THERE is a proverb which says “from little acorns do mighty oaks grow”. And nowhere does it apply more aptly than at Cheshire’s Yeshurun Hebrew Congregation.
The Gatley-based synagogue this year marks its 55th anniversary.
And to celebrate it, the shul will hold three events.
The first is a show called Odd Socks on February 3 and 4.
Already a sell-out for the first night and two-thirds full for the second, it is performed by Cheadle-raised pianist and singer-songwriter Martin Kaye, whose family has a long history with the shul.
Best known for his performances as Jerry Lee Lewis in the hugely-popular Million Dollar Quartet, which played in Las Vegas and across America and the UK, Odd Socks is an autobiographical show, starting with Martin’s childhood when he first learned the piano.
The shul has hired a grand piano for the shows and Martin will be backed by six musicians.
Yeshurun’s second celebratory event will take place on Sunday, May 13 — Yom Yerushalayim.
It will be a vintage afternoon tea at the shul.
Entertainment will be provided by the Carlton Ensemble string quartet, led by Yeshurun member Fay Wertheimer.
And, to round off the anniversary, an emerald gala dinner will take place at the shul on Friday, December 7.
Events committee chairman Tony Kaye, who is Martin’s father, said: “This year is a momentous time for our community.
“We had a massive celebration when we marked our 50th anniversary, including a visit from the Chief Rabbi.
“Fifty and 60 are the big anniversaries, but my philosophy is to celebrate everything in life.
“Towards last autumn, the committee met to try and think of the next events we wanted to do.
“We realised that 2018 would be our 55th anniversary, so we thought, ‘Why not go for it, big time?’. It generated a whole lot of excitement which was perhaps, unexpected.
“We have started to produce an anniversary brochure and the response and enthusiasm for it has blown us away.”
Martin said he was delighted to return to the shul.
He explained: “Even though I have been going to Yeshurun since I was six, the shul has been significant to our family long before that.
“My grandma, Leila Glancy, and my late grandpa, Clifford Glancy, were founding members, and my mum, Lesley, who had her batmitzvah there, has being going to Yeshurun since she was three.
“Even though my brother and I have now moved away from Manchester, we used to sit right underneath the tapestry that my Grandpa Clifford donated.”
Mr Kaye, a former chairman of the shul, believes big things are happening at Yeshurun.
He added: “There can be a perception that everything in south Manchester is happening in Hale and Bowdon, but we are still thriving.” Mr Kaye was full of praise for the shul’s minister Rabbi Chanan Atlas and his wife, Nechama.
“They are the perfect shidduch for our community and their philosophy is just right for us,” Mr Kaye said. “We have been very lucky with them.”
Israel-raised Rabbi Atlas explained that a number of things made Yeshurun special.
He said: “Firstly, there is our inclusivity — we have a wide range of people and they all feel at home here.
“Our environment is very non-judgemental and we are a community which attracts good, quality people.
“As we are not within a main Jewish area, it allows us to adapt to our own special character.
“I have a strong will to meet the challenges here, move forward and take Yeshurun into the next century and millennia.”
From the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was an influx of young, newly-married Jewish couples from north Manchester who were settling in the Cheadle and Gatley areas.
At the time, the only shul in the area was the Northenden and Gatley Hebrew Congregation, which was on the site of what is now the Menorah Synagogue (Cheshire Reform).
By 1962, the number of Jewish couples had grown to such an extent that the idea of a new shul was generated.
A committee was formed a year later, comprising Jack Barsh, Mark Bernstein, Gordon Davies, Sydney Friedland, Clifford Glancy, Barry Halpern, Philip Kanas, Yitz Jaffe, Alan Rein, Abe Rhodes and Harold Solomons.
Together, they founded the Yeshurun Hebrew Congregation.
A house called Chaseley, at the corner of Gatley Road and Kingsway, was bought for use by the new congregation.
The original house is still part of the shul complex today.
For the High Holy Days of 1963, Yeshurun invited Northenden members to join them for its inaugural services.
Rabbi E S Rabinowitz was appointed the community’s first minister in 1965 and remained until 1977..
There have been just four ministers since his retirement — his son Rabbi Benjamin Rabinowitz, Dr Alan Unterman, Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz and current incumbent Rabbi Atlas.
As so many of its members had moved to the Cheadle and Gatley area that in 1966 Stockport Synagogue merged with Yeshurun.
And the synagogue’s nursery was formed in the same year.
In the early days, services were held in the Chaseley house, but as membership grew, services for the High Holy Days were held at the Tatton cinema in Gatley and in a large marquee within the grounds.
In 1968, the main entrance was re-sited in Coniston Road and the present complex — consisting of the synagogue, the Radiven Hall and classrooms — were built.
Today, there are many regular activities within the shul.
They include Yeshurun Women in Judaism, a group set up in 1990 by like-minded ladies with a modern Orthodox perspective who were looking to address women’s concerns and issues within the Yeshurun community while working within halacha
The Tefillah group, open to all women, holds a Shabbat service for women in the synagogue around three times a year.
On three recent occasions, in the presence of the women of the congregation, the batmitzvah girl has lehened part or all of the weekly sedra and haftorah.
There is also a daily daf yomi shiur at 6.30am, run by Rabbi Atlas, a Seed educational programme every Monday night, a Breakfast with Judges shiur every Thursday morning and the Yeshmud educational programme, which is a Limmud-style of learning over several weeks in winter.
A gentlemen’s discussion group from various shuls takes place every Thursday morning, while the shul’s Coffee, Bagel and Chat event takes place around every six weeks with a guest speaker.
The annual Yeshurun camping trip is led by Rabbi Atlas and Nechama when around 60 shul members camp in the Lancashire countryside.
Yeshurun’s book club — named after Julia Segar, one of its founder members — meets to discuss a variety of tomes, while there is youth beit midrash for boys and girls aged 9-13 every Sunday afternoon after ma’ariv.
The Guild — formerly the Ladies Guild — organises the shul’s weekly kiddushim, fundraising events and activities, while Yeshurun Liaison is an in-house support group made up of volunteers who offer support for a range of needs, including visiting, hospitality, post-shiva support, transport, social contact and information about community resources.
Interfaith work is important at the shul and its interfaith group — led by Charles Bloom among others — regularly meets with members of other religions in the Stockport area.
Yeshurun members also take part in the annual Remembrance Day parade and the multi-faith service at the cenotaph in Cheadle.
* Tony would love to invite people who were raised in the shul to its emerald anniversary gala dinner. Email firstname.lastname@example.org