Basil Jeuda has created an exhibition showcasing the extraordinary history of Macclesfield’s Jewish community.
Macclesfield resident, Basil Jeuda, is launching ‘Macclesfield Hebrew Congregation: The Forgotten Synagogue’, an exhibition that charts the history of the town’s Jewish community.
The exhibition will run for seven weeks from 20th March to 2nd May and marks the 75th anniversary of the formation of Macclesfield Hebrew Congregation, which opened in March 1941 and closed five years later in October 1946. During the time the synagogue was open, it saw over 200 people attend services.
“There is a small number of Jews in Macclesfield today, however during the Second World War there was a community here,” says Basil, who has lived in Macclesfield since 1970 and is fascinated by the Jewish community that briefly thrived there. “The community grew during the Second World War because it was made up of evacuees from London and refugees who had left their countries in the run up to the war. I wanted to find out about what happened and from there the idea for the exhibition came about.”
The exhibition is taking place in the Georgian townhouse that once housed the shul and is made up of two parts: the first is a collection of paintings and sketches by Jules Weinberg, an evacuee from London who moved to Macclesfield in 1942, and the second is a series of display panels depicting Jewish life during the war.
There will also be a small collection of memorabilia from the time, including a roll of silk that was destined to be used for Jewish prayer shawls, which was produced by a company called Oberland Silks, a Swiss-Jewish firm that was based here in the 1930s. “The silk has been in Macclesfield Silk Museum and is fantastically preserved. I don’t believe it’s ever been displayed before,” adds Basil.
During his research into the history of the community, Basil discovered that during the war, 10 Jewish firms were established and at their peak there were between 1,400 and 1,500 employees working for these companies. Once the war was over, most of the firms returned to London, while the remaining few continued to flourish. However, it was a different story for the families that were evacuated here, as Basil explains: “Nearly all of the families returned to London after the war, which is one of the main reasons why Macclesfield Hebrew Congregation’s numbers started to fall. Of all of those that had been here, just two siblings remained: the Weinbergs. It is Jules Weinberg whose work we will be displaying during the exhibition.”
People who were part of the shul during the 1940s will be travelling from London and across the world to be at the launch of the exhibition. “I started out not knowing any of this 12 months ago,” adds Basil. “Now I’m showing everyone what was once here.”
Macclesfield Hebrew Congregation: The Forgotten Synagogue, 20th March to 2nd May, 11am-4pm, Wednesday to Sunday.