A report on the inaugural Jewish Arts Festival For All in Manchester

Hundreds  thronged to Manchester’s Jewish Museum on Sunday 2 July for the first Jewish Arts Festival For All (JAFFA).  Jews of all ages were joined by those of other faiths for a fun-filled day of food, music, art and entertainment.

The Lord Mayor of Manchester – who spent almost two hours at the festival with his wife – chose as his theme for a year that has seen the city’s emergence from the horrendous terrorist attack, “to promote community cohesion and mutual respect amongst and between the city’s diverse communities and individuals” and t was certainly in evidence on Sunday.

The mayor and mayoress of Trafford joined the museum’s regular Heritage Trail of Jewish Manchester, led by Merton Paul. And it was mainly Manchester – Jewish  Manchester – that featured in the exhibition launched by psychiatrist and artist Tony Raynes, arriving from Boston for the occasion with most of his family as entourage.

Children played happily outside on a rare sunny Mancunian day in the care of Laura Nathan and volunteers from Bnei Akivah. Inside the museum (the original sanctuary of the Sephardi shul) klezmer music from L’chaim Kapelye and the engaging music of Carol Jason’s trio interspersed entertaining talks from nutritionist Carmel Berke, Tracy Allweis and Raynes.

The audience listened enraptured to Raynes’ tales of the Manchester of his youth depicted in his paintings. His grandfather, Joseph Hyman, famously survived the Titanic disaster and recuperated from his experience in Tony’s family home. Sharing a room with his grandfather, Raynes recalled how he would daven (pray) three times a day, rocking backwards and forwards to the rhythm of the prayers.

Raynes realised that this was a therapy for PTSD. Asked  his priority, psychiatry or painting, he replied: “Both. They are intertwined.”

Throughout the day a marquee was packed with stalls, tastings and demonstrations, all co-ordinated by Marilyn Blank. Sula Leon created delicious dishes, Tomi Komoly served sweetmeats from his Hungarian grandma’s recipes, Ros Livshin enchanted with fruit carving skills and Tova Ellituv, wife of Rabbi Amir, encouraged the children to decorate cupcakes in  vibrant colours.

Despite the presence of dignitaries, including the civic heads, MP Ivan Lewis, Jewish Representative Council President Sharon Bannister, Umer Khan the community policeman chief inspector and Deputy Lord Lieutenant Martin Newman, the day was notable for the absence of formal speeches. It was to be, promised JAFFA Chair Herzl Hamburger, a day of fun and celebration, followed the next evening by a comedy night and the following Sunday (July 9) by a spectacular gala concert at the new Stoller Hall.

By Gita Conn

Find out more about JAFFA on the website: http://jewishmanchester.org/JAFFA