On the 4th February 1872 the growing Sephardi Jewish population in Manchester held a meeting to discuss the building of the first Sephardi synagogue in the city. A plot of land was purchased on Cheetham Hill Road and the designs of Edward Salomons were accepted.
The dedication service for Sha’are Tefillah (Gates of Prayer) was held on 6th May 1874. The community thrived and grew and by 1904 a second synagogue had to be purchased to house the South Manchester population.
The building developed to adapt to the needs of the congregation. In 1919 a plot of land was purchased behind the Synagogue for a new succah to replace the old one. This building would be permanent and would also be used as a Congregational Hall.
In 1913 Mr. Ezra Altaras, a former president of the congregation, passed away. In memory of him, his family presented a stained glass window which adorns the eastern wall of the Museum. Stimulated by his example other members also placed memorial windows in the walls of the synagogue.
By the 1970s the congregation was moving further away for the Cheetham area and the congregation of the building began to wane. The last wedding took place between Marisa Joanne Eskenazy and Warren Ian Sherman on the 28th February 1971.
At the same time a committee was formed for the Publication of the History of Manchester Jewry. They hired Bill Williams, now the Museum’s Life President, to write the history of the community. The idea of converting The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue into a museum was first broached by Werner Mayer, it’s then President in 1976.
The Jewish Heritage Committee, later Manchester Jewish Musuem’s board of trustees, was formed and launched a public appeal to raise funds for the conversion of the synagogue. In 1982 The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue moved to a new building on Moor Lane, Salford and the synagogue building was purchased for the Museum.
In 1984 after two years of conservation work, Manchester Jewish Museum opened on the Sunday 25th March. The temporary exhibition ‘The making of Manchester Museum’ was in place upstairs. The permanent exhibition gallery opened a year later.
Highlights of the Museum’s history have included visits from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, HRH the Duke of Gloucester, the Chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks and politicians from a local, national and European stage.
The Museum’s learning programme has been awarded several prestigious educational awards such as the Stanford Award on a number of occasions.