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30 December 2013

Manchester, England Melting Pot of Middle Eastern and North African Jews

In the previous post on this blog it was announced that the information taken from the headstones in the Jewish section of the Southern Cemetery in Manchester, England had been added to the Knowles Collection- Jews Of The British Isles and would be updated soon. However what that information does not completely show is the incredible amount of Jewish families from areas outside the British Isles who made Manchester their home.
The areas represented include some of those with the oldest known Jewish communities in the world. Some of these were once thriving places for the Jews but now because of war and unrest the Jewish populations are not what they once were. In some cases, the clues to the families origins comes directly from the headstones, in others, a little research is needed.

EGYPT. A great example are the Jews of Egypt. The Jewish history in Egypt is one of the oldest of all communities, dating back over 2,500 years. In modern times many Jews fled to Egypt after the expulsion from Spain. The Jewish population of Egypt was over 75,000 as late as 1900.  On the headstone of Samy Sinvor (1921-2012) his birthplace is given as Cairo, Egypt. Other families in Manchester, when filling out the 1911 Census give their place of birth as Alexandria. Today, few Jews live in Egypt.

ALEPPO, SYRIA. Another old historic community, the Jews have been in Aleppo since at least the 4th century when the ancient synagogue was built. The current synagogue was originally built in the 9th century. In modern times the Jews of Aleppo were merchants who
traded throughout the world. They were known to be successful in their work. Much of this changed however in 1869 when the Suez Canal opened. This began the decline of the economic condition of the Jews. Many of the Jews began to move to Western Cities, such as Manchester.
Murad Salem (1860) and his wife Pauline (1866) were both born in Aleppo as was their oldest child Isaac. The next 2 children were born in Beirut as they made their way out of the area. In 1901 their daughter Violet became the first of their remaining 8 children to be born in the Manchester area. There are numerous families buried in Manchester who have ties to Aleppo. Names such as Abadi, Dewik and Harari are easily found, and all are prominent names from the community of Aleppo.

TUNISIA. Another ancient community, however they still had a community over 100,00 people as late as 1950. However, after Tunisia gained its independence in 1956, anti-Jewish decrees were put in place, the Jewish council was abolished and the Ancient Synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish quarters were all destroyed. During this time and in later unrest most Jews fled to Israel. Some however also
fled to cities in the west. Many settled in areas where families had settled earlier. One example of an earlier family to settle in Manchester was the family of Moise and Camille Aboud. They were both both born in Tunis as was their daughter Lucie, who was born in 1908. According to the 1911 Census of England their second child, Victoria was born in Argentina, before the family settled in Manchester.

These are but just a few of the families that have helped make the Jewish community of Manchester what it is. It truly is a place which the rich cultures of old established communities continue to thrive. In addition to these there are other families from old established beautiful areas such as Greece and Turkey. May those communities always prosper, and thanks to the people of Manchester, I am sure they will.

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