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A more sustainable Manchester Jewish Museum – COP26 update

Manchester Jewish Museum at dusk, Joel Chester Fildes, 2021

We have been working with BuroHappold, Carbon Literacy Project and Museums Development NorthWest to build a more sustainable Manchester Jewish Museum for future generations to enjoy.

On Thursday 4 November we were proud to speak at The Carbon Literacy Project’s Museum Sector Day as part of the COP26 Conference, working with Museum Development NorthWest to broadcast how museums are taking action against climate change. The Climate Crisis is something that is all our responsibility to tackle, let’s act whilst we can.

Our Chief Executive Max talks about how we have worked with BuroHappold to make sure sustainability has been built into our new museum, and how our new vegetarian, locally-sourced café has sustainability at its heart.

Carbon Literacy Project (who are one of Museum Development NorthWest’s Roots and Branches partners) were invited by the United Nations as an official observer organisation, and used the opportunity to showcase all the different action that’s happening on climate change.

On each day of the COP conference CLP highlighted each of the different sectors they work with, including local authorities, universities, social housing, automotive industry, communities and corporates. On Thursday 4 November shone a spotlight on museums and galleries and how they are responding to climate change.

You can watch the full recordings for the day (including our friends at HOME, Manchester Museum and The Whitworth) on the Museum Development NorthWest channel here:


After almost a decade of planning and two years of closure, Manchester Jewish Museum reopened our doors on Friday, 2 July 2021. Our new museum explores universal experiences of journeys, communities and identities from the perspective of Manchester’s Jewish history.

Our redevelopment saw not only the restoration of our Grade II* listed Spanish and Portuguese synagogue and the building of a brand new extension, but also a commitment to becoming a more sustainable building. As Manchester seeks to become a zero carbon city by 2038, the repurposing of existing buildings has become an essential part of the city’s sustainable strategy. Before redevelopment Manchester Jewish Museum was on a path to decline; thermally leaky, expensive to run and in need of roof reparations. Demolition was not an option due to our synagogue’s listed status and our cultural significance to the city, so the revitalisation of our building was essential to ensuring we will still be here for future generations to connect with Manchester’s Jewish history.

To achieve our ambitions to become a more sustainable museum we worked very closely with structural and services engineering experts Buro Happold to reduce the environmental impact of our building. Now despite the museum doubling in size with the new extension, our overall energy use and carbon impact has been reduced by around 20%. The embodied carbon impact of the project is some 250 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent less than if the museum had been rebuilt in its entirety.

Manchester Jewish Museum Synagogue, Joel Chester Fildes 2021

Most significant in energy reduction is the retention and re-use of the synagogue. To improve the energy efficiency of the building a high performance insulation quilt has been introduced into the old roof and the excavated ground beneath the extension has been used to create a thermally massive double floor slab to pre-heat and naturally ventilate the building. The old Victorian sunburners in the ceiling have been repurposed as natural ventilation extracts and old radiators removed and replaced by heating elements hidden beneath the pews. Our atrium and public spaces in our new extension have automatically controlled natural ventilation.

Having worked on a great number of listed buildings, Buro Happold’s engineers understood the tight constraints of developing a historic building. In addition, the synagogue building presented unique challenges, including preserving the unique architectural motifs of the building and creating new spaces within the existing footprint. They also had to preserve an oak roof structure that was on the verge of falling, rectify water leaks in the basement, and upgrade the heating system within the synagogue, all within a limited budget.

Our Chief Executive Max Dunbar said “The work Buro Happold and all our contractors has done has been phenomenal and we now have a building which is welcoming, impressive and fit for purpose. Structurally integrating new systems into a historic building has been no easy feat but will ensure our beautiful synagogue has a long and sustainable future which we can share with many visitors and audiences in the years to come.”

Andrew Wylie, Partner at Buro Happold, structural and services engineering added, “It has been a real privilege to work with Manchester Jewish Museum to help them transform their museum. Through a fabric first renovation approach and by installing efficient heating and ventilation systems, the carbon footprint of the museum will be greatly improved. The new education, dining and catering spaces as well as the sensitively restored synagogue will help the museum broaden their engagement and deliver their mission. Bringing people together to learn, socialise and to be entertained is so crucial at this time and I am confident that the transformed building brings delight and pleasure to all who visit.”

As part of our redevelopment, we also opened a new vegetarian kosher-style café. Our new café serves a contemporary vegetarian kosher-style* menu using
local produce and authentic Jewish and vegetarian ingredients. Our menu is designed to be a discovery of traditional meets innovative, providing a flavour of Jewish heritage. By offering a vegetarian and vegan menu and using ethically sourced local suppliers we seek to be sustainable whilst providing great value-for-money and an excellent customer experience.


“With this album I celebrate women and mothers, the real creators of life!” – Interview with Noga Ritter ahead of her concert at Manchester Jewish Museum

On Mother’s Day, Sunday, 10 March, Manchester Jewish Museum will welcome Noga Ritter, an Israel-born, London-based eclectic singer-songwriter, for a performance in the museum’s 150-year-old Spanish & Portuguese synagogue. Noga’s new album “Ima” (Hebrew for “mother”) is her debut solo album, dedicated to the artist’s mother, “a healer, mover and true artist”.

Our Chanukah Appeal

On behalf of the whole museum team, we'd like to wish you a peaceful holiday season and a happy Chanukah. Your support in these difficult times has been more important than ever and in this article we’re sharing details of how you can help us continue our important work. Also, be sure to read to the end for a sneak peak of our exciting plans for our 150th anniversary in 2024! 

“I feel that this is an international story and the pictures are something that everyone can respond to” – interview with Peter Stein

On Sunday, 3 December, we invite our audiences for the final show of our Synagogue Nights season: the Manchester premiere of the award-winning documentary film "Out of Exile. The Photography of Fred Stein". In this interview we talked to the movie's director, Peter Stein about telling stories through film, music and what we can take away from the Fred Stein's story.