UK Jewish Museum Discovers Hidden Capsule of Documents From 1870s Showing Vibrant Sephardic Community
Builders renovating the oldest synagogue in the English city of Manchester have discovered a glass capsule filled with newspapers, synagogue records and old coins dating from the 1870s.
The finding was revealed this week by the site manager at the historic site, which has served as the Manchester Jewish Museum since 1984.
Early synagogue minutes showed records of the capsule being laid in the cornerstone of the original building around 1873.
“We were taking extra care to remove the plaque but never imagined we would find something as old as the building still intact,” Adam Brown, the site manager, told The Guardian.
“It created a lot of excitement around the site,” Brown said. “It was obvious a lot of time and effort had been spent placing the capsule all those years ago. To find it in perfect condition felt really rewarding.”
The Victorian building — Moorish in style and built by Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal — closed its doors in June 2019 for an ambitious two-year $8 million redevelopment project.
The capsule will turn a spotlight on what was once a vibrant corner of the city filled with Sephardic Jews. An interactive street map of Manchester’s historic Jewish quarter will be created in the museum’s new gallery, alongside a variety of displays that include a Russian washboard used as a cricket bat and the belongings of a Holocaust survivor who spent the war hiding in a coal cellar.
Max Dunbar — chief executive of the Manchester Jewish Museum — said the uncovering of the capsule had come “at an apt and symbolic period when millions of Jewish people around the world prepare for the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement, a reflective and thoughtful time of year when many observers look backwards as a means to move forwards.”
Dunbar added the museum staff had been “thrilled and overwhelmed by its discovery and look forward to displaying it in the new museum next spring.”