Joseph Massel

Joseph Massel was born in Russia in 1850 and emigrated to Manchester in 1895 where he worked as a printer. He was very much a pioneer in the promotion of Hebrew as the national language, publishing works by Israel Cohen and Harry Sacher among others. Along with his propaganda activities he wrote Hebrew poems and translated English classics into Hebrew, including Milton’s Samon Agonistes, Longfellow’s Judas Maccabaeus and Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam. He also spent two years preparing a unique collection of 94 portraits called a Gallery of Hebrew Poets; 1725–1903. Massel was very much an Anglophile, and wrote a poem for Queen Victoria and an ‘Ode on the Coronation of King Edward VII’ (1902) which, the title page informs us, was "Composed in Hebrew and Translated into Jargon by Joseph Massel."

By the time Weizmann arrived in 1904, Massel was living in a small street of the lower end of Cheetham Hill Road, across from Red Bank and not far from the Central Synagogue. Very much part of Manchester’s Zionist community, he had been a vice-president of the Manchester Zionist Association (MZA) when Dreyfus had amalgamated the various societies in 1902, and by this stage become president of the MZA himself. Massel had attended the First Zionist Congress (Basle, 1897) and had probably met Weizmann at the Second Zionist Congress (Basle, 1898). Showing hospitality that Weizmann never forgot, he collected him from the train station, put him up for the night and helped find accommodation for him the next day. Over the following years, it was the Massel household where Weizmann felt most comfortable, and he tended to visit them on Saturdays and also the Jewish holidays.


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