15. Zionist Youth Movements

Zionism in Manchester was always a family affair, and youth groups were established from early on to encourage a communal Zionist spirit in the young, and to counter-act the drift away from Judaism. There were gatherings of "Young Zionists" from as early as 1898, a Junior branch of the MZA was certainly in existence by 1907, and there was a meeting for a Girls’ Zionist League in 1910. The different youth groups reflected different philosophies within Zionism itself, and there were eventually societies for Young Mizrachi, Young Poale Zion, and Ziona (the youth wing of WIZO).

A well known example was the Junior Section of the Manchester Young Zionist Society, formed in 1927, which was orthodox in practice. In addition to various social activities, serious Zionist education was provided by, among others, Nachum I Adler, a veteran of the movement who had known many of the early founding fathers. There were lectures by local personalities and regular debates, and the Society also organised Jewish National Fund (JNF) box placing drives, encouraged the learning of Hebrew, and provided a primer on Zionism. About ten years later, it was transformed into a junior branch of the Order of Ancient Maccabeans, known as the Rehovoth Beacon, with Sidney Hamburger as its first Commander. The rubric required each member

"to assist in every way possible the return of the Jewish People to our ancient homeland in Palestine... to endeavour by all the means in our possession, personally and generally to preserve the name of Jew from all stain."

Another branch called the Modin Beacon was created soon after, while in a new outer suburb at Sedgely Park, a similar Young Zionist Society, called Hatikvah (Hebrew "Hope"), was formed in 1932 by Michael Fidler. In 1931, Marie Polinsky had founded the first group of Manchester Habonim (Hebrew "the Builders"), which tended to attract less orthodox members.

One of the lesser known youth groups was Socialist. The Hechalutz (Hebrew "Pioneers") was founded about 1933 by a group of 10-12 left-wing Zionists. These youngsters were called "meshugoyim" (crazy ones) by the ordinary Jews, while older Zionists argued with them when they delivered their socialist-style leaflets. It was followed by a less extremist group, Young Poale Zion, which was established in Manchester sometime around 1938/39.

Foreshadowed by a Young Mizrachi group formed by Rabbi Israel Yoffey many years before, youth Zionism with a strong religious bias was revitalised in 1942. At this time a Manchester branch of Bnei Akiva (Hebrew "Sons of Akiva") was formed, being the youth wing of what was known as the Bachad Fellowship. (Both these were affiliated to the religious Zionist co-ordinating body, the Mizrachi). Concerned to promote Hebrew, Orthodox Judaism and Zionist history, Bnei Akiva has done much to encourage the trend in Manchester towards greater Orthodoxy, especially marked since the Six Day War.

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IMAGE AND DOCUMENT CREDITS: NI Adler (© Manchester Jewish Museum), M Fidler (M Dobkin, More Tales of Manchester Jewry), Marie Polinsky (L Harris, From Manchester to Jerusalem) Full reference: Sources.