Manchester shul holds final Shabbat after 70 years

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Manchester shul holds final Shabbat after 70 years

Manchester Reform is looking for a new home after selling its building on Jackson’s Row to football pundit Gary Neville’s Relentless Group and a US investor for £15m in 2021.

The only synagogue in Manchester city centre closes its doors next week after 70 years, making way for a 41-storey tower and five-star hotel.

Manchester Reform shul, home to the second oldest Reform community in the UK, is now looking for a new home after selling its building on Jackson’s Row to England football pundit Gary Neville’s Relentless Group and a US investor for £15m in 2021.

The final Shabbat service will be this Saturday and a special de-consecration service with a procession of the Torah scrolls will take place the following day.  The 700-strong community has set up a temporary base at Manchester University’s Chaplaincy on Oxford Road, just over one mile away, while the synagogue seeks a new home for its members.

Founded in 1857, the community has been a part of Manchester life for 165 years.

Louis Rapaport, 89, synagogue trustee and past president is upset about the decision. “People active in the shul did everything they could, but at the end of the day, the thing was bigger than us and we couldn’t do anything about it. We’re now faced with leaving Jackson’s Row and deciding as a synagogue where to redevelop and what our relationships will be with the other Reform synagogues in the north and south.”

Louis and Shirley Rapaport on their wedding day at Jackson’s Row, 1st January,1957.

He takes comfort in community efforts to preserve the shul’s memorial windows and beloved Ark, which will eventually be moved to the future new site.

President of Manchester Reform, Jane Black, says the community has mixed emotions but the move “ensures that Manchester’s Reform Community will have a guaranteed long-term future.”

Principal Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen, said: “We all know that to be a Jew is to be a wanderer. And as the second oldest progressive community in the country, we know what it is to seek a new home and make an impact on the city of Manchester.  We are at such an exciting time in our community’s history – a chance to make a building which reflects the dynamism, innovation and inclusive nature of Reform Judaism.  With our great leaders, and a proud history, the next couple of years, as we leave Jackson’s Row and find a new home, is a time full of potential.’

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