The blog has been inundated with travel posts recently and I love it! You don’t realise all the brilliant places you visit until you do something like this and write about them all, but as it’s armistice day and we’re commemorating the lives of those lost in all global conflicts, I thought it would be fitting to talk about the Jewish Museum we visited in October when we went back to Manchester for a week. Thankfully the museum focused on a lot of very interesting local history and how Jewish families ended up settling in Manchester, so we can talk about (kind of) happier times here, either way, this museum is beautiful and fascinating and I can’t wait to share it with you!
So, first of all, I want to talk more about the building itself because I’m sure you’ll agree, it looks incredible! I spent 2 and a half years living in Manchester and going past (what was to be) the Jewish museum on a weekly basis and back then it was still a beautiful stained glass synagogue but it was falling into disrepair and I assumed it would always stay that way, but thankfully not! Due to a £6 million grant from Arts Council England, Heritage Fund, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and Manchester City Council over the last couple of years, work was able to begin to restore this 1870s synagogue back to its former glory. Now of course they were able to restore the synagogue (which I stupidly didn't take a picture of from the outside) but the majority of the money went towards building the extension that you see in the picture that houses the main museum artefacts, gift shop and a fully vegetarian cafe!
Upstairs in the main part of the museum, they have over 30,000 artefacts on display that range from personal items of people who traveled over from mainland Europe, local Jewish business memorabilia as well as artefacts from the original building itself. The refurbishment has been done to such a high standard and you can move freely between each part of the museum to take in what you want to see at your own pace, there's no set way to view the items you can just appreciate what's on display.
After viewing the museum you enter into the synagogue, although this is no longer a working synagogue it is still a beautiful, peaceful place for everyone to enjoy. There are speakers around the top row of seats that re-create the conversations and general life you would have heard from up there and down below in the main area the speakers recreate Hebrew services and Torah readings. What I loved most about this part is that nothing was off-limits, you could see and touch everything and get a real appreciation for what a central part of the community this must have been. I visited with my partner, his mum, and his nana, his nana and her side of the family are Jewish so it was quite moving to see how much she was enjoying the museum and how much it meant to have this huge piece of history now available to her.
But now I want to make one final special mention about their cafe and some more creative things they’ve got going on. I couldn’t tell you how excited I was when my partner's mum told me the cafe was vegetarian and although we didn't eat there I did take a picture of the menu for you to see and I think you’ll agree it looks so good!
I really wanted to try the Not-Salmon and Vegan Cream Cheese Bagels as well as the Vegetarian Cholent with Challah Bread…there's always next time though! Anyway, onto even more exciting things. As we know the synagogue isn’t being used traditionally, they haven’t let the space go to waste, it's now being used as a live events space for music, art, and theatre performances from performers with Jewish heritage! We had a look at the event guide and there was so much going on, unfortunately, we just didn't get time to go but there were lots of different performances ranging from poetry, comedy to a lady who recites her family cultural heritage whilst knitting on a large scale (that's what I wanted to see), the ticket prices were extremely reasonable and I would definitely make an effort to go back and watch something the next time we’re there.
And that was my write-up for the Manchester Jewish Museum, I love a museum on the best of days but this one is truly special and I know I will visit time and time again. The entry ticket prices were very reasonable and they have great accessibility access throughout the entire building so everyone can enjoy it. They also have a brilliant gift shop with loads of Jewish baking/cooking books, I bought one for myself that will be used on the blog in time so look out for it!
If you find yourself in Manchester I would definitely try and make time to visit the Jewish Museum, it’s a lovely experience and one I know we all would appreciate and respect, but I can’t wait to go back and watch some performances!
I hope you find time to take your 2 mins silence today, we do it at 11 AM here in the UK but if you aren’t awake then you can still sit peacefully and reflectively for 2 minutes at any time just to remember those who gave their lives for the freedoms and tolerance we have today.