The Early Years – 1904 to 1966
Our Synagogue was founded on 21st March 1904 – 5 Nissan 5664. When the late Rabbi Yudelovitch left the New Shul, Cheetham Hill Road, his followers decided to form a synagogue of their own.
Rabbi Avrohom Aharon Yudelovich was born in Novardok, Russia, in 1850 and was recognised as a child prodigy. In 1871, at the age of 21, he published his first sefer Olim L’mivehan. He received semicha from Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman of Bialystok, Poland.
Rabbi Yudelovich was appointed Rabbi of the new Shul, Cheetham Hill Road, in 1898. When he left this Shul in 1904, he became the first Rabbi of the United Shul, based in Park Street Cheetham, which became the foundation of what is now Meade Hill Shul.
Such was the popularity of the learned Rabbi Yudelovich that this new Shul was always crowded. It was normal for there to be a queue on the stairs leading up to the Shul of people anxious to hear his Shabbat and Yom Tov sermons or to attend his nightly Shiurim.
In 1905 Rabbi Yudelovich became the Rov of the Broder Shul – The United Shul is a breakaway from the Broda Shul. Then in 1908, he left for America, taking the pulpit at Sharei Tefilah in Boston. He authored many seforim: sefer Teshuvat Beis Av on the Shulchan Aruch, the five-volume work called Drash Av, and other works on drush.
Rabbi Yudelovich passed away on the 5th Shevat 5690 – 3rd February 1930, survived by his wife and children.
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.
In 1907 the first Executive was formed. Those elected were: President, E. Marks, Esq. ; Warden, S.
Silverstone. Esq.; Hon. Treasurer, A. Baum. Esq. Elections took place yearly.
The synagogue’s first president was Ephraim Marks, brother of Marks and Spencer founder Michael Marks. The first Penny Bazaar was located on Robert Street at the top of Cheetham Hill Road. Michael Marks lived in Cheetham Hill and opened the first Marks and Spencer store with Thomas Spencer on Cheetham Hill Road in 1893.
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, the Shul had 208 seat holders.
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 1950s and 1960s.
In 1930, internationally renowned Solomon Stern came to the United Synagogue. Chazan Stern was a native of Czechoslovakia, and as a young child, he studied with Yossele Rosenblatt and sang solos in Rosenblatt’s choir in Muncaz. As well as having a Yeshiva education, he studied music in Kharkov and the Conservatoire in Moscow. He was appointed Chief Cantor to the Leipzig Hebrew Congregation in 1921 at the age of 27. He made a number of world tours, and in 1926 he became the Chief Cantor at the Great Synagogue of Bratislava, where he succeeded his own teacher, Rosenblatt. The Synagogue seated over 2,500 worshippers and was regularly full to capacity. It was after this that he came to the UK, where he became the Chazan of the United Synagogue. Three years later, he left for Leeds, where he remained for the rest of his career.
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.
Below is a photograph of the original Shul on Cheetham Hill Road from the online 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 a 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.
When, in 1946, Thelma Carr and Danny Mellor married at the United Synagogue on Cheetham Hill Rd in Manchester, the cameras were ready to capture this stylish post-war wedding. As the groom worked for Columbia Pictures and the bride’s close family for the Rank Organisation, it is no surprise that the event is a glamorous, sophisticated affair, and this film is a treat for wedding and fashion aficionados alike. You can see the video by clicking here.
The congregation was in its heyday in the 1930s. 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 went 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,
Moving to a New Location 1965 to 2012
The 1950s and 1960s saw the arrival of migrants from India and the Caribbean to Cheetham Hill, followed by those from Africa, Eastern Europe and the Far East, which created the diverse community which lives in Cheetham Hill today. The Jewish population started to move towards Salford and Prestwich, and so in 1965, United Synagogue decided to sell the old building (which was eventually demolished in 1998). The sale 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 in 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.”
The Cheetham congregation’s last minister, and Meade Hill Road’s first, was Chazan Alexander Zyskind Mentlik. He was born Allesandro Mentelli and hailed from Italy, where he sang opera alongside Gigli, who predicted “a great future” until the war intervened. He joined United Synagogue as chazan in 1960. Sadly, he died at the young age of 54. On Wednesday 20th June 1979, the Shul held a memorial service in his memory.
Chazan Shmuel Terry replaced Chazan Mentlik in 1979. Chazan Terry was born in November 1928 in Tel Aviv and had a Yemenite background. He trained at Jews’ College, London, under Rev. Bryll and studied opera and singing under Beniamino Gigli. He was educated at Beth Sefer Mizrachi Bazal in Tel Aviv and studied voice production in Rome. He gave concert recitals in France. When he auditioned at Jews’ College, London, he was considered to have an “exceptionally good and reasonably well–trained voice”. He had, in 1961, been admitted to Jews’ College, but his father had just died, so he had to make a trip to Israel. On his return to Jews’ College, he was asked for a testimonial in order to resume Chazanut classes, and so he produced one – from the deputy speaker of the Knesset. He held positions in South Africa, the USA, at Heaton Park Synagogue in Manchester before joining United Synagogue. He remained in position for over two decades until poor health forced him to retire. Carl Goldberg remembers, “At my late parent’s golden wedding in 1994, Chazan Terry received a standing ovation from all the guests. Everyone was delighted and spellbound with the sheer power and beauty of his singing.”
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 1990s. After a brief period without a rabbi, Rabbi Joseph Lever came to the synagogue in 1998. Rabbi Lever continued the tradition of the Shul having renowned chazonim. He would daven with such passion that it would bring tears to the eyes of all who listened. His voice ranged from the deepest bass to the highest falsetto, all note perfect. It was said that if you closed your eyes and listened to Rabbi Lever singing, it was like you had been transported to the biggest concert halls in Europe, such was the power and majesty of his voice.
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, which saw the building of the current synagogue. He proudly stayed in post for 35 years until ill health forced him to stand down in 2012.
A New Generation – 2012 until today
At the AGM in 2012 (the first AGM in over 20 years), a new executive was voted in, headed by President Colonel Martin Newman. Colonel Newman (shown right) was honoured with an MBE in 2018 for voluntary services. Amongst his many other roles, he was chair of the Jewish Committee for HM Forces. Colonel Newman transformed the experiences of Jewish personnel from a small group to a thriving network within the defence faith community. His leadership drove the reintroduction of uniformed Jewish chaplains for the first time since the 1950s, and he successfully introduced kosher ration packs
The new executive was a big change after so long under the old leadership. They looked to bring back a little of the old glory days to what was a magnificent building and a wonderful community. The task ahead of them was great. What was once the largest Shul in town had been reduced to only two services per week. Friday evenings were just managing to get enough men to make a minyan (the quorum of ten Jewish adults), and Shabbos mornings were down to 15-20 men. Shul members were down to only 140.
With the help and advice of Dayan Berger of the Manchester Beth Din, in 2014, the Shul appointed Rabbi Yanky Prijs and Rebbetzin Esti Prijs. They brought new vigour and excitement to the Shul. In November 2014, the Shul became a registered charity. Due to there being a United Synagogue already in existence, the Shul had to find an alternative name. It decided on Meade Hill Shul to reflect the Road they were on.
To celebrate the Shuls 110th anniversary in March 2014, the executive arranged the first big event in the hall for many years. Guests of honour included Councillor Michelle Wiseman, Mayor Sharon Banister, president of the Jewish Representative Council and Lorna Kay, Chairman of the Jewish Genealogical Society. Councillor Wiseman presented Reuven Wilner with the alderman of the Shul. Reuven started leining in 1932 and continued until about 2000. He was well into his 90s and also blew the shofar at the Shul.
This was the first of many successful events, including the now regular Lag B’Omer BBQ, whisky tasting evenings, Purim and Chanukah parties, plenty of kids events and Armed Forces Day but to name a few.
By 2017, as numbers started to increase, the Shul started to re-introduce many services sadly lost in the past to dwindling numbers. To recognise this growth, the
Shul was honoured to welcome Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis on Sunday 29th January 2017, for the official induction of Rabbi Yanky Prijs. This was the first Chief Rabbi in 50 years to visit our Shul. Over 150 people attended, including Dayan Berger from the Beth Din, Rabbi Simmons from Stein Court, Rabbi Walker from Heaton Park and many other Rabbonim and executives from Shuls both in and around Manchester. They were expertly entertained by our quartet of Chazonim, Martin Radnan, Simon Caplan (the son of Rev. Herschel Caplan), Alan Goodman (the son–in–law of Rev. Moshe Korn) and Menachem Leiberman.
In April 2017, the Shul was included in the Manchester Eruv. The Greater Manchester Eruv is the largest in the UK. It has a 13-mile perimeter constructed of garden walls, part of the Metrolink, and, in places where there is a gap, wire strung over the top of 8ft (2.4m) high poles. The inclusion in the Eruv breathed life into the area. The kosher butcher Vidals managed to survive in the area (sadly closed in 2022) and was joined by Boykos Deli (now Kosher City), which was made fully kosher in early 2019.
In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 virus, the Shul made a historical decision to temporarily close its doors for all services, learning and shiurim. The Chief Rabbi was closely followed by other leaders who instructed all Shul’s to close their doors and avoid direct contact. Meade Hill immediately set up many groups and forums to reach out and keep the kehila strong. We were able to re-open our doors for Shabbos 4th July 2020, albeit with social distancing.
In 2020, Shul membership rose to over 300 for the first time, reinforcing the trustees and staff’s hard work in growing the Shul.
At the AGM in May 2023, Martin Kloos stepped down as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Treasurer. He took over from Sid Huller in 2011, working alongside each president, ensuring the steady growth of the Shul. He remembers, “My first days were like stepping back in time. The office had no technology. No computer, no fax machine, no calculator or even a typewriter. My first job was to digitise the member records so we could send out a letter introducing the new executive. It was all very daunting, but I learned so much from the experience and made many amazing friends.”
As of 2023, the new trustees are looking forward to offering many new services over the coming months and years to cater for the increasing number of Jews moving into the area.