Rare Hebrew treasures saved from skip

By Jonathan Kalmus, May 24, 2012
Rabbi Saunders, right, and a volunteer

Rabbi Saunders, right, and a volunteer

Thousands of Jewish books, some over 200 years old, have been saved after being discovered by workmen in a dilapidated house.

A passer-by alerted Higher Crumpsall Synagogue last Saturday after seeing hundreds of Jewish books being thrown into a skip in Salford by workmen.

The synagogue's Rabbi Arnold Saunders investigated and found that thousands of books had been stored in the terraced house's attic and were being buried by rubble or thrown away.

The former owner had moved away but had not been able to organise the disposal of the books - mainly Hebrew religious texts including chumashim, Tanach, Talmud and rabbinic commentaries - due to illness.

The books included a copy of the Book of Job dating from 1807, a rare 19th-century sheet music volume of United Synagogue chazanut melodies, and a Torah scroll mantle.

Rabbi Saunders negotiated with the builders to clear the books in a mass operation involving 40 members of Manchester volunteer organisation Misaskim, which normally supports bereaved families at funerals and shiva houses. Owners of a Manchester refuse tip also agreed to close for two hours on Sunday while volunteers painstakingly sorted the old texts from tons of rubble from the house.

Some books are now being sold and the money will contribute to burying unsalvageable books containing God's Hebrew name. The Manchester Beth Din has donated a burial plot in Rainsough Jewish cemetery.

Rabbi Saunders paid tribute to the volunteers. "It just shows what can be achieved when everybody pulls together. When I saw how many books there were, I was stunned - it was a veritable Aladdin's cave. The thought of all these books going to a tip would have been heartbreaking."

Last updated: 2:44pm, May 24 2012