Religious Zionist Youth Societies

Junior Section of the Young Zionist Society

The young Zionists were formed to cater for the needs of the 13-17 age range (a Senior Section included those up to 21). It had an initial membership of around 30 boys and girls reaching about 300 in its hey-day. An old member recalls, "As it was still the age of male ascendancy and as we knew no nonsense about equal opportunities, the abundance of lady members ensured that at our dances there were plenty of hands to provide adequate refreshments." They organised social events including lectures by local personalities and debates at which the young Sidney Hamburger distinguished himself. There was a dance or gramophone recital once per month, and the children also produced their own plays, sketches and musical entertainment.

The orthodox nature of the group was illustrated by one incident in particular. An old member recalls, "One of our first controversies arose over the catering. The cakes, especially the cream cakes which we all loved so well, were bought from a confectioner called Greenhalgh who was well known in Cheetham Village. Some members believed that they might contain unmentionable ingredients, while others liked the cakes so much, they were convinced that only pure butter was used. Arguments raged to and fro but finally religious virtue won the day and from then on our delicacies were supplied by Sieff’s bakery."

Following the conversion to Junior Beacons of the Order of Ancient Maccabeans, their Zionist education was aided by the fact each Beacon had its own "study circle" which met nightly to provide for the more senior members, and each had a library of Zionist literature.

Bnei Akiva

The Bnei Akiva, who catered for 8–18 year olds, were housed in premises on Singleton Road from 1945 until in July 1968 Hamburger House was opened. It became a widely used meeting place for Manchester Jewish youth.  Recently, it was rebuilt as an octagonal meeting Hall, surrounded by a library and activity rooms. Bnei Akiva was perhaps the single most significant factor encouraging the new generation of Zionist leaders to retain their bonds with Orthodox Judaism.


Bill Williams, Religion, City and Community: the Life and Times of Sir Sidney Hamburger (unpublished manuscript).

Monty Dobkin, Tales of Manchester Jewry and Manchester in the Thirties (Manchester: Neil Richardson, 1986).


Previous | Index