18. Manchester and the Six Day War (1967)

Since the Second World War, there have been many sociological and demographic changes among Manchester Jewry. The post-War generation grew up in quite different circumstances from those of their parents and grandparents. As families had prospered they had continued moving north and by the 1960s there was almost nothing left of the Jewish Quarter in Cheetham Hill and Salford. For many living in comfortable suburbs and disinterested in religious matters, identification with the young State of Israel became an increasingly common form of Jewish self-expression. Their Zionism has been described as "passive", in that few were active in Zionist associations or took part in demonstrations, although there were exceptions, of course. In October 1963, a radical Zionist organisation called Achdut (Hebrew "Unity") was formed by Aaron Abrahamson, Ralph de Groot and Norman Feingold. Primarily devoted to fund-raising and challenging public apathy, its first year report stated that membership was "open only to persons who pledge themselves to knock on doors". But this was very much an elite association, and it took exceptional circumstances to unite Manchester Jewry in a blaze of Zionist activity.

In May 1967, one such emergency occurred with the Six Day War. Immediately, a Fund was set up by the Joint Palestine Appeal, while over 600 Manchester Jews volunteered to go out to Israel to man the kibbutzim. On 1 June, a mass rally at the New Century Hall drew in over 2000 people while another 1000 simultaneously filled the Great Synagogue. In addition to the Jewish organisations, there were also representatives from churches, political parties and other interested civic bodies. A ZCC report claimed it was "the most representative gathering ever held at a Jewish occasion in this city". In response to Sir Sidney Hamburger’s appeal, over £55,000 was pledged within a half-hour period, and the final total for the Emergency Fund exceeded the original target of £1,000,000.

Jewish Agency emergency appeal in Jewish Gazette, 2 June 1967As a timely reminder of Israel’s dependence upon the Diaspora, and as confirmation of her importance in the Middle East, the Six Day War resulted in increased Zionist commitment in Manchester. The foundations for a new Mamlock House, the HQ of the ZCC, were laid in September 1968, and under the presidency of Sir Sidney Zionist policy became more proactive in public relations and countering the critics of Israel.





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IMAGE AND DOCUMENT CREDITS: Ralph de Groot (Ralph de Groot), Sidney Hamburger (M Dobkin, More Tales of Manchester Jewry) Full reference: Sources.