Moving times for Manchester BBC Jewish radio show

By Jonathan Kalmus, October 27, 2011
Basil Herwald and volunteer Jaymie Isaacs in their new Salford studio

Basil Herwald and volunteer Jaymie Isaacs in their new Salford studio

The BBC’s Manchester Jewish radio show celebrated 22 years on the air this week by broadcasting from its new studio at MediaCity in Salford.

Run entirely by volunteers, Jewish Citizen Manchester was originally broadcast on Sunrise, a black and ethnic community station spawned by broadcasting law changes under the Thatcher administration. But Sunrise did not last long and the show moved to the BBC.

“Sunrise wanted some token Jews on the station,” recalled programme editor Basil Herwald. “We knew the station was in trouble when we had to bring in our own toilet roll.”

The show’s founder, Ruth Kaitiff, had radio training from a degree course and £300 of Manchester Jewish Representative Council money to buy recording equipment.

She eventually persuaded the BBC to take the show, with the Jewish programme joining shows on the station for the local Irish and Chinese communities.

“While the rep council were still arguing as to whether it should be called Simcha or Mazeltov, I put together a demo tape and took it to the BBC. But they said there was no funding and told us Jews weren’t ethnic.” It took seven months of negotiations to convince the corporation.

A solicitor by day, Mr Herwald has overseen more than 1,000 weekly shows. He and Jeff Lewis present a mix of local guests and music of Jewish interest. He confesses to only one major embarrassment — introducing the “Chief Rabbit” to thousands of listeners due to a typing error in his script.

“It’s always very heartening to come across all sorts of people who listen, Jewish and non-Jewish,” he said. “Our remit was for the Jewish community but so many non-Jews have contacted us about everything from Jewish artefacts to learning about kashrut.”

Mr Lewis added: “It’s great that we are appreciated and fly the flag for the Jewish community in the north.”

Last updated: 11:28am, October 27 2011