May 10, 2011
It is the custom that around this time of the year when our mayors change office that the Manchester Jewish Representative Council’s Honorary Officers visit and bring greetings from the Jewish Community.
Greater Manchester is divided into ten boroughs, Manchester, Salford, Bolton, Wigan, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Tameside, Stockport and Trafford and every Mayor and Lord Mayor (Lord Mayor is the mayor of a City) must be visited and they receive a kippa and a book. We visitors enjoy some light refreshments and a friendly chat for an hour at the most.
Some of the boroughs have a large Jewish population, some have a few and some have none. I decided that these visits were a total waste of my time, its half a day away from the office for each and they should come to us. Let’s give these good people a tour of our Jewish Museum, give them a seminar and a drink. All takes one half of a day, job done.
Boy was I wrong and thank goodness the elder states people of the Council told me so in words of one syllable.
I could not go to visit all the Mayors but the few that I did meet were warm and welcoming. They did know people within our community and many had intimate knowledge of our customs, challenges and view points.
As their year progressed we meet up at several different events as they become a welcome part of the scene.
The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Mark Hackett, was exceptional as we were about five visitors in number, a very large contingent, and trailed into the Mayoral parlour within the magnificent Gothic Manchester Town Hall.
Councillor Hackett greeted us and asked with warmth and clear sincerity ‘please tell me what I can do for your community’. We were put a little off guard, but he went on to explain that he was a bio chemist in his day job ( British mayors are chosen by fellow councillors not elected and serve one year) and that he was a frequent visitor to Israel and had a Jewish partner who was very active in her community.
As the year progressed we met on countless occasions and he never shied from any invitation and even found time to pop over to Israel where a full VIP visit was arranged. He was there for just four days and didn’t stop for eighteen hours each day rushing around and taking it all in.
One of the final events that he attended was our AGM last Sunday. I had my photo taken with him as I felt that he was now a close friend. And he pointed out that I can now call him by his first name and he will not desert the community that has taken this wonderful man to its heart.