Chief is bullish on Manchester’s future

By Jonathan Kalmus, February 12, 2009

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks has predicted a rosy future for Manchester Jewry despite the large-scale migration of younger community members.

Interviewed on Saturday evening before participating in a question-and-answer session in support of South Manchester Synagogue’s youth projects, Sir Jonathan argued that in some respects Manchester Jewry was stronger than the capital’s community.

“Don’t assume they don’t have enough numbers. There is a very high take-up of Jewish schools, a cohesion not often found in London, and people are getting more committed every year. In the 1940s, historian Cecil Roth predicted there would be no Anglo-Jews by 1960. We can never predict the Jewish people.”

But the Chief Rabbi accepted that only the strictly Orthodox community was countering the demographic decline. Research by Manchester University last year suggested that three-in-four of Jewish babies nationally were born to Charedi families. Charedim account for just under one-third of Manchester’s estimated 28,000 Jewish population.

In his address to the 180-strong audience in Bowdon, he said that focusing on similarities, rather than differences, with the Charedi community was the way forward.

“Their values are our values, their Shulchan Aruch [code of Jewish law] is our Shulchan Aruch. They just take it a little further than we do. We’ve moved away from the terrible conflicts with the Reform community of 10 years ago. Relationships are better than they ever have been.”

Asked about the more extreme reactions In Britain to Israel’s Gaza operation, Sir Jonathan believed that antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment would pass.

“People will realise why Israel acted as it did. Meanwhile, it will be uncomfortable to be Jewish.”

Responding to a question on if the credit crunch was all bad news, he quoted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s saying: “Never allow a crisis to go to waste”. It was a time to appreciate that happiness comes from what we give, not what we have.

During a weekend visit with Lady Sacks, Sir Jonathan also addressed North Manchester’s Stenecourt and Holy Law Synagogues on Shabbat, dedicated 25 memorial windows at the Hillock Hebrew Congregation in Whitefield on Sunday and spoke at Blackpool Hebrew Congregation.

Last updated: 3:57pm, July 23 2009