Our visit to the new Sephardi synagogue in Hale Barns, Shaare Sedek, was one of the most successful organised by Altrincham Interfaith Group., with over 100 people attending. It was made especially noteworthy by the warm welcome we received from Rabbi Amir Ellituv and his congregation, and the beauty of the new building which had only been open for one month. During the visit, Rabbi Amir described the history of the Sephardi Jews in Manchester and also that of the congregation in Hale Barns which resulted from the merger of two Sephardi congregations in Didsbury. Some features of the synagogue – the three everlasting lights hanging in front of the Ark, and the two beautiful stained glass windows – were originally from those synagogues. The Bimmah, or raised platform in the centre of the synagogue from where the Rabbi would address the congregation during a service, also combined features of the old synagogues, with delicately patterned metalwork. The ceiling was of special note, being gently curved with symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel depicted in the centres of many “Shields of David” in natural wood, blue paint and gold leaf.
What was striking, however, was the commonality between features here and those pertaining to the Muslim tradition – women covered their hair, worship was conducted facing Jerusalem, and the names of the great teachers from the Old Testament – Joseph, Moses etc. This was commented on by many Muslims who attended, who seemed genuinely interested in the proceedings.
We were shown around the synagogue and then treated to refreshments of delicious cakes and savouries before Azhar Rasul gave a vote of thanks, thanking the Rabbi and his congregation for a wonderful visit.