Fears for future as Mamlock groups disperse

By Jonathan Kalmus, September 3, 2010

Hopes for a new communal building to house Manchester Zionist organisations have been dashed as former users of UJIA's Mamlock House disperse to separate locations.

UJIA's sale of the dilapidated north Manchester premises - which have been at the centre of local pro-Israel activity for nearly 50 years - was intended to save £50,000 annually in running costs. A number of parties have expressed interest in the site.

But the move has angered some charities, who fear that the anticipated £500,000 from the sale will not be ploughed back into community assets. There is also a feeling that pro-Israel campaigning will be weakened by the charities not being under the same roof.

Manchester Magen David Adom's Richard Simon said UJIA had rejected a proposal to expand Manchester Maccabi as a new community hub for the charities. "There will be no central location and we are not likely to ever get it back again.

"We needed £250,000 from the proceeds of the sale to pay for redevelopment. We have no idea what UJIA are going to do with the money."

Zionist Central Council president David Berkley said UJIA had agreed to ring-fence funds for a "community project" - but not a fully-fledged community centre. It was likely to incorporate ZCC offices at either Bnei Akiva or Maccabi premises. The ZCC enjoyed free accommodation at Mamlock as part of an historic agreement and could not take on extra costs.

"There is a need for a centralised body where all Zionist organisations can campaign effectively in a manner that can address the constant efforts of those who are [Israel's] detractors," Mr Berkley said.

UJIA has completed its transfer to Altrincham in south Manchester. For the moment, ZCC is operating from Bnei Akiva's Salford base. MDA has moved to offices in Whitefield and the Jewish Agency and Wizo have gone to Prestwich locations. JNF announced the closure of its offices.

This week, the Israel Information Centre relocated to the Nicky Alliance Centre. IIC director Doreen Gerson does not believe the moves will hamper pro-Israel campaigns but feels Manchester "should have a major community centre with all the offices and facilities for events. One would hope that would materialise in the future."

Manchester UJIA chair Keith Black said the proposed community scheme would take up to three years to come to fruition. "The sale of Mamlock is not going to pay for a large community centre," he stressed.

Last updated: 10:02am, September 3 2010