Major review of Manchester Jewry finds need for greater collaboration with the city's fast-growing Charedi population

Independent research commissioned by the Jewish Representative Council shows that the community faces challenges in welfare provision, housing and integration


An independent report on the state of Manchester Jewry has highlighted the needs of the city’s Charedi population and the importance of greater collaboration with the mainstream Jewish community.

The detailed “mapping” research was commissioned by the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and the Jewish Leadership Council, in conjunction with the Bury, Salford, Manchester and Trafford councils to assess communal infrastructure across the four boroughs.

Conducted by Mobilise — whose goal is to strengthen relations between people and public services — it covered provision across the age spectrum, employment, emergency response and housing. Its 81-page findings were published this week.

The authors noted that based on 2021 Census figures, the Greater Manchester Jewish population is just over 28,000, a 12 per cent increase on 2011.The true figure could be significantly higher, allowing for the under-reporting of local Charedim. Even so, in the Strictly Orthodox stronghold of Salford, the census recorded a 35 per cent rise in Jewish population to almost 10,400.

Having identified 91 organisations working with children and young people, Mobilise found a divergence of opinion on whether so many were necessary. “Some question the need for such a plethora of organisations. Others suggest that rationalisation would occur naturally if sufficient demand didn’t exist.”

One factor behind the high number was that Charedim required culturally sensitive services, often preferring an organisation within their own community.

On adult provision, it was queried if it was sustainable in the long term for three organisations to offer supported living for those with mild to moderate learning difficulties.

And although Manchester Jewry’s main welfare provider, The Fed, served one in seven Greater Manchester homes, there were questions about how well it worked with the Charedi community.

Another issue which particularly impacted the Strictly Orthodox was affordable property. The Agudas Israel Housing Association is the major Jewish social housing provider in Manchester with 126 homes, mostly in Salford. However, organisations reported a shortage of social housing “due to the challenges of an overheated housing market and [because] higher demand in Jewish areas impacts prices”.

There were also claims of a lack of affordable housing for young people and single parents and options for older people looking to downsize but not wanting sheltered accommodation. “It was suggested that Manchester could up its game and some look enviously at the progress Leeds Jewish Housing Association has made.

“More could be done to understand where working together could help realise further investment.

“There was a suggestion that the community could work together to build a package for young people wishing to settle or return to Greater Manchester with housing, lower priced synagogue membership and encouragement to get involved in volunteering or leadership.”

The authors reported that a common complaint was that Charedim were happy to use mainstream services but would never help fund them. An alternative opinion was that mainstream community members would use Charedi services but were reluctant to acknowledge that they did.

But there were times when Charedim only felt comfortable accessing Charedi services. An example was the pandemic, when vaccination take-up was low until Hatzola organised vaccination centres.

It was advocated that where organisations served all sections of Manchester Jewry, their leadership should reflect that.

There was also the potential for a model of “separated integration”, for instance, a Strictly Orthodox care home housed within The Fed’s Heathlands complex, perhaps in partnership with an existing Charedi organisation.

The largest organisations, such as the Fed, could show that they “welcome specialist providers by stepping back from delivery in those areas and supporting strong referral and partnering arrangements”.

Going forward, core areas to focus on included reducing duplication and supporting rationalisation opportunities, helping mainstream charities prepare for the changing demographics of the community and assisting Charedi groups to cater for their future needs.

A “Working Together” campaign could be designed to demonstrate “that there is more cross-communal service provision than is perceived and that there should no barriers to funding, volunteering, or working for organisations in any part of the community”.

Rep council chief executive Marc Levy told the JC that it had been important to have “completely independent” research from outside the community. Although the findings would be “challenging for certain people”, the Jewish Strategic Group, representing the breadth of local activity, would take things forward.

“We are truly blessed to have the most wonderful charities working across our community,” he added. “The report is designed to drive co-ordination and enhance their efforts in continuing to care for vulnerable people.

“It’s a wonderful thing that the community is growing exponentially. It’s now about continuing to build proper relationships.”

There were already numerous examples — “you don’t have to keep Shabbat for Hatzola to help you. Working together is critical going forward.”

Welcoming the report, The Fed’s CEO, Mark Cunningham, said “changes in demographics and the future needs of the community are the greatest priorities. The question is how we deliver on these priorities and align our plans and strategies, rather than have them overlap and risk wasting precious communal resources.

“We have step-ped away from several areas of service delivery in favour of other organisations with more specialist skills taking the lead.

“But as the report highlights, it is harder for smaller organisations to provide all the services needed, deal with the regulatory requirements and be able to raise the necessary additional funds.

“I am very interested in proposals that will support any new model of service delivery.”

He added: “The future development and sustainability of residential and nursing care is a huge issue, especially given the number of Jewish care homes that have closed in the last 24 months. It’s an issue that has to be acknowledged and the funding realities faced.”

Overall, the report represented “a great opportunity to address some of the elephants in the room and develop a collaborative approach to the challenges we all face in Greater Manchester”.

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