BBUK Retrace the Footsteps of Chaim Weizmann in Manchester

Retracing the Footsteps of Chaim Weizmann in Manchester

Report by Eve Swabe

Commemorating a 100 Years of the Balfour Declaration, a Visit to Manchester 4 – 6 September 2017

From the germ of an idea to visit Manchester as part of BBUK’s Jewish Heritage Days to fruition, took months of planning and hard work. Having just returned from Manchester, I can report that it was an extremely successful and interesting three days. However, as with the best laid plans of mice and men, not everything went according to plan……!

Our first activity was a guided walk of Manchester city centre, when the London lodges were joined by members of Cheshire Unity Lodge. John Alker, our guide, was superb. Not only was he most knowledgeable on architecture, art, history, politics and theatre, he was also highly amusing bringing its people, the buildings and the city across the ages to life. A bonus was no rain.

After the evening meal, our speaker was Frank Adam, one of Manchester’s most knowledgeable experts on the city’s early Zionist development and the life and work of Chaim Weizmann, his talk was on Weizmann’s Chemistry.

Day two began with the most serious of our mishaps, when one of our party collapsed on entering the coach. He was taken by ambulance to the Manchester Royal Infirmary and after a raft of tests and a two nights’ stay, was fitted with a pacemaker. I am relieved and delighted to report that he is recovering well, but we had to leave him and his wife in Manchester whilst we continued our tour.

On this second busy day we began with a visit to the Manchester Jewish Museum. Susan Kay, a volunteer guide, gave an interesting explanation about the history of the museum, the origins of Manchester Jewry and we were able to view the displays in the ladies’ gallery.

Next stop was the Chemistry Department at the University of Manchester where there is a bust of Chaim Weizmann and other exhibits. This was followed by an extremely informative talk entitled, Exiled: Weizmann in Manchester given to us by Tereza Ward a final year Ph.D. student from the Jewish Studies Department of the University. This was followed by lunch in a former library of the University.

In the afternoon the coach took us to Salford Quays and had the options of visiting the Imperial War Museum North, the Lowry Centre where there is the Lowry Art Gallery or the Lowry Outlet shopping mall.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by Brian Greene from Cheshire Unity Lodge. He is one of the North West’s premier experts on Jewish popular musical culture and his audio visual talk Pop Goes the J Factor featured the Jewish influence on popular music from the 1920s to the present day.

However, before the talk another unforeseen event happened. Despite the hotel having been advised both orally and in writing that the meal choice of fish pie should contain no shellfish, it arrived with the said ‘traif’ included. Over an hour later our new fish pies arrived. Incidentally, the hotel was somewhat inefficient on a number of catering and other issues and all of our complaints are now being dealt with by the management.

Brian’s very good presentation provided us with a distraction from our hunger pangs before the ‘right’ fish pie arrived and then he continued part two when we were replete.

Day three began with a drive past some of the houses where Chaim Weizmann lived in South Manchester and then on to Altrincham to visit Dunham Massey Hall a National Trust property with a magnificent garden, deer park and a water mill.

Everyone really enjoyed the tour and for the surprise keepsake of a copy of the original Balfour letter to Lord Rothschild. Our grateful thanks must go to BBUK President Alan Miller, who organised the visit. Thanks also to Jackie Agasee from Yad B’Yad for the transport side of things, to Susan Russell for her early input in planning and to Edna Miller for ensuring no one went missing.