebrew Congregation by the Revs. Dr. B.
Salomon (who also represented the Chief Rabbi at Dr. Adler's
request), H. Newman, and H. Levin, Messrs. L. Cobe,
P. Frankenstein, E. Wise and N. H. Harris. The South
Manchester Synagogue by the Rev. I. Simon, Messrs. Eph.
Harris, M.A., Arthur Marks, J. Myers and B. Levien. The
Spanish and Portuguese Congregation by the Rev. J. H.
Valentine, Messrs. D. S. Garson and M. Lisbona. The Central
Synagogue by Rabbis Yoffe and Bojarsky, Messrs. Livingstone
and Zachrinski. The North Manchester Beth Aaron Cracow,
Strangeways, Holy Law, and other congregations likewise sent
delegates ; also the Manchester Hebrew Sick and Benefit Burial
Society, and the Home for Aged Jews. The Manchester Shechita
Board was represented by the Executive, Messrs. I. Goodman, J.
Myers, M. Abrahams, H. B. Morris, S. Claff. The Manchester
Jewish Board of Guardians was represented by its President,
Councillor Frankenburg, Mr. Rex D. Cohen (Vice-President),
Councillor Dreyfus, J.P., Mr. Frank Q. Henriques, Mr. J. S.
Moss and Ar. Nathan Laski. On behalf of the Manchester Jews'
School there were present Mr. Salis Simon (President), Mr. M.
Schlesinger (Treasurer) and Mr. Oscar Beer (Hon. Secretary).
The Senate of the Owens College, by Professor Elton and
Mr. F. J. Broadfield. The Manchester Old Hebrew Burial
Board by Mr. J. L. Shoeps. Mr. B. Steel and Mr. L. Davis
represented the Jewish Working Men's Club. The Manchester
and Liverpool Visitation Committee was represented by Mr.
Eph. Harris, M.A., Mr. I. A. lsaacs and Mr. N. Laski. The
Talmud Torah classes by Messrs. M. Cohen and M. Steinart.
Dr. Dreschfield and Dr. Crean, the deceased's medical
attendants, also attended. The Manchester Jewish Cricket
Club, of which the deceased Minister was an ardent supporter,
was also represented. Forty boys of the Spanish and
Portuguese Synagogue Talmud Torah School, under their
teacher, Mr. Seruyah, followed the hearse for some distance.
The Rev. Haham Dr. Moses Gaster, Chief Rabbi of the Spanish
and Portuguese Congregations in the United Kingdom, who
was one of Mr. Simmons's fellow-students at the Breslau Seminary,
and who had always been in constant touch with him, attended in
his private capacity.
The Rev. Morris Joseph, representing the West London (Berkeley
Street) Synagogue of British Jews, was also present, as was the
Rev. J. M. Asher (of Cambridge), in whose career Mr. Simmons
had for a long time taken a lively interest.
Mr. S. M. Harris, President, the Rev. N. Blaser and Mr. J.
Lambert were present on behalf of the Southport Congregation,
and Mr. Julius Frankenburg of Glasgow represented the
congregation of that city.
Amongst those following the hearse in private carriages were :
Messrs. Salis Simon, Oliver P. Behrens, T. Dreydel, J.P., Oscar
Beer, James Bauer, Edward Bauer, J. V. Henry, A. Eichholz,
E. Edward Levy, P. Guttenberg, S. Spiro, M. Silverstone,
M. Joseph, Joseph Harris, Marius Harris, Edward H. Langdon,
J. L. Mensch, M. Beaver, L. V. Bauer, A. Knit,
S. L. Mandleberg, J. S. Levy and Dr. Crean.
Four of the teachers and four of the girls who attended the
Women's Sabbath Classes organised and conducted by Mr.
Simmons, were present also, accompanied by Miss Raphael,
the Headmistress of the Jews' School. It will thus be seen
that every section of the community was represented at the
funeral. Rich and poor, "reform" or "orthodox," all united in
their efforts to show how much the loss of the Reverend
gentleman was deplored by those with whom he came
in contact during the course of a busy and useful life.
At the special request of the deceased, the funeral service
was conducted by members of the local "orthodox" Jewish
clergy, the Revs. Dr. B. Salomon (of the Manchester Great
Synagogue), J. H. Valentine (of the Spanish and Portuguese
Congregation) and I. Simon (of the South Manchester
The first task of Simmons in succeeding Dr. Wiener was to restore a
spirit of enthusiasm to the
congregation. The apathy among the members was great, and the movement had made very little
progress during the last few years. We have it on the testimony of Professor Theodores that from
the start Simmons was well liked by the members. The Professor regretted that owing to his
hearing having been affected he could not judge the minister's sermons, but added "Simmons is
from which will not hurt the Manchester Congregation."
From the Jewish Chronicle report quoted above it is obvious that Simmons
occupied a pulpit as
the means of serving his fellow Jews, irrespective of their denominational affiliation. Shechter
described him as a real "lover of God and lover of man," and the amity that existed between the
two communities in Manchester during his ministry was due to his own personality, and to the
"middle of the path" Judaism which he practised in his synagogue.
He it was who re-established regular Religion Classes. These were held
on Sunday mornings,
and it was customary for the children attending to be entertained annually on the Feast of Purim.
A report states that on the occasion of one of these Purim treats Miss Louisa Armovitz and Miss
Rita Myers, on behalf of themselves and their fellow pupils, presented Mr. Simmons with a
charming present of a silver spice box and a taper stand for Havdatah. The ceremony of
Barmitsvah for boys when they attained the age of thirteen years was reinstated (Confirmation
was now for girls only) and it became the custom for Barmitsvah boys to recite the blessings over
the Law and to read a portion therefrom. Whereas the early "reformers" abolished services on the
Fast of Ab, these were now restored. When the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Nathan Marcus Adler, died (he
was succeeded by his son, Dr. Hermann Adler), Simmons held a Memorial Service in his
synagogue, and so effective was he in closing the gap between the two communities that an
indignant report in the Jewish Chronicle of 19th December, 1890, reads as follows
"Considerable dissatisfaction has been caused in Jewish circlesThroughout Simmons’ ministry (and for many years after) the congregation had a number of
here by the action of the authorities of the Portuguese Synagogue
in inhibiting the Rev. L. M. Simmons from taking part in a
marriage ceremony under their auspices, despite the fact that
the bridegroom, who is a respected member of Mr. Simmons'
congregation, expressly desired his co-operation. This action is
the more incomprehensible because Mr. Simmons has at least
once previously assisted at a similar function and later still has
been invited to preach and did preach at the Portuguese
Synagogue at a Sabbath service. This retrograde step speaks
little for the prudence or consistency of our Portuguese brethren
in Manchester, but will, it is hoped, not interfere with the cordial
relations hitherto existing between the various sections of the
community in this city."
From the foregoing it is not surprising that in 1890 the congregation
received a letter from Lord
Rothschild inviting the members to send a delegate to a conference to consider proposals for
the appointment of a Chief Rabbi. What Simmons' reactions to this were we do not know, but
the lay leaders, on a motion proposed by Mr. M. Schlesinger and seconded by C. N. Haring,
resolved "that whilst acknowledging with satisfaction the liberal spirit which prompted the letter
of Lord Rothschild, this congregation regrets that it does not consider it expedient to elect a
representative to consult with the Honorary Officers of the United Synagogue in reference to
the appointment of a Chief Rabbi."
The only book of records which was salvaged when Park Place was destroyed
in 1941 is a
Council of Founders' Minute Book which covers this period. The information contained therein
is extremely scanty, since most of the day-to-day administration of the synagogue was carried
out by the Executive. From the information we have, however, a few more details about the
synagogue emerge. It has been mentioned previously that Park Place had a total capacity of
350 seats. In 1882 discussion on a proposed extension to the Ladies Gallery was adjourned
sine die when it was reported that there were 14 vacant seats. Assuming therefore that the
body of the Hall was entirely occupied (men and women did not sit together at this time) the
total membership could not have exceeded 336 people. The accounts of the synagogue show
|For the year ending||1884||the Balance Sheet showed a deficit of||£263.16.3|
For a comparison of seat rentals between then and now, here is the table
referring to Park Place:
|1st row . .||£10.10. 0||per seat|
|2nd and 3rd rows||7. 7. 0||"|
|4th and 5th rows||5. 5. 0||"|
|6th, 7th and 8th rows||4. 4. 0||"|
|9th and 10th rows||3. 3. 0||"|
Although, as we have stated, the membership could not have exceeded
336 persons, there were
still many vacant seats during the High Holydays, and great inconvenience was caused by non-
members disturbing the decorum of the services at the "solemn season" and occupying these
seats. The Council was even forced to the conclusion that for future years non-members should
not be admitted.
The first Honorary Life Member was a Mr. Henry S. Strauss (possibly
honorary solicitor to the
congregation), who was granted life membership at a Council Meeting held on 11th May, 1887.
At this time Max Hesse, who had succeeded Professor Theodores, was chairman of Council,
Mr. L. Danziger, General Treasurer, and Mr. Louis Schloss, Charity Treasurer.
Whitefield Cemetery must have been the burial ground used by the congregation
inception. On 30th September, 1889, the Council resolved "that the Chairman of the Council
of Founders in conjunction with the Executive Committee be authorised to arrange with the
Cemeteries Committee for the purchase of a plot of ground in the Southern Cemetery, and to
use for that purpose the money to the credit of the `New Burial Ground Fund Account'."
From this beginning other congregations in the city acquired plots from
the Corporation, in
Southern Cemetery, and to-day no less than four congregations utilise the Jewish portion of
Originally, the constitution of the London Board of Deputies of British
Jews precluded Reform
congregations from being represented. About the year 1886 the Board's Constitution was
amended so that the congregation, if it so wished, could appoint a Deputy. It was not until many
years later, however, that the Chairman of the Council was authorised to approach a certain
gentleman in London, with a view to his election as Deputy.
Two figures who are remembered to-day by a number of older members of
now come into the picture. A Council of Founders' Minute dated 15th July, 1896, records that
"the appointment by the wardens of Mr. M. H. Valentine as Reader at a salary of £40 a year
and of Mr. M. Salzedo as Beadle at a weekly salary of 16/- was unanimously ratified, subject to
three months notice in the case of the Reader, and one month's notice in the case of the Beadle."
Mr. M. H. Valentine was a brother of the Rev. J. H. Valentine, Hazan of the Spanish and
Portuguese Congregation. This Congregation provided us not only with Mr. Valentine, but also
with Moses Besso, and our present Secretary- Reader, Mr. Eli Levy.
To return to the situation generally, Simmons had by now so thoroughly
congregation that no less a figure than Mr. Nathan Laski was reported in the Jewish press as
saying, during the course of a debate on "The Communal Crisis" held at the Jewish Working
Men's Club, that "the Orthodox party has a lot to learn from the Reformers, not only in
synagogue matters but also in the part they took locally in the administration of charitable and
educational organisations." Some of the finest Anglo-Jewish preachers, both Orthodox and
Reform, came regularly to the pulpit of Park Place, such as the Rev. A. Lowy, Israel Abrahams,
Dr. Strauss, Simeon Singer (editor of the Singer's Prayer Book), Morris Joseph (author of that
great book, "Judaism as Creed and Life"), the Rev. S. Friedeberg (later Frampton), and many
others. Simmons counted among his closest friends such people as Chaim Weitzmann, Professor
Samuel Alexander, and Sir Philip Hartog, then Professor of Chemistry at Manchester University,
and later to become Registrar of London University. Professor Theodores, before he died
(Simmons succeeded him as Professor of Hebrew and Arabic at Manchester University, formerly
Owens College), bewailed the fact that Simmons was too orthodox. His son, the Rev. Vivian
Simmons, tells me that his father went so far as to maintain with the Orthodox rabbinate that it
was better to stay at home and pray than ride to the synagogue on a Sabbath or Festival. Be this
as it may, the extent to which the congregation benefited from the courageous and visionary
leadership of this saintly personality cannot possibly be estimated, and his call to the "holy academy
on high" in 1900, when he was only 48 years of age, robbed the congregation of the greatest
spiritual leader it has possessed so far in the course of its history.
On his death the entire community came together to launch "The Laurence
Fund." Two stained glass windows were presented to the synagogue by the Presiding Warden,
Mr. A. Snalfeld, in memory of its late minister. A marble tablet presented and erected by another
member, Mr. Stone, was placed in the vestibule of the synagogue, also in memory of Mr.
Simmons. The inscription on the tablet was composed by the Rev. Dr. Loxvy. To this day the
interest from the Fund which was launched in Simmons' memory is utilised to fulfil a purpose for
which he worked so hard during his life, and which was dear to his heart that of sending on
holiday, to convalesce and recuperate, a poor person who has been ill.
Solomon Shechter wrote the following in his obituary about Simmons:
"When Rabba died, his friend concluded the funeral oration with the
words : `He who rideth upon the Araboth rejoiced, when the pure
righteous soul returned to Him.' Such was the soul taken away from
us by the death of Simmons, free from every taint of worldliness,
and pure in every respect. But the greater the joy in Heaven the
deeper the mourning on earth, and those who knew him more
intimately can only feel with the old sage, who maintained that
the death of a friend is an object lesson in dying one's self."
Although on previous occasions when the congregation was seeking a new
minister it was found
necessary to go to circles closely associated with "Reform," on the death of Laurence Mark
Simmons a number of graduates from Jews' College, London, applied for the vacant position.
The choice eventually fell on the Rev. Abraham Wolf, M.A., Fellow of Jews' College, who, at
a special general meeting of members held early in 1901, was unanimously elected minister.
At this meeting, the members, whilst standing, passed the following resolution
"That in tendering the expression of their loyal homage to His MajestyWolf had a brilliant academic career at Jews' College, University College, London, and St.
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, the members of the Manchester
Congregation of British Jews desire to express their deepest sorrow at
the death of their late beloved Queen, in the national outburst of grief which
the mournful event has evoked throughout the length and breadth of Her
Majesty's vast dominions."
He entered upon his official duties in June, 1901. Until he did so,
the pulpit of Park Place was
occupied by a number of guest preachers, many of whom, no doubt, were applicants for the
vacant position. On the occasion when the Rev. Simeon Singer preached at the synagogue, the
Jewish Chronicle had the following to say :
"The delivery of a sermon by the Rev. S. Singer in the Reform Synagogue,Actually, as was pointed out in the later issue of the Jewish Chronicle, many of the above
Manchester, is an event of no little significance. It is, we believe, the first time
in our communal history that the minister of an Orthodox Synagogue will have
occupied a Reform pulpit. The event perhaps does not possess all the
importance that could attach to the appearance of an Orthodox minister at
Berkeley Street. Not only is Manchester not the Metropolis of England, but
the Manchester Congregation of British Jews has for many years past, under
the leadership of the Rev. L. M. Simmons, developed strong leanings towards
union with the Orthodox body. Had this devoted minister of religion lived,
we should probably have witnessed the establishment of a United Synagogue
in Manchester, taking in all sections of the 25,000 Jews who are said to
compose the Jewish population of that city. In extending to the Rev. S. Singer
the first invitation that has been given to a Metropolitan minister to occupy the
deceased gentleman's pulpit, the congregation are helping to promote still
further the objects for which he strove so earnestly."
Before we deal further with the new minister, however, a word must now
be said about the
establishment of the Manchester Victoria Memorial Jewish Hospital, as this demonstrates the
great interest taken by members of the congregation in creating and supporting the various
charitable, cultural, and philanthropic institutions in the city.
A Manchester Guardian report dated 11th September, 1900, reads
"Considerable progress has been made towards the establishment of a Jewish hospital.Dr. Charles Dreyfus, one of the originators of the scheme for a Jewish Hospital, was head of the
The scheme is not a new one as it was initiated some ten years ago, and was taken up by
the late Rev. L. M. Simmons and Dr. Dreyfus. There was a suggestion that a ward or
kitchen should be opened at the Royal Infirmary. On account of the death of the Rev.
Simmons, the matter remained in abeyance and as there was some probability that the
Infirmary might be moved, no further steps were taken."
"A public meeting was held in the Memorial Hall, Albert Square,The foundation stone of the Jewish Hospital was laid on 24th July, 1903, and Councillor Dr.
last evening in support of the establishment of a Jewish Hospital in
Manchester. Sir William Bailey presided and amongst others
present were Dr. C. Dreyfus, Revs. E. P. Barrow and Isidore
Simon, Dr. Haring, Dr. Finkelstein, Messrs. A. Eckstein, Phillips,
B. Kostoris, S. Finburgh, S. Claff, J. Myers, W. M. Finberg,
J. S. Loewy, B. Balaban, M. Vivante. Letters of sympathy and
apology for absence were received from C. E. Schwann, M.P.,
who promised a donation of £100, Mr. Peel, Principal of Owens
College, Ald. Henry Rawson, Miss Dendy, Mr. Headlam,
Stipendiary Magistrate, and Mr. C. D. Kelly of the Trades Council.
Dr. Dreyfus moved `that this meeting approves the scheme for
establishing a Jewish hospital in Manchester and pledges itself
by all means in its power to support the erection, equipment and
maintenance of such an institution.' The motion was seconded by
Rev. Barrow who said it was impossible not to feel the fitness of
the proposal which would make the hospital a memorial to our
late Gracious Queen.
On the motion of Dr. Haring, seconded by Mr. S. Finburgh, it was
agreed the hospital should be called the Victoria Memorial Hospital."
But let us return to the Rev. Mr. Wolf One of his first tasks was to
reorganise the religion classes
for the children, which formerly were conducted by Mr. Simmons and had lapsed after his death.
The congregation was widely scattered, and for the convenience of the children he decided that
religion classes should be held in North and South Manchester. Free religion classes in the South
of Manchester were therefore held at the Anglo-German High School, Parkfield Street,
Whitworth Park, and arrangements were later made for those children residing in the North of
Manchester to be accommodated at the Broughton School. Wolf, a keen Zionist, often delivered
lectures before the many societies which made up the Zionist Central Council, of which Dr.
Dreyfus was President. Following the pattern of his predecessors he took an active part in the
work of the Jews' School, and hardly an annual examination or prize distribution took place
during the time he was in Manchester at which he was not asked to move the vote of thanks to
the person distributing the awards. Nor is this surprising, since practically all the Honorary
Officers of the School were members of the congregation. Edward Behrens was president, M.
Schlesinger, treasurer, and Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Henriques (parents of Miss Annie Q. Henriques,
who later followed their example) were Governors.
It was during Mr. Wolf's period of office that the organisation was
formed from which our
present "Social Circle" developed. In those days it was called "The Park Place Synagogue
Association," and the following report from the Jewish Chronicle gives the full story :
"Mr. Israel Abrahams, M.A., will preach at the Park Place SynagogueThe first annual report issued by the Park Place Synagogue Association showed that it was
on Saturday, 11th January. The primary object of Mr. Abraham's visit
is to lecture in the evening to the Park Place Synagogue Association.
This Association is the latest addition to Manchester Jewish institutions.
It is a society formed somewhat, though by no means wholly, on the
lines of the West London Synagogue Association. Its object is to realise
more fully the opportunities offered by the Park Place Synagogue as a
social, literary and religious centre. The scheme, as originally suggested
by the minister in his sermon on New Year, is a fairly comprehensive
one, and includes the formation of a Lending Library of Jewish books,
towards which a number of contributions have already been promised.
But for the immediate present the operations of the Society will be
restricted to the organisation of a series of monthly gatherings to be held
at one of the Town Halls, of which a lecture and music will form the
chief features. The first of these gatherings is to take place on 11th
January, at the Chorlton Town Hall, when Mr. Israel Abrahams will
lecture, while Mr. Schlesinger will be responsible for the music. The
other fixtures for the present are 10th February, 8th March and 12th
April. The Rev. A. Wolf, Mr. P. J. Hartog, B.Sc., and Professor S.
Alexander. M.A., will lecture on the several occasions. The first step
towards the practical realisation of the scheme was taken on 13th
November when Councillor C. Dreyfus, the Presiding Warden of the
Park Place Synagogue, and Mrs. Dreyfus held a congregational
reception at the Cheetham Town Hall for the express purpose of
forming such a Society. The Society was actually formed, and more
than a 100 members were enrolled that evening. The success of the
Association is practically assured. Dr. Dreyfus is the President and he
is ably supported by a committee of prominent and capable workers."
The following items of news occurred in the congregation during the
year 1902-3. Dr. Dreyfus
was returned as Councillor for the Bradford Ward and became a Justice of the Peace. The Rev.
Simeon Singer of the Bayswater United Synagogue preached at Park Place on two occasions.
The Executive of the synagogue voted an annual subscription to Jews' College and, when the
Chief Rabbi and Mrs. Adler visited Manchester, Mrs. Adler attended the Women's Sabbath
Services which had been established by the late Rev. L. M. Simmons at the Manchester Jews'
School. The Jewish Year Book gives the following information about the congregation :
"Seatholders 150 ; Treasurer, Isidore Danziger ; Secretary, Isaac A. IsaacsOn the death of Max Hesse in 1904, Alderman Isidore Frankenburg was elected Chairman of
(father of Mrs. Alex. Jacobs and Mr. Albert Isaacs, and grandfather of our
present Hon. Secretary, Mr. Leonard Jacobs) ; Annual Income about £900."
"That the Council of Founders of this congregation have heard with intenseAlderman and Mrs. Frankenburg graced the positions of "first citizens" of the City of Salford for
pleasure of the selection of their esteemed chairman, Alderman Isidore
Frankenburg, as Mayor-elect of Salford. While the popularity of the selection
is well assured through the active interest which Alderman and Mrs. Frankenburg
have taken in the work of the Jewish and general community, the Council feel
that it will be specially gratifying to the members of this congregation who have
already shown their esteem by electing Mr. Frankenburg to the highest honorary
office. It therefore affords the Council particular pleasure to offer the warmest
congratulations to Alderman and Mrs. Frankenburg on their new honour in the
name of the whole congregation. The Council feel confident that Alderman and
Mrs. Frankenburg will worthily fill this important civic office, of which it is their
additional privilege to be the first Jewish occupants, and they pray that the
Almighty may bless them with excellent health to carry out their arduous, though
honourable duties, during the period of their Mayoralty."
"The service was conducted by the Rev. S. Friedeberg and Mr. M.One constantly wonders why at this period the membership of the congregation did not grow
H. Valentine; Mr. T. Buckton presided at the organ. The route was
well kept by a force of police and a guard of honour composed of
members of the Jewish Lads' Brigade was stationed at the entrance
of the synagogue. The Salford Police Band, accompanied by torch
bearers, headed the procession, and the Mayor was accompanied
by the Deputy Mayor (Sir William Stephens), the Town Clerk and
Corporation, and leading citizens of Salford."
In this context, a report about the congregation which appeared in an
article in the Jewish Chronicle
on "The Manchester Jewish Community," stated :
"Meagre congregations attend the ordinary services though the buildingThe exact reasons why Dr. Wolf left Manchester are not certain, but in April, 1907 he informed
is filled on the High Festivals. The present Minister, Rev. Dr. A. Wolf,
is known to hold very advanced ideas on the Jewish faith and practices.
He is a scholarly and courageous preacher and some time ago created a
sensation by his scathing denunciation of Jewish moneylenders.
He is assisted by a Reader, part of the service being in English. There is
a good choir and with an organ accompaniment the musical portions of
the service are excellent. The acoustics are not good ; the prayers cannot
be heard at the back. Religion classes are conducted by Dr. Wolf
The Secretary is Isaac A. Isaacs who is also Clerk to the local Jewish
Board of Guardians.
Income is about £900."
"On your relinquishing your office as Minister to this CongregationIt was further resolved
which you have held for nearly seven years, in order to devote yourself
entirely to University work, and Literary pursuits, we, the undersigned,
on behalf of the members of this Congregation beg to hand you this
Testimonial, with the accompanying cheque, thereby testifying their
goodwill towards you and their hope that abundant success may attend
all your future undertakings."
"that the Testimonial be engrossed and that, after being signed by the
Chairman of the Council and the Presiding Warden, it be sent by
registered letter to Dr. Wolf."
On the resignation of the Rev. Dr. Wolf, Mr. Edward H. Langdon was appointed
a Selection Committee to advertise the vacant position, and to endeavour to secure the services
of a suitable minister. On 12th February, 1908, the following report from Mr. Langdon was
read at a meeting of the Council of Founders :
"The Selection Committee beg to report : That in reply to advertisementsThe report was unanimously adopted when Mr. Sternfeld unreservedly withdrew his objection
in the Jewish Press they received applications for the vacant post of
Minister from :
1. Mr. HARRY S. LEWIS, M.A., of London.
2. Rev. Dr. SALKIND, of Cardiff.
3. Rev. G. LIPKIND, of New York, and
4. Rev. Dr. ELZAS, of Charlestown, South Carolina, who intimated
that he would be willing to accept a call.
Your Committee eliminated the American applicants, in consequence of
the difficulty there would be in affording the members of the Congregation
an opportunity of hearing them preach.
Invitations were then sent to Mr. Harry S. Lewis and the Rev. Dr. Salkind,
who each preached in our Synagogue on two occasions, and also took part
in the conduct of Divine Service, the members of the Congregation having
been duly notified by circular.
Your Committee have given anxious and careful consideration to the
qualifications of Mr. Harry S. Lewis and the Rev. Dr. Salkind, and now
beg to recommend Mr. Harry S. Lewis, M.A., as the most eligible
candidate to fill the vacant post of Minister to the Congregation.
Dr. Dreyfus and Messrs. A. Isaacs and A. M. Sternfeld refrained from
voting, in consequence of Mr. Lewis having in the course of conversation
intimated his intention to reserve to himself the right to preach at the
Jewish Religious Union, should he when away on his holidays be asked
to do so ; at the same time, Mr. Lewis stated that this would only arise
if he were in London."
The Jewish Religious Union (now The Union of Liberal and Progressive
Congregations), then in
its infancy, was an offshoot of `Berkeley Street.' It was brought into being by Claud Montefiore
and Israel Abrahams, two eminent Anglo-Jewish scholars. What innovations these two
gentlemen wanted to introduce into the thought and practice of Judaism which caused them to
break away from `Berkeley Street' it is difficult to understand, even to-day. Much more difficult
was it to understand in 1908, particularly by members of a congregation which had only recently
been served by two ministers of very conservative views, who believed in slow evolutionary
processes in religious matters.
The objections mentioned in the Selection Committee's Report were very
real ones because, as
this story unfolds itself, it will be seen that this was the issue on which Mr. Lewis eventually
resigned his position as minister to the congregation.
Let us, however, start at the beginning. At the meeting of the Council
referred to above, the
following resolution was unanimously adopted on the motion of Mr. Dreschfield, seconded
by Mr. Victor Nathan :
"That Mr. Harry S. Lewis, M.A., be recommended to the membersHarry S. Lewis was recommended to the general body of members at a special meeting held on
for the post of Minister to this Congregation." Mr. Langdon then
moved and Mr. Sternfeld seconded "that the following be
recommended as the conditions of Mr. Lewis's appointment, namely :
1. The appointment to be subject to the Laws of the Congregation.
2. That the salary be £300 a year.
3. That the Congregation effect an insurance for £1,000 upon the life
of Mr. Lewis during his occupancy of office of Minister of this
Congregation, and that the policy be assigned to him should he
at any time relinquish the office.
4. That this Agreement may be determined at any time by the giving
of twelve months' notice on either side."
"Your first minister was my revered teacher, Dr. Schiller- Szenessy,Lewis had preached in the synagogue at a special Chanukali service held in November of the
and I cannot but refer also to the late Mr. Simmons who was so
beloved by all who knew him. If I can but follow in his footsteps,
I shall have no fear for the future."
"The news that Mr. Harry S. Lewis is thought of as a possibleHarry S. Lewis was well known in London as "Harry Lewis of Toynbee Hall." Indeed, Canon
occupant of the pulpit of the Reform Synagogue in Manchester
is very welcome. Mr. Lewis is one of our very best men. He is
a scholar, a gentleman, a religious enthusiast, a capable
administrator and organiser, a tolerant man and a real
philanthropist. He is, moreover, a splendid speaker and luminous
preacher and his association to the Jewish Ministry would lift up
the profession as would be the case in no other appointment I can
think of. He would be a great loss to London."
It can thus be seen that he was a man with a sincere and burning passion
for social justice and
equality, who genuinely practised what he advocated. Those who remember him recall that he
cleaned his own doorstep, rather than subject anybody to domestic service. He must have
appeared a singular figure to his stiffly class-conscious contemporaries of the Edwardian era.
Just before Mr. Lewis took up his appointment in Manchester, a specially
was held at Park Place for the purpose of presenting a testimonial and a purse of gold to
Mr. Isaac Asher Isaacs, on his retiring from the position of secretary to the congregation.
Mr. Alderman Frankenburg, Mayor of Salford, and Chairman of the Council of Founders, in
making the presentation said that Mr. Isaacs had been secretary of the congregation for 27
years, during which time he had always attended faithfully to his duties and had done his very
utmost to give general satisfaction. Not alone to the synagogue but to the Board of Guardians
and to many other Jewish institutions, had he devoted time, energy, and thought. Mr. Schlesinger,
on behalf of the Wardens and members of the congregation, also spoke.
Regretfully, Mr. Isaacs did not live long to enjoy his retirement, for
he died later that year, after
having given devoted service to the Old Hebrew Congregation, the Manchester Congregation of
British Jews, and the Board of Guardians.
In Manchester, the new minister, following the precedent set by the
late Laurence Mark Simmons,
preached in an Orthodox Synagogue (The North Manchester) on the second and last days of
Passover, 1908. He began lecturing for the Zionist Central Council, and took a lively interest in
the work of the Jewish Ladies' Visitation Association and the Anglo-Jewish Association.
It was not long before he was elected President of the Jewish Literary
and Social Society, on
whose behalf he and Mrs. Lewis held a reception at the Cheetham Town Hall when for the first
time a conference was held outside London. In May, 1908, Lewis was entertained to dinner by
the Maccabaeans in London, and among the distinguished gathering present were Mr. H. S. Q.
Henriques, K.C. (President of the Board of Deputies and a brother of our Miss Annie Q.
Henriques), the Revs. Morris Joseph, A. A. Green, Isidore Harris, Professor Israel Gollancz
and Mr. William Joynson Hicks, M.P. (later Home Secretary).
When the Chief Rabbi visited Manchester for the annual meeting of the
Board, at which a discouraging report was presented, it was Mr. Lewis who suggested the
enlistment of voluntary teachers to give religious instruction to Jewish children during the time
allowed in day schools for religious knowledge. A very far-reaching suggestion for those days !
At the annual meeting and prize-giving in connection with the Jews' School, Rev. Lewis urged
Jewish parents to sacrifice some of the earnings of their children by keeping them longer at school
in order that they should receive the benefits of education. When King Edward VII died, a special
Memorial Service was held at Park Place, and during the course of his address Mr. Lewis said :
"The late King tried to be fair to the members of all Churches, to allOn the same day that Dr. Adler, the Chief Rabbi, was present at the meeting of the Hebrew
denominations throughout his dominions. He was too wise a man to
lay stress on the differences, but rather preferred to think of those
qualities which united all men of goodwill. His relations with his Jewish
subjects were of a most pleasing nature. Not only were some of his
chosen friends members of our community but he took the greatest
interest in the welfare of the ancient race to which we belong."
Before coming to Manchester, Mr. Lewis had been a member of the Board
of Deputies of British
Jews. Hitherto the congregation had declined to send a representative to this body. Whether the
minister influenced the situation or not, one cannot say, but it is certain that during his occupancy
of the pulpit at Park Place the first appointment to the Board of Deputies was made. A Mr. E. S.
Edgar, a resident of London, was elected to represent the congregation at the Board of Deputies
of British Jews. His appointment as Deputy was opposed by Dr. Dreyfus on the grounds that he
was not a resident of Manchester. Despite this, Mr. Edgar served as Deputy for two triennial
periods and was subsequently succeeded by Alderman Frankenburg, then by Mr. E. H.
After he had been in Manchester for little more than four years, reports
began to circulate that Mr.
Lewis was resigning his position. Colour was lent to the rumour by the fact that he had visited
America, and had been preaching at the Free Synagogue of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. A report of
a Council of Founders' Meeting dated 11th June, 1912, sheds some light on the subject. This
states that the meeting was called "to consider the notice of resignation by the Minister, the Rev.
H. S. Lewis, M . A.'~ The minister had sent a letter of resignation earlier that year; he had been
prevailed upon by the Executive Committee to reconsider his decision, but on 9th May had
written again, confirming his intention to resign after giving the statutory twelve months' notice.
After a discussion in which the Presiding Warden stated some of the possible causes for the
minister's decision, it was ultimately resolved on the motion of Mr. Dreschfeld, seconded by Mr.
Henriques, that :
"The Council of Founders have heard with regret that the Rev. Mr.At this same meeting the Council authorised the expenditure of not more than £400 for necessary
Lewis insists upon his resignation, but before finally accepting, they
would like to hear from him personally his reasons more explicitly ;
that he, therefore, be invited to attend a meeting of the Council on
the 26th or 27th of June at 5 o'clock."
Since it is of great interest in showing trends of opinion, and how
problems have a habit of
recurring, I am quoting verbatim the report of the Council of Founders' Meeting, held on
Wednesday, 26th June, 1912
"There were present Alderman Frankenburg in the Chair and Messrs.The next meeting of the Council of Founders was the annual one, held on 30th September, 1912.
J. Bauer, M. Danziger, H. T. Dreschfeld, M. Frankenburg, S. F
rankenburg, F. Q. Henriques, Max Kalisch, E. H. Langdon, A. Mayer,
V. Nathan and M. Schlesinger.
The meeting was called for `further consideration of resignation by the
Minister, Rev. H. S. Lewis, M.A.'
The Minutes were read and passed. A letter was read from Mr. A.
Saalfeld, hoping the Council would prevail upon the Minister to
withdraw his resignation.
The Minister having sent to each member of the Council a statement
setting forth his views, the meeting proceeded to discuss this. The
Chairman said that just previously he had spoken with Mr. Lewis, and
thought we should be able to get him to reconsider.
Mr. Langdon thought the main point was "Are we willing to modernise
the Synagogue ?" and appealed to all present, whether of the Orthodox
or more modern views, to abide by the wish of the majority.
The Minister here attended by invitation, and proceeded to explain his
"circular letter." He said, `something was wanting to revive the
Synagogue, and all suggestions should be considered. We ought
to call the lady members into consultation, they to form a part of the
committee of management. When questions of religious matters are
discussed, the minister should be present, and such discussions should
be held frequently.
Re interchange of pulpits In a modern synagogue the sermon is a very
important part, and variety of preachers would result in fresh ideas and
consequently increased interest. We cannot get preachers except from
Berkeley Street and Bradford synagogues. I have suggested three
gentlemen, two of whom have preached here before, and the fact that
they are connected with a movement which has in some ways invited
criticism, should not weigh. We ought also to have lay preachers. The
Saturday afternoon services marked a step forward-we got a good
number of members, more than on Saturday mornings, and further, the
voluntary choir came regularly and took great interest in them. Matters
of ritual might perhaps be left over for future consideration. If the
Synagogue is to continue as at present, then they must look for a person
willing to keep to the old lines. I believe the Synagogue is fast becoming
a burial club and that extinction must be our fate. I should not leave
Manchester willingly, having received full consideration from the members."
On questions being invited, Mr. Danziger asked :
1. Is it not a fact that Messrs. Montefiore and Abrahams would exclude
the greater portion of Hebrew from the ritual? Answer: Not much
Hebrew is included in the Liberal Union service, but even if we have
these gentlemen, we should not necessarily endorse their views.
2. If these gentlemen were invited, would it not stop our getting new
Answer: I cannot judge what it would do.
The Minister here retired.
Mr. Schlesinger said we were recruited mainly from the more observant
section of the community, and if we went too far, we shut the door to
getting new members. The Minister should be more Orthodox in his
views than the Congregation. Several gentlemen thought there should
be a general meeting of the members, but eventually Mr. Langdon
suggested that the three following requests be made to the Wardens
1. The Wardens be requested to take steps to form a Ladies'
2. The Wardens be requested to consult the Minister in all matters
appertaining to the Synagogue except finance, at his request.
3. The Wardens be requested to acquiesce as far as possible in the
Minister's desire for other preachers to occupy the pulpit.
The four Wardens present agreed to these three items. The Minister
here re-entered and these three items were read over to him, together
with the agreement expressed by the Wardens, and the Chairman
thereupon asked him to withdraw his resignation, upon which he asked
to be allowed a little time for consideration."
An attempt at compromise was then made. It was moved by Mr. Dreschfeld
and seconded by
Mr. Henriques that Mr. C. G. Montefiore be invited to preach at a Saturday afternoon service in
the synagogue. The motion was lost by eight votes to three and it was agreed to inform the Rev.
Mr. Lewis of this, and that the Council of Founders confirmed the decision of the Wardens in
their refusal to invite Mr. Montefiore. Finally, on the proposition of Dr. Dreyfus, seconded by Mr.
Schlesinger, it was resolved "that in the event of the Rev. Mr. Lewis confirming his resignation,
the Wardens be empowered to accept it".
Harry Lewis confirmed his resignation. His agreement was due to terminate
at the end of March,
1913, but by arrangement he stayed until the autumn of that year. In his farewell sermon he
deplored the fact that the Synagogue of British Jews was not a vital force in the lives of its
members, and he therefore felt his ministry had ended in failure. In his opinion the service of
the synagogue should be remodelled in accordance with the requirements of modern thought,
but he quite recognised that the majority of congregants opposed to innovations-were fully entitled
and even bound to seek for a minister who shared their views. It was, however, common ground
that modern Judaism too often lacked vitality, and he appealed to the members of the synagogue
to make every endeavour to remedy this defect. It was not enough to pay officials to be religious
for them whatever might be their conception of Judaism, they must themselves live up to it. In
concluding, he thanked his congregants for much friendship and much kindness, and asked them
to give loyal support to his successor, with whom they should strive to be good workers in the
cause of Judaism.
Before he left Manchester he was presented by the Executive Committee
on behalf of the
members with an illuminated address and a cheque. Mr. James Bauer, in making the presentation,
expressed the good wishes of all the congregation to Mr. Lewis, and hoped that his future career
in America would be happy and prosperous. Messrs. M. Schlesinger and Sidney Frankenburg
endorsed these remarks. In reply, Mr. Lewis tendered his thanks, and said he would always
treasure the album as marking the goodwill which the congregation had ever extended to him.
Harry Lewis went to America, where he became chaplain and teacher at
the Jewish Institute of
Religion, New York. He died in London in 1940, at the age of 77.
THE REV. JACOB PHILLIPS came of a family closely identified with the
His father, the Rev. Isaac Phillips, occupied the position of minister to the Portsmouth Hebrew
Congregation for a record period of sixty years. His younger brother, Lewis Phillips, was minister
of the Princess Road Synagogue, Liverpool ; two of his uncles were the Reverends Walter and
Phillip Phillips, and the Rev. E. P. Phillips of the Garnet Hill Synagogue, Glasgow (who fought
long and successfully for the liberation and pardon of Oscar Slater) was a cousin, as also was
the Rev. Walter Levine. A nephew, the Rev. Henry Silverman, is a minister in Jamaica.
Jacob Phillips, who succeeded Harry Lewis as minister of the Manchester
Congregation of British
Jews, had occupied pulpits in Port Elizabeth, South Africa ; Sunderland, Swansea, and Tredegar.
He received his official training for the Jewish Ministry at Aria College, Portsmouth ; but he never
failed to point out that the best school from which he graduated was his own father's house. Whilst
still at college he organised a literary and debating society to provide the students with a forum
where they could lecture and preach. Originally, he was appointed minister of the congregation for
a period of twelve months. He remained in office for twenty- seven years. He died in 1940, in his
Throughout his career Jacob Phillips served the entire community and
not any section of it. In Port
Elizabeth his public service was marked by his appointment as a magistrate. In Manchester it meant
his identification with practically every communal institution. Shortly after he became minister of the
congregation he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Jewish Society for the Protection of
Girls and Women, and became honorary secretary of the organisation which provided a Kosher
kitchen for Jewish patients at the Royal Infirmary. He became Chaplain of the Jewish Working
Men's Club, and right up to 1919 he was invited to preach on second day Festivals in Orthodox
synagogues. He was interested in the work of the Homes for the Aged and Incurable as well as of
the Board of Guardians, and in later years was instrumental in securing at least two very handsome
bequests for both these institutions.
Under his direction religion classes were held not only in the Fallowfield
and Higher Broughton
areas, but at the synagogue as well. His first Confirmation service for girls was in May, 1914, and
among those confirmed were Doris Nathan, Olga Rapaport, Rosie Nathan, Rosie Bernstein and
Cissie Phillips (his daughter).
He had been in office for only a year when the Great War broke out.
Phillips became an assistant
chaplain to the Forces for Western Command, and in this position he never spared himself in
helping serving Jewish soldiers. He regularly visited military hospitals to bring cheer to those
recovering from wounds ; he comforted those mourning the loss of loved ones killed in action.
Orthodox Jewish soldiers wanting leave in order to sit Shivah consulted him ; anxious parents
seeking news of their sons called at his home. No one ever left dissatisfied and, where it was
needed, empty-handed. He organised, at Park Place, special services for army and navy
personnel, and devoted himself so completely to chaplaincy work that to this day residents
of Manchester speak with gratitude of the help Phillips gave them during the First World War.
In November, 1915, the treasurer of the congregation, Mr. Moritz Schlesinger,
eightieth birthday, and to mark the occasion he was presented with an illuminated framed
address of congratulations. Mr. Schlesinger was perhaps at that time the only surviving member
who, in 1856, had attended a meeting at the home of the late Horatio Micholls, at which it was
resolved to establish the Manchester Congregation of British Jews. He died in 1924, after
having been treasurer of the congregation for a period of nearly thirty years.
Exactly when Moss Henriques Valentine retired from the position of reader
to the congregation
is not known, but in November, 1918, Moses Besso was elected secretary and assistant reader.
At the same time, Mr. A. E. Sandiford was appointed organist in succession to Mr. Buckton,
whose services were retained as deputy organist. On the death of Alderman Isidore Frankenburg,
J.P., in 1917, James Bauer became Chairman of the Council of Founders, a position Alderman
Frankenburg had graced for fourteen years.
The first post-war Confirmation service was held in 1923. The confirmees
were Zelda Bock,
Dolly Joseph, Dorothy de Lange, Kathleen Lizar, Melitta Moldauer, Charles Philip Dreyfus and
Henry Dreyfus. From the fact that two boys are mentioned in this list, one is led to assume that,
during Mr. Phillip's ministry, boys were given the choice of being Barmitsvah at the age of 13,
or confirmed when older. Actually in the case of the two Dreyfus boys it was a bereavement in
the family which caused them to have their Barmitsvahs postponed. In 1924 a conference of
representatives from all the synagogues in Manchester was held in the Great Synagogue under
the chairmanship of Mr. Herbert Nathan. Our representative was Mr. Lionel Blundell. Although
this conference was held from time to time, after the inaugural meeting there is no record of our
congregation being invited to send a representative. When the synagogue was re-consecrated in
1926, after having undergone extensive repairs, the opening ceremony was conducted by Rev.
Phillips, and at the service he officiated with Mr. Moses Besso. Rabbi Dr. Joel Blau of the West
London Synagogue preached the sermon.
On the death of Rabbi Dr. Salomon, Phillips was elected Chairman of
the Hebrew Visitation
Board. At the same time his appointment as permanent Chaplain to H.M. Prison, Strangeways,
was confirmed. Mention must be made that during his years of service as Prison Chaplain it was
his painful duty to be present at the execution of two Jews.
Surprisingly, it is not until the annual general meeting of members
held on 16th November, 1928,
with Mr. Sigmond Stern in the chair, that the recommendation of the Council of Founders allowing
lady members over twenty-one years of age the right to vote at general meetings, was confirmed.
At this meeting it was stated that a Social Circle, to arrange cultural and social gatherings on
behalf of the congregation, had been formed. These functions were usually held in the Midland
Hotel, since the synagogue did not at this time have any accommodation for social and
recreational facilities. The Social Circle grew and added to its activities a Dorcas Society (whose
first President was Mrs. Phillips) and a Sura Group (of which Mrs. Philip Quas-Cohen was
secretary). This latter group held literary meetings on a Friday evening, and it was customary
for the speaker to preach at the Sabbath Service the following day. Amongst those who
accepted invitations from the Sura Group were Rabbis Blau, Mattuck, Reinhart, Starrels,
Levine and Edgar.
At the time when the Park Place Synagogue Association was formed during
the ministry of the
Rev. Dr. Wolf, discussions took place on the desirability of converting the basement of Park
Place into a social hall. Nothing was done until a group of workers drawn mainly from the Social
Circle received permission to carry out the conversion through voluntary effort. The services of
honorary architects were obtained, and the group devoted their leisure time to transforming an
unusable basement into what eventually became one of the most beautiful halls of its kind in the
city. It was called the Martin Becker Hall in memory of the only son of Dr. and Mrs. H. L.
Becker, a promising young medical student, who died in his early twenties. At the time Dr.
Becker was Chairman of the Council of Founders and one of the treasurers of the congregation.
The hall was consecrated by Mr. Phillips in 1936. The workers responsible for it were Messrs.
A. Jacobs, L. Leonard, I. Doff, R. Nelson, A. Hayes, B. Doff, B. Stern, A. Bianco and the
Misses M. Brooke and M. Stern. The Ladies' Committee comprised Mesdames Baron Harris,
Alfred Hayes, Ignatius Doff, David Lichtenstein, Bernard Abel and Miss Stern.
The post-war depression (extending well into the 1930's) adversely affected
the synagogue. The
Council of Founders' minutes covering this period record many discussions on how economies
could best be made. Some members felt that a new reader should be appointed, preferably a
man with a University education, who could at times also preach. Others were of the opinion that
an assistant minister, whose duty it would be to organise the younger members, was required, in
order to attract the youth and increase membership. Phillips had supplied the Council with
statistics about the number of children in the congregation, which revealed that there were only
twenty children aged 7-14 years and eighteen under 5 years of age. For reasons which now are
difficult to determine, the congregation was not attracting as members young married couples
with children, who in the final analysis are the mainstay of a community. A last attempt at the
appointment of a second minister was made on 25th July, 1930, when at a special general
meeting Mr. G. H. Langdon moved and Mrs. D. Quas-Cohen seconded a resolution
"That this meeting gives its assent to the proposition that a secondThe motion when put to the meeting was overwhelmingly defeated and thus an opportunity was
Minister be appointed in conjunction with the West London
Synagogue and the Bradford Reform Congregation."
During the ministry of Jacob Phillips it became the custom, on important
occasions in their lives,
to honour those who had rendered service to the congregation. When Mr. Max Mensch, who
had been a treasurer and warden, attained his seventieth birthday, he was presented by the then
presiding warden, Mr. Sigmond Stern, with an illuminated address and a silver inkstand. On
completion of twenty-five years service as senior treasurer, Mr. Marcus Danaiger was presented
with a silver tea and coffee service. It was mentioned on that occasion that the treasurership of the
congregation had been in the hands of Mr. Danziger's family for over fifty years, as his
predecessors in that office were his uncle and his father. Similarly, when Mr. and Mrs. Lionel
Blundell celebrated their Silver Wedding anniversary, they were presented with a salver to mark
Mr. Blundell's years of service both to the choir and the synagogue, of which he had been
Confirmation Services were always popular. Although the youth membership
was not large
enough to hold these annually, whenever they took place they attracted large congregations.
In 1933, Nina, Betty and Charles Danziger, Edna Chesstok and Edward Moldauer were
confirmed by Mr. Phillips. In 1937, the confirmees were Dina Eileen Cower, Vera and Joan
Levy, and Joan Nelson.
An innovation which Mr. Phillips introduced into congregational life
was the Communal Seder.
The Martin Becker Hall was admirably suited for such an occasion, and congregants who so
desired could now celebrate the Passover Eve Family Service in the synagogue. In arranging
the Communal Seder and the many other congregational activities, Mr. Phillips always enjoyed
the support of his daughters and son-in-law, Mr. L. H. Leonard.
Despite Mr. Phillips' unwearied labours he did not receive the co-operation
which his efforts
merited. A report in the Jewish Chronicle dated December, 1937, refers to the Annual General
Meeting of the congregation. In his presiding warden's report, Mr. I. de Lange said "he deplored
the apathy of most of the members towards synagogue attendance. On Armistice Sabbath, for
example, there were barely a dozen male worshippers present. It was shameful, "he said, `that on
that Sabbath as well as on other occasions, their excellent choir of which they were all so proud
had to sing to an almost empty synagogue." Striking a more pleasant note he went on to say "he
was happy to inform the members that their beloved Minister and friend, the Rev. J. Phillips,
would be attaining his seventieth birthday in February next, when he would also complete
twenty-five years service with the Park Place Synagogue, and fifty years in the Jewish Ministry."
To celebrate Mr. Phillips' seventieth birthday, the congregation held
a private reception at the
Martin Becker Hall. Rabbi Harold F. Reinhart of the West London Synagogue presided. On
behalf of the congregation, Mr. Lionel Q. Henriques presented a cheque to Mr. Phillips, and
Mrs. Mabel Lichtenstein presented a gold wristlet watch to his wife. A silver cigarette box was
presented to the minister as a mark of esteem from the junior members of the synagogue.
Acknowledging the presentations and good wishes expressed, Mr. Phillips said that "his years
of service with the congregation bad been very happy ones indeed, and he wished to pay
tribute to all those who had worked with him in all aspects of synagogal work."
The Council of Manchester and Salford Jews desired also to pay tribute
to Mr. Phillips.
The following, taken from the Jewish Chronicle, is a report of the proceedings :
"The Council of Manchester and Salford Jews held a reception lastJacob Phillips died on the Eve of Passover, 1940. He had been unwell for some little time, but
week at the Martin Becker Hall, Park Place, in honour of the Rev.
Jacob Phillips' 70th birthday. Mr. Nathan Laski, J.P., who presided,
said that Mr. Phillips had been a friend to all and his work as
Chairman of the Hebrew Visitation Board had been particularly
valuable. Major E. C. Q. Henriques, J.P., wished Mr. Phillips many
more years of activity in the community. Rabbi Dr. S. M. Lehrman,
`on behalf of the few Jewish ministers still in Manchester' associated
himself with the good wishes to Mr. Phillips and said that he was a
minister who went out of his way to be a friend, and his spiritual
messages were noted for their forthrightness. The Rev. A. de S.
Pimontel (Hon. Sec. of the Visitation Board) referred to Mr. Phillips'
chairmanship of that Board for the last ten years, and the Rev. J. P.
Mendoza conveyed the good wishes of the local Sefardi community.
Personally he was indebted to Mr. Phillips for much guidance and
advice in connection with the work of a Jewish minister. Mrs. Nathan
Laski said that Mr. Phillips had been helped throughout his ministry
by the devoted support of his wife and daughters.
A cheque for £500 subscribed by members of the Park Place
Synagogue and the Council of Manchester and Salford Jews and
those affiliated organisations was handed to Mr. Phillips by Mr. S.
H. Steinart. Other speakers were Miss A. Henriques, Mr. Isidore
Sandler and Councillor A. Moss.
In acknowledging the presentation, Mr. Phillips said that during his
twenty-four years as Minister in Manchester he had striven to work
for the promotion of love and harmony among all sections of the
Jewish community and to extend the hand of friendship to all alike,
whether Jew or Christian. He thanked the Council of Manchester
and Salford Jews and his own congregation for the presentation and
paid tribute to his wife and family for the constant help which they
had afforded him in his work."
RABBI GOLDBERG'S tenure of office to date is one which coincides with
a marked change in
the whole tempo of congregational activity.
He was born in Sunderland in 1917 and was educated at Aria College,
College, London ; and London University. Before coming to Manchester he was assistant
minister to the South Tottenham Hebrew Congregation, and later, minister to the Kingsbury
Hebrew Congregation. He had taught in Religion Schools for the Jewish Education Board in
London, and was one of the original speakers in the Board of Deputies' Anti- Defamation
Campaign against The British Union of Fascists. His activities at that time were indeed
numerous ; together with others, he founded and led the North-Western London Jewish
Boys' Club and served on many charitable committees.
He received the call to Manchester in 1940 and was inducted into office
on the 15th September,
1940, during the Battle of Britain. The situation when he arrived was briefly as follows. The
membership roll numbered 110, and was mainly made up of elderly people. Owing to the war,
the few children that were in the congregation were evacuated ; no religion classes were held,
and the finances of the synagogue were in a parlous state. The services were conducted entirely
by the minister and choir, and the congregation sat in pristine silence throughout them. There was
no "calling up" to the Torah or giving out of Mitsvot, and the services were characterised by
complete lack of congregational participation. The attendance was deplorable, and at times there
was not even a Minyan present. No paid secretarial assistance was available and there was only
a very small choir.
It was in the midst of the new minister's efforts at the resuscitation
of the congregation that
catastrophe, sudden and almost complete, descended on the synagogue ; during an air-raid the
synagogue was destroyed by fire. This calamity, which occurred on the 1st June, 1941, deprived
the congregation in a few hours of all the treasured possessions accumulated over years, and for
the first time in its history it found itself without a House of Worship. The minister and a few
stalwarts, however, did not despair. Action was the order of the day, and at this stage the late
Mr. Nathan Laski generously offered Rev. Goldberg the use of the Great Synagogue if it could
be arranged for services to be held on Sabbath afternoons. This kind offer was declined, but with
Mr. Laski's help the Cheetham Assembly Rooms were obtained.
The day on which the synagogue was destroyed was Sunday. On the following
Service was held in the Assembly Rooms. Mr. L. H. Leonard made a temporary Ark which
housed two Scrolls of the Law kindly loaned by the Great Synagogue. An appeal for prayer
books was made in the Synagogue Review and this received a gratifying response from members
of sister congregations as well as from our own.
The Jewish Chronicle of 11th July, 1941, under the heading "Park Place
reported as follows :
"It can now be stated that in a recent air-raid on Manchester, theThis was a critical period. The congregation could easily have deteriorated into a Chevra because
Synagogue of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews in Park
Place was completely burnt out. Fortunately there was no loss of life,
but almost everything inside the Synagogue was destroyed in the fire.
The Congregation immediately acquired temporary accommodation
at the Cheetham Assembly Rooms, where regular services are now
held. Preaching at one of these services, the Rev. P. Selvin Goldberg
(Minister of the Congregation) said that for more than eighty years
the Park Place Synagogue had been a monument of Progressive
Jewry in Manchester. Within its walls some of the noblest families
in Anglo-Jewry had offered their devotions to the Almighty. From
its pulpit many saintly and learned men had preached their messages
of faith and hope. Such names as Laurence Mark Simmons,
Professor Dr. Wolf, Harry Lewis and Jacob Phillips would be
remembered with love and gratitude by the entire Manchester
Jewish Community. Inside Park Place Synagogue charitable work,
of which but few were cognisant, was carried on by the Sustentation
Fund, the Dorcas Society, and the Social Circle. A unique institution,
the Voluntary Choir, was built up, and it gained much prominence
by winning awards at the Jewish Chronicle Musical Festival. `Although
all these memories, as represented by the Synagogue, have been
blotted out by the Nazi barbarity,' said the Minister, `I am confident
the time is not far ahead when the tide of evil will be stemmed for
evermore, and we will be able to commence the construction of our
new Synagogue, which will worthily carry on all those activities
started in Park Place.'
It is hoped to obtain the Houldsworth Hall in Deansgate for future
services of the Congregation."
At the outbreak of war Rev. Gold berg had volunteered to serve as a
Chaplain to the Forces.
About this time he was called upon to take up duties in this capacity, and was anxious to do so.
In view of the synagogue's difficulties, however, the Executive felt themselves obliged to refuse
to release him, and as a compromise he became visiting chaplain to the British and American
Forces in the area. Rev. Goldberg now displayed his youthful energy in many directions. He
collected the money for six mobile canteens for the Air Raid Precautions Services, and these
were presented to the Corporations of Manchester and Salford. He initiated the local branch
of the Council of Christians and Jews, which is to-day the most important organisation in the
city for promoting inter-faith co-operation. At the request of the late Mr. Nathan Laski he
became Hon. Secretary to the Board of Guardians and (like his predecessor) was appointed
Chaplain to H.M. Prison, Strangeways, and to the Sydney Frankenburg branch of the British
Slowly but surely synagogal life started to flow again. The few young
people in the congregation
who were still in Manchester were organised into the Park Place Fellowship, which later became
the Junior Membership ; the ladies of the congregation were persuaded to restart the Dorcas
Society, under the leadership of Mrs. Phillips (widow of the Rev. Phillips) and Mrs. Goldberg,
and children's religious education was actively undertaken. Rev. Goldberg has always believed in
bringing people to the synagogue by one method or another and with this end in view he
inaugurated a Luncheon Club. This was a novel and unique idea in synagogal life, but in the eleven
years or so of its existence it has proved to be one of our most popular social activities. For
congregants to be able to come to the synagogue for luncheon (catered by the Ladies' Guild), and
at the same time to listen to an address given by a prominent local or national speaker, is but one
of the many ways in which the Rabbi fulfils his proud boast that more man-hours per week are
spent by his congregants in the synagogue than by the congregants of any other synagogue in the city.
The pulse of the congregation began to beat more strongly when in 1948
a prefabricated building
was erected on the Park Place site with money borrowed from the Lionel Blundell Building Fund.
This building fund of the congregation, which still exists, is associated with the name of Mr. Lionel
Blundell, because it was largely due to him that the site in Jacksons Row on which our present
synagogue stands was acquired by the congregation. He was also the initiator of a special fund
specifically for building the new synagogue. For the moment, however, we are more concerned
with the prefabricated building which was consecrated by the Minister and opened by Mr. Blundell,
during a week-end conference of the Association of Synagogues in Great Britain, which that year
was held in Manchester.
The building was perforce a simple structure without dignity and without
but after "seven years in the wilderness" (to quote the Rabbi) "it was like a palace." The ritual
furniture consisting of an Ark (presented by Messrs. W. Komrower and M. Wansker, in memory
of their parents), a Reading Desk (presented by Mrs. Alexander Levy, in memory of her father)
and a Lectern (presented by Mr. B. Kuit, in memory of his parents) was specially designed so
that it was movable. This was to enable the building to serve the dual purpose of a synagogue
and a community hall. Slowly it was pervaded with a new spirit engendered by the Minister and
his Executives. With a new House of Worship- albeit temporary-Rev. Goldberg began to press
for more "tradition" in the services. He met with severe opposition from many die-hards, but with
persistence he eventually managed to persuade both the congregation and his Executive the former
to join in reciting the prayers, and the latter to allow worshippers to fulfil the various Mitsvot' during
Divine Services. Children's religious education now began to proceed apace. To-day there are
over 200 children on the roll, with classes held in the synagogue and at Altrincham, and the Council
have very recently agreed to the appointment of an assistant minister and headmaster for the
Shortly after the temporary synagogue was opened, the Rev, and Mrs.
Goldberg convened a
meeting of ladies of the congregation and suggested the creation of a Ladies' Guild, for charitable
and social work, both within and without the congregation. A committee was formed, which
immediately sponsored a non-sectarian Friendship Club. At a later stage other activities were
added, and to-day it is reasonable to say that there is hardly a facet of congregational work in
which the Ladies' Guild is not intimately involved. Mention has already been made of the
Luncheon Club which could not exist without the efforts of the ladies. At the conclusion of all
children's services, which now are a regular feature in the congregation, the Guild entertains the
children at Kiddush. During the Feast of Tabernacles it has accepted responsibility for decorating
the Succah and for providing flowers on the Feast of Pentecost. Its Dorcas Society sends parcels
of clothing and knitted wear to local hospitals and to institutions in Israel. It looks after the
vestments and ornaments in the Ark, and provides flowers each week for the War Memorial in
the foyer of the Synagogue. It donated the Minister's Chair, and has provided silver for ritual use
in the synagogue. In addition to sending subscriptions to many charities, it has recently equipped
and furnished a bride's room. The activities of the Ladies' Guild are numerous indeed, and it is
impossible to assess the importance of the Guild in the life of the congregation.
The time was now approaching when the vision of a new and permanent
House of Worship
was to be realised. A plot of land became available in Jacksons Row in the very heart of the
city, and within a stone's throw from the civic centre. Since practically all monies subscribed
to the Lionel Blundell Building Fund had been utilised for the building and equipping of the
temporary synagogue, Mr. Alexander Levy kindly made available on loan, the amount
required to acquire the site. At the same time Mr. F. B. Lister, O.B.E., undertook to
negotiate with the War Damage Commission in respect of the claim for the original Park
Place Synagogue. So successful was he that a great deal of time did not elapse before he
was able to report to his executive colleagues and to the congregation that a very satisfactory
settlement had been reached. The next step was to approach the various Licensing Committees
for permits to start building. Originally the authorities refused a licence, but after further
negotiations they agreed to sanction the building of the community hall which would also have
to be used as a temporary synagogue. Two architects in the congregation, Messrs. Peter
Cummings and Eric Levy, were invited to submit plans for the new building ; these were
approved by the general body which also appointed Messrs. Alexander Levy, Albert Isaacs
and Frederick B. Lister, O.B.E. (Chairman) as a Building Committee with full powers to
The Building Committee worked hard and assiduously and on 18th May,
1952, in the presence
of a large congregation which included the civic heads of Manchester and Salford and Lord
Nathan of Churt, P.C., who was the guest of honour, the site was consecrated by the Rev. P.
Selvin Goldberg. Messrs. Alfred Gordon Cowen and Leo Rapaport cut the first ground and
two foundation stones with three names on each were laid by Messrs. A. Levy, A. Isaacs and
F. B. Lister, and by Messrs. L. Blundell, H. Opper and M. Wansker, after deeds and prayer
books had been deposited by Mr. B. Kuit (hon. solicitor). The service which followed was held
in the temporary synagogue and was conducted by Rabbis Reinhart and Van der Zyl. The
address was given by the Rev. Goldberg who, during the course of his remarks, said :
"The imposing edifice which even now is arising on its impressive site,Immediately after the foundation stone ceremony, Rev. Goldberg visited America where he
off the very main street of Manchester, is intended to be no mere
museum of antiquities, but rather a House of Living Judaism, the very
dynamic centre of Jewish religious life, whence will flow instruction
to our children, guidance to our youth, and challenge to the men and
women of our time."
On his return to England Rabbi Goldberg was greeted with the wonderful
news that, as a result
of more successful negotiations (and a change in the political situation), licences had been
granted for the entire building to be completed. A more determined effort was now made to
obtain further funds for the Lionel Blundell Building Fund Appeal. In addition to congregants
who responded, the appeal received a sum of £9,000 from the estate of the late Regina Stern
of America (her father had been an official of the synagogue during Dr. Gottheil's period of
office) and £700 from the estate of the late Martin Hershberg. The Building Committee pressed
on with their efforts and, to everybody's amazement, they were able to report to the general
body of members that the entire building would be completed in record time (it took just over
18 months to build) and that the monies from the War Damage Compensation Claim for the
Park Place Synagogue, and the Lionel Blundell Building Appeal, were sufficient to enable the
congregation to enter the new and spacious House of Worship free of all debt.
29th November, 1953, was an historic occasion in the life of the Manchester
British Jews. On that day the synagogue in Jacksons Row, Albert Square, was declared open
by Mr. Leonard Montefiore, O.B.E., in the presence of a distinguished gathering.
1953 was Coronation Year, and the Jewish community of Manchester and
Salford was honoured
by both cities having Jews as their chief citizens-Alderman Abraham Moss, J.P., M.A., the Lord
Mayor of Manchester, and Alderman Dr. J. Shlosberg, J.P., the Mayor of Salford. Both attended
in their representative capacities at the opening of the new synagogue, and took part in the service
which was conducted by Rabbis Reinhart and Van der Zyl from London. The service was relayed
to the community hall where the proceedings were in charge of the Rev. E. Cahn of Southport. In
addition to the synagogue choir, a children's choir participated in singing the musical portions of
the service. The address of Rabbi Goldberg was a clarion call to his congregants and to the entire
Jewish community of Manchester. He said :
"To our brother Jews the world over, particularly in Israel, to ourSince that day the congregation has gone from strength to strength, and now is the largest single
brethren in Anglo-Jewry and more intimately in the Manchester
Jewish community, we to-day send greetings. We pledge ourselves
to continue to work on behalf of Kelal Yisrael -the whole community
of Israel-and not for any fragment of it. We are not a new congregation,
we are an old congregation in a new synagogue, and as for well-nigh a
hundred years there has been no communal institution in this city which
has not benefited from the participation and leader- ship of members of
our movement, so likewise for the good of the community as a whole,
we are anxious and desirous of being allowed to continue. But we would
be disloyal to our own beliefs if from to-day onwards we did not call for
a more dynamic crusading spirit in Reform Judaism and among Reform
Jews. In the thinking of too many of us philanthropy or anti-defamation
has taken the place of a growing and glorious faith. God knows that
philanthropy is needed in these times, and surely any man worthy of the
name will defend himself if he is attacked. But Judaism is greater than
any of its parts. It is greater even than the sum of its parts. It is an all-
enveloping philosophy of life, a programme of feeling, of thinking, of
action, which endows us with strength and under- standing on our
journey through life, and gives meaning to our existence. We Jews
require a new awakening to meet the challenges of our fast changing
world. We need a new religious affirmation in our hearts, a faith that
may again become a living throbbing influence in our lives. We must
continue to develop Judaism as the founders of Berkeley Street and
Park Place envisioned it a hundred years ago ; as an acceptance of the
concept that each generation and each country must have a Judaism
adapted to its own needs and its own locality. The Judaism of the
ghettoes of Europe, the Judaism born of fear and persecution is not
the Judaism for a free England. We must be survivalists, not
assimilationists, in our approach. As survivalists we not only want to
help other Jews to remain Jews, we want to remain Jews ourselves
and we want our children to be Jews loyal, devoted, proud of their
Jewish heritage. As survivalists we recognise that if Jews are to survive
in England, the blessed land in which we live and in which our
descendants will live, such survival is possible only through the
synagogue and the institutions which provide the synagogue with
its leadership and organisation: As survivalists we believe that, without
Judaism, English Jews have no roots. This synagogue, therefore, will
always pray and plan for an ever more effective programme for the
present and the future. It will seek new and ever more zealous
adherents to its ranks. It will extend the hand of welcome to the
Baalei Teshoovah- the erstwhile aloof-who see again in its historic
purpose the most abiding and dynamic factor in Jewish destiny. It
will insist that Jews without Judaism are empty vessels, that Jews
outside the synagogue are, in the saintly Leo Baeck's pointed phrase,
D.P.'s-displaced persons-Jews not so much without a homeland as
without a home."
As soon as the new synagogue was opened it was obvious that, in view
of the increasing pressure
of work and activities in the congregation, extra staff was required. A secretary-reader was sought.
and once again the Congregation of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, Cheetham, provided us with an
official-Mr. Eli Levy. He took up his duties with such vigour and enthusiasm and integrated himself
so completely in the congregation that it is hard to remember when he was not with us. Although
the new synagogue is only three years old it is already too small to accommodate the growing
membership. The cultural and social events that take place in the building are supported not only
by the members but by a wide section of the Manchester Jewish Community, and these activities
are indeed numerous. A Junior Membership provides a nucleus from which future leaders of the
synagogue will emerge. A Social Circle holds functions both from cultural and entertainment points
of view and has within its framework a Musical Society which invites distinguished artists to perform
at the synagogue. The Ladies' Guild canalises the feminine energy of the congregation, especially in
charitable work of an extremely varied nature. The Friendship Club, run by the latter organisation
for elderly people regardless of creed, is one of its proud achievements. The Park Place Players
produce plays of a high standard in the community hall, which also houses a Youth Club. Adult
Education Classes and public lectures are also a regular feature of congregational life. These
organisations not only serve the congregation well, but they uphold and strengthen the hundred
years tradition of Reform Judaism in the city.
Rabbi Goldberg's unbounded energy has been the greatest single element
that has contributed to
the growth of the congregation. He is well known throughout the city, and is a popular figure.
He is regularly asked to write for local and national newspapers, he speaks at numerous non-
Jewish organisations, and is recognised in the Christian world as an expert on inter-faith work.
His efforts in this direction have resulted in visits from Christian groups to our synagogue, when
for the first time aspects of synagogal and Jewish life have been revealed in their true light to
non-Jews. Perhaps the Rabbi is at his best in the pulpit. His sermons are of an extremely high
standard and, thanks to the assistance of a magnificent choir, the services in the synagogue are
"traditional," dignified and decorous and, even more important, spiritually satisfying. It is a far cry
from the days when a young Rev. Goldberg came-unheralded and unsung-to our city. He has
seen numerous changes, many of them the product of his own personality and energy. He is,
however, not content to rest upon his laurels ; the future policy of the synagogue lies in
expansion- may he be spared for many years to witness it.
Two unique institutions in the congregation are the Sustentation Fund and the Choir.
The objects of the Sustentation Fund are to assist members of the congregation
applicants of the Jewish faith, when reduced in circumstances through misfortune, and to provide
financial assistance to applicants for the purpose of education or business or professional training.
It is controlled by an elected executive of which at the present time Mr. Lionel Blundell is
chairman, and Mr. Alexander Levy, treasurer. Its history and origins are set forth in the Rules
and Regulations by which it is governed. The following extract is taken from the Rules :
"When shortly after the consecration of the Synagogue established byThe above conditions were realised, and thus there was created within the congregation a unique
the Congregation of British Jews, on 25th March, 1858, at a meeting
held on the 11th July, 1858, the question of charity was mooted, Mr.
Henry Sigismund Straus offered to give the sum of £100 in 5%
Sardinian Bonds, with the interest they would bear, on condition
that, within five years from that date, a further £400 sterling should
be obtained from other donors, for the purpose of establishing
with the sums thus collected, a permanent and inviolable charity
fund, the annual produce of which might be devoted to works of
useful benevolence. Mr. Straus further promised to contribute an
additional sum of £25 sterling, provided the above-stated £400
were obtained within the term of five years, as above- stated.
On the same condition, Mr. H. L. Micholls promised to give £100
for the same charitable purpose."
No one who has attended Divine Service in the synagogue has failed to
pay tribute to the beautiful
singing of the choir. Since our services do not have the participation of a Chazan or Precentor, the
musical portions are sung by a mixed choir, and the congregation is privileged to have one of the
finest choirs of its type in the country. In truth, the choir has evolved throughout the years. When
the congregation first started, a number of paid singers constituted the choir. Later, members with
good singing voices were encouraged to join, and it then became a purely voluntary choir with Mr.
Buckton as choirmaster and organist. Mr. Buckton was succeeded by Mr. A. E. Sandiford, who
trained an adult choir which sang on Festivals only, and a boys' choir which sang at Sabbath
services. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the boys' choir ceased to function and the
adult choir started to sing at all Divine Services. On the retirement of Mr. Sandiford, after upwards
of thirty years devoted service, he was succeeded by Mr. H. Webster as organist and Mr. J.
Fixman as musical director.
The names of Mr. and Mrs. P. M. Quas-Cohen and Mr. and Mrs. Lionel Blundell
will always be
remembered for the inspiration and leadership they gave in developing a choir tradition. It was
largely due to their efforts that in 1926 the choir, collectively and individually, received many
awards at the Jewish Music Festival organised by the Jewish Chronicle. As a result of their
success at this Music Festival, the choir broadcast a programme of sacred music and was invited
to participate in the conduct of a Sabbath morning service at the West London Synagogue.
At the time when the religious harmony in the community was more balanced
than it is now, the
choir was invited to sing at many Orthodox synagogues whenever a special or civic service took
place. It was, furthermore, eagerly sought after to grace the procedure at wedding services.
Amongst the many services held in Orthodox synagogues in which the choir participated are the
Mayor's Sunday, 1929-Higher Broughton Synagogue.The importance to the congregation of the choir is recognised and appreciated. Annually, one of
Semi-Jubilee H.M. George V. 1935-Great Synagogue.
Memorial Service his late Majesty King George V, 1936 -Great Synagogue.
Memorial Service late Lord Rothschild, F.R.S., 1937 - Great Synagogue.
City of Manchester Centenary Service, 1938 - Great Synagogue.
At the present time it is the custom to have as chairman of the choir
a member of the congregation,
usually a past Executive officer. As far as can be ascertained the following gentlemen have served
as chairmen of the choir
At this time, as the congregation goes forward to celebrate its centenary, the opportunity hasPHILLIP MICHAEL QUAS-COHEN
Dr. BENJAMIN PORTNOY
Chairman: Mr. L. Raport.
Hon. Secretary: Mr. S. Kay.
Musical Director: Mr. J. Fixman.
Organist: Mr. H. Webstwer.
Deputy Organist Mr. H. J. Townson.
Librarian Mr. C. Kydd.
Sopranos: Mrs. J. V. Adler, Mrs. P. Block,
Mrs. D. Davies, Mrs. B. Emerson,
Mrs. M. Goldsmith, Mrs. B. Goodwin,
Miss R. Levy, Mrs. M. Moss, Mrs. H.
Rubin, Mrs. A. E. Sandiford,
Miss R. Walter.
Contraltos Mrs. S. Allen, Mrs. M. Bernstein,
Miss R. Gouldman, Mrs. F. Harris,
Mrs. N. Jackson, Mrs. H. Webster,
Mrs. J. Young.
Tenors Mr. H. Opper, Mr. C. Roy, Mr. A. Ware,
Mr. D. Rudofsky, Mr. L. Rayburn.
Mr. A. Elfin, Mr. S. Fox,
Bass Mr. H. Freedman, Mr. I. Goldburg,
Mr. L. Greenburgh, Mr. M. Nathan,
Mr. L. Salter.
It will be appreciated that if such a work were to portray in any detail
the development of our
congregation over a century it would have necessitated many months of research and a great
deal more time than was at the disposal of the writer. This small book is no more than a brief
survey, written round the lives of the men who have, throughout this period, occupied our pulpit.
Readers will have been fascinated by the completely different, and in
some cases conflicting,
attributes that were inherent in their character, and the many shades of religious opinion held by
one or another. But there has been in each of them two virtues- fearlessly to serve the Almighty
in accordance with their conscience, and to serve their fellow-men, irrespective of their religious
beliefs, or the state of their fortunes.
Herein lies the strength of our Reform Judaism to fulfil the mission
of Israel, unfettered by dogma,
to embrace all shades of opinion so long as they be free from bigotry, and thus, by steering a
middle course, to attain that sublime tolerance which is a cornerstone of the whole of our religious
teaching. It was the historian J. A. Froude who wrote "spiritual regeneration comes first, moral
after it, political and social last." The aim and object of our congregation is to provide the means
whereby this can happen and, so long as we continue on our present path, I am confident that
someone will be writing the history of our congregation on its 200th anniversary. Despite the many
hardships it has had to face, our congregation to-day is the most active in the community. Problems
remain to be faced. Thus, many of our brethren living in outlying districts who would like to worship
with us are not able to do so because of the lack of a Reform synagogue within reach of their homes.
Early attention must be devoted to this problem. Since the writing of this book was begun we have
received from Mr. Alexander Levy a magnificent gift which will be dedicated to laying the foundation
of a daughter congregation. It is therefore our hope that our movement will eventually be able to serve
every Jew and Jewess who sees in it the middle path upon which to "walk humbly with his God."