Manchester Jewish Museum opens this week – first look inside

Photo: Joel Chester Fildes
The museum’s 1874 Grade II Listed synagogue building, the city’s oldest surviving synagogue, has been fully renovated and restored
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After almost a decade of planning, two years of closure, a global pandemic and a £6 million major capital development supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Manchester Jewish Museum will be finally reopening its doors this Friday.

Located on Cheetham Hill Road, the museum tells the stories of the Jewish people and communities of Manchester; their journeys, the communities they formed, and the diverse identities they represent.

Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

The museum’s 1874 Grade II Listed synagogue building, the city’s oldest surviving synagogue, has been fully renovated and restored.

The former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue will serve both as a living artefact of a Jewish place of worship and as a stunning cultural space in which the museum will programme live events throughout the year.

A new vegetarian kosher-style café

Photo: Chris Payne

The new museum extension also includes a brand new vegetarian kosher-style café, gallery, shop, and learning studio and kitchen.

The new café will offer a welcoming home-from-home atmosphere serving a nourishing, comforting menu. Visitors to the café will experience first-hand the tasty delights of a Jewish diet whilst learning about the history and traditions of Jewish food.

Photo: Chris Payne

The majority of the food will be prepared on site using kosher, vegetarian and largely locally sourced whole-food ingredients. 

Accompanying the café is the museum’s new learning kitchen where schools and community groups will cook, bake and explore Jewish food culture together as part of the museum’s food programme.

A community-centred approach and accessibility

Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

A community-centred approach has influenced everything in the new building, from the new café and learning kitchen to a new entrance and welcome atrium.

The new extension, doubling the size of the museum, is designed by Citizens Design Bureau in collaboration with a large team of contractors, experts and external companies.

This includes All Things Studio who designed the new gallery, for the first time providing the museum with a dedicated space to showcase an extensive part of its collection of over 31,000 items.

Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

The new museum is now also fully accessible with lift access and hearing induction loops throughout the building.

The new gallery will take visitors on a journey through Manchester’s rich and diverse Jewish history, exploring universal themes of Journeys, Communities and Identities.

New design features of the gallery include a floor map of Cheetham Hill, moveable digital labels and a collection of oral histories placed throughout the gallery, telling the stories of Jewish Mancunians.

Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

Sustainable features have been carefully and sensitively integrated into both the new and the original museum buildings in order to increase longevity and reduce carbon intensity, whilst conserving and honouring its listed status.

World premiere of Laure Prouvost’s new installation

Launching as part of the re-opening is the world premiere of Turner Prize-winning artist Laure Prouvost’s new installation, co-commissioned by Manchester Jewish Museum and Manchester International Festival.

It runs as part of this year’s festival and will remain in place until October. Prouvost’s immersive installation centres around a new film which will play on a specially-designed screen suspended from the beams of the synagogue, at eye level with The Ladies’ Gallery on the first floor.

Prouvost’s film is inspired by the oral histories of the women who once attended the synagogue, sitting up in the Ladies’ Gallery, observing the service below.

Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

“Whilst just two years in the making in terms of construction and design, this redevelopment has been a long labour of love spanning almost a decade,” said CEO Max Dunbar.

“Integral to this rebuild and renovation has been a desire for the new museum to fit into its cultural landscape architecturally and to be a place to explore what connect us all.

“This was about creating a space for dialogue across difference, using the museum’s collection to spark debate and explore both shared and unique stories from diverse communities.

Photo: Chris Payne

“Creating a new and accessible entrance and launching a brand new vegetarian cafe were both key to making sure that everyone regardless of faith, background or culture would feel genuinely welcome to experience the museum in its entirety.

“We are so proud of our results and we cannot wait for everyone to come through our doors from Friday.”

Manchester Jewish Museum is open seven days a week from Friday 2nd July. The cafe is open from 10am – 4pm daily, and will be open later on Thursdays for its Thursday Lates programme of events from the autumn. Tickets are available at manchesterjewishmuseum.com.

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