This June the UK will celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The Queen is the first British monarch to celebrate her 70th year on the throne. There are lots of celebratory events planned across the UK and many people have already planned for the upcoming 4-day Bank Holiday weekend. On this occasion, Manchester Jewish Museum have decided to share the memories of the Queen’s visit to the museum twenty years ago, as part of her Golden Jubilee tour. We have also talked to Basil Jeuda, who then was the chair of the museum’s Trustees. He has shared his memories from the Queen’s visit with us.
The Queen visited the museum on Wednesday afternoon, on 24th of July 2002. She was the first reigning monarch to visit the Manchester Jewish community and was greeted by crowds of people who gathered on Cheetham Hill to give her a warm welcome. Among the 175 guests awaiting her at the museum were the representatives from the Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lytham St Annes, Southport and Blackpool as well as representatives from Orthodox and Reform congregations, school and student groups, Holocaust survivors, journalists and many more. Basil Jeuda remembers the long preparations prior to Her Royal Highness’s visit:
“The Palace authorities insisted that everything be planned in the finest detail so that Her Majesty would be aware in advance of what was going to happen. Even as she was being driven up Cheetham Hill Road en route to the Museum, the several Rabbis were discussing whether and by whom the traditional blessing of meeting Royalty be recited. The decision was made that Dayan Gavriel Krausz was to recite the Blessing and this was communicated to the Queen’s car as it travelled up Cheetham Hill Road.”
Manchester Jewish Museum wasn’t the only place to be visited by the Queen. During her Golden Jubilee tour she met with representatives of the four largest British non-Christian communities, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish, showing respect to the diversity of faiths in contemporary Britain. It took a long time to decide who, from the Jewish community in Manchester, would be chosen to meet the Queen.
One of the readers of the Jewish Telegraph, Henry Margolis, came up with the idea to invite a few people, who were not widely recognised but have significantly contributed to the Mancunian Jewish community. He called them the “unsung heroes”. The list of nominees was long and the competition for places considerable so not everyone from Henry’s list got the opportunity to meet with the Queen. The lucky ones, who were chosen for the final list, were very excited to see Her Royal Highness. The oldest guest at the event, a 100 year old Ellis Robbins from Heathlands told the Jewish Telegraph: “I was up and ready dressed at 10am this morning”.
The Queen arrived at the museum in the afternoon. She was wearing a beautiful, pale lilac coat with a matching silk hat and a classic double row of pearls. The background music at the event was played by a trio from King David High School, led by Mrs Sandra Friedman and including Lucy Glynn on flute, Melanie Warner on clarinet and Leora Caller on violin. During her visit, the Queen saw the gallery exhibition and met with museum’s staff and volunteers. She has also been shown a 150-year old Torah scroll and showed particular interest in the skills and expertise of Michael Hafner, as he skilfully transcribed it. Basil recalls one of the most emotional moments during this day:
“Various moments stood out for me. The first was when the late Rabbi Felix Carlebach, a Holocaust survivor, clasped the Queen’s hand tightly as he praised Britain for providing a haven for the Jewish community at the most dangerous time in our history.
Basil Jeuda has always been very involved in the Manchester Jewish Museum’s life. In fact, his grandparents were married in the old Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, which later became part of the museum. His great-grandfather, Mair Cohen, was for some years Secretary to the Synagogue as well as serving on its Talmud Torah Board. Two of his grandfather’s brothers were members of the Congregation when it was founded in 1874. It was him and David Arnold, then President of Manchester Jewish Representative Council, who welcomed the Queen in the museum on 24th July 2002. Here is how he remembers it:
“The Visit was an overall success, thanks to the teamwork of the Trustees, Staff, Friends, and the Community Security Trust. They all pulled together to give Her Majesty a warm Jewish Welcome.”
The photographs from Her Royal Highness’s visit as well as the old press articles, which helped us bring back this story, are now kept in Manchester Jewish Museum’s archive.