Thieves, leftists, and ramblers in study

Oddball Jews from Manchester are to be part of a £50,000 history study designed to shed light on the way the Jewish community defines itself.

The three-year project, conducted jointly with Manchester University's Centre for Jewish Studies and the Manchester Jewish Museum, has begun investigating Jewish criminals and political dissidents among mainstream historic figures.

The project won a funding grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is designed to discover how mainstream Jewish society defined itself by rejecting non-conformists.

A Cambridge graduate has been selected to work on the study, delving into 700 recorded interviews from the 1970s which form the Jewish Museum's oral histories collection.

‘Commies’ and outsiders feature in the study

Manchester historian Bill Williams, who is supervising the work, said it had already highlighted people such as Mick Jenkins, Manchester organiser for the Communist Party of Great Britain during WWII, who was noted for galvanising the far left to support the war effort. Another in the study is Benny Rothman, who famously organised the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932, a protest by ramblers in the Peak District which ended in jail sentences after violent scuffles.

It led to a major reform of countryside legislation.

Mr Williams said: "We will study the family of a Jewish criminal whose children married outside the Jewish community after their father was jailed. The study is looking at the present moment at marrying out and its significance."

Centre for Jewish Studies Professor Daniel Langton said the study was the first of its kind.

"The AHRC were very interested in funding this. It's at a time when modern society is looking at how minorities are fitting into a multiculturalism that many think is broken.

"The Jewish community is held up in Britain as an example of success in a multicultural society, but we tend to look at those it works for. But what about the people who don't fit in?"

    Last updated: 10:11am, December 31 2010