Our Synagogue was founded on 21st March 1904- 5664. When the late Rabbi Yudelovitch left the North Manchester Synagogue, his followers decided to form a synagogue of their own. With this purpose in mind, rooms were furnished as a synagogue in Park Street, Cheetham. Such was the popularity of the learned Rabbi that the Synagogue was always crowded, and it was quite usual for queues to be formed up the stairs, (the Synagogue was on the top story) by people anxious to attend his nightly shiurim and his sermons on Sabbaths and Festivals.
By 1906 it was felt that more spacious accommodation was required. It was in this year that the Cheetham Hill Road premises were acquired and the Synagogue rehoused. Those responsible for the purchase were Messrs. E. Marks, A. Baum, S. Silverstone, B. Berman and U. M. Mendelson.
The synagogue’s first president was Ephraim Marks, brother of Marks and Spencer founder Michael Marks. The first Penny Bazaar was located in Robert Street at the top of Cheetham Hill Road.
In the years between 1907 and 1921 a flourishing Chevrah Gemmorah was formed and it was also during this period that a large collection of sepharim was amassed. These sepharim were obtained mainly by presentation — donors ranging from Rabbi Yudelovitch, himself, to the ordinary layman. This resulted in the collection of an exceptionally fine library from which many prominent Rabbanim have enhanced their knowledge.
In 1915/9 we had 208 seatholders.
The first chazan to officiate was Chazan Katz who went to America in 1909. He was succeeded in 1909 by the famous Chazan Siroto, who served as First Reader from then until his death in 1926 — a period of seventeen years in all. The Chazan’s grandson. Lee Lawrence was a popular singer In the 50’s and 60’s.
The Cheetham congregation’s last minister was Chazan Alexander Mentlik. Chazan Shmuel Terry replaced Chazan Mentlik in 1984.
Below is photo of original Shul on Cheetham Hill Road, from the on-line photo records at Manchester Central Library.
The United Synagogue’s Beth Hamedrash held 700 people and was the largest Shul hall in the city. It was popular venue for simchas and meetings. In Its heyday the synagogue was so busy that a commissionaire manned the door on yomim tovim and police were on duty to shepherd crowds across Cheetham Hill Road. On Kol Nldrei entry was by ticket only.
The congregation was in its heyday in the 1930’s. The great and good flocked to the Shul for the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1954. The minister at the time was Rev S Freedberg. who also served as a mohel.
Present at the celebrations was Rabbi Julius Unsdorfer of Holy Law Synagogue. Rov Maurice Gaguine from the nearby Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. Rabbi S Rapaport from the Higher Crumpsall and Rabbi Louis Jacobs who wont on to establish the Masorti Movement from the Central Synagogue in Heywood Street. Dayan I Golditch and Dayan I J Weisz also attended. Civil dignitaries present wore Lord Mayor of Manchester Alderman Abraham Moss and Salford Alderman J Schlosberg,
The old synagogue was sold in 1965. This was arranged by Mr Abrams who sold the premises on Cheetham Hill Rd and arranged the purchase of the present site on Meade Hill Road. The site was formerly a pig farm and the farmer lowered the price as the use was to be for prayer.
Michael Rappaport remembers “My grandfather arranged the bridging loan from Mr Baker as the sale took a long time and the need for the Shul in the new neighbourhood was great. The first Barmitzvah (Mark Perner ) in the current premises was March 1969. I was Barmitzvah in the May and had my first Aliyah on the Thursday in the old Shul, so for a short while both premises were in use. I cannot recall if the new Shul was in use for the previous Yamin Naraim.”
In 2004, one of the congregation’s oldest members was 81-year-old Leslie Isaacs, whose father Barnett Isaacs donated the chandelier above the ark In the Cheetham Hill Synagogue. Barnett’s name is remembered on a lectern in the current Shul. Leslie was barmitzvah at the Shul in 1936. He recalls: “The voices of Chazan Stern and his sons singing in the choir is my lasting memory. The bass singer in the choir (Rothbaum) was a Hebrew teacher at the Jews’ Shul. Leslie’s elder son Anthony was one of the last boys to be barmitzvah in the old Shul. He remembers the head of the Talmud Torah. Dr IW Slotki addressing the barmitzvah. Younger son Steven was barmitzvah at Meade Hill Road. Looking back to the Shul’s glory days before the war Leslie says: “The Shul was always full. Because we were poor we sat at the back.” Because there were so many Shuls In Cheetham Hill Leslie said that it was like a “football match” after Yom Kippur as worshippers emerged from all the synagogues en-mass.
Rabbi I Freedman was the first minister at the Meade Hill Road premises and remained in office from 1965 until his death in the early 1990’s. Rabbi Joseph Lever came to the synagogue in 1998.
When Sidney Huller first became involved In the Shul the building was a large wooden structure. He raised funds and with a loan from the late Morris Baker, saw to the building of the current synagogue. He proudly stayed in post for 35 years until ill health meant he had to stand down in 2012.
At the AGM in 2012 (the first AGM in over 20 years) we voted in a new executive, a big change after so long under the old. The new executive are looking to bring back a little of the old glory days to what is a magnificent building and a wonderful community.
In 2014 Rabbi Yanky Prijs started as Community Rabbi working along side Rabbi Lever.