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  • Writer's pictureCraft Cotton Co

A visit to the Manchester Jewish Museum

We were lucky enough this week to take a visit round the newly refurbished Manchester Jewish Museum. The museum first opened in 1984, and is housed in a Grade II listed 1874 (former) Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in Cheetham Hill, one of the most diverse areas in Manchester, and where our warehouse and offices are!

The museum holds over 31,000 items in their collection, documenting the story of the Jewish migration settlement in Manchester. The aim of the museum is to connect Jewish stories to the world and our society, exploring both the differences and similarities and celebrates that which makes people unique and that which connects us all.

Here's some of our highlights:

The Hamwee family were from Aleppo in Syria. This card advertises their textile business, which was established in Manchester by Abraham Hamwee in 1876. Abraham settles in Cheetham Hill Road and his wife Reina, sons Joseph and Raphael, and daughter Esther joined him from Syria. The family exported Manchester cotton to a network of relations and friends in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.

This dress was made for Helen in 1943 by Yadwiga, a Polish maid who helped her hide in a coal cellar underneath her employer's home. Helen wore it on her weekly trips to buy bread.

When hiding in the cellar Helen wore the same clothes for months on end. You can see here the multiple attempts to mend her socks again and again.

The mass production of cheap waterproof garments in Manchester was a Jewish immigrant invention. Many companies started as small domestic workshops but by the 1890s some were major factories employing large Jewish workforces.

Joseph Mandleberg started operating in 1856 producing 'macks', which were more stylish than the previous waterproof garments. The first trademark of the company was FFO (Free From Odour) indicating a problem with earlier designs!

The Slazenger brand dates from 1881. Ralph and Albert Slazenger's family were one of the earliest Jewish families to settle in Manchester, when Mordechai Slazenger Moss, an umbrella maker, arrived from Germany in 1800.

The family became involved in tailoring and later diversified into sportswear. In 1902 Slazenger was appointed as the official supplier of balls to Wimbledon, a relationship which continues today.

Daniel Segovich (later Levy) was born in Poland and came to Manchester in the 1920s, aged 18.

He made waterproof garments in Dalton Street, Cheetham, calling his business Dannimac (from Daniel and Mackintosh).

Inspired by time in America, Daniel's son Ralph had a vision of making rainwear not just practical but also fashionable. New manufacturing techniques allowed Ralph to produce coats in lighter fabrics.

Ralph's creations featured in publications such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, modelled by fashion icons including Twiggy.

Photos of the synagogue:

This piece was made by the Manchester Jewish Museum's Womens Textile Group.

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