Tears filled the eyes of worshippers at the Manchester Reform Synagogue as the 70-year old building held an emotional final service.
The place of worship is due to be demolished to make way for a 41-storey tower and five-star hotel backed by ex-Manchester United star Gary Neville, the Manchester Evening News reports.
Congregants at the only synagogue in the city centre embraced during the deconsecration service – the removing a religious blessing from something previously consecrated by religious authority.
The ceremony saw holy scrolls taken out of the building in a special procession, described by Principal Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen as “quieter” time for “gratitude and paying honour”.
It followed the final Saturday service held at the synagogue the previous day, which was described as “bursting” with worshipers.
Originally based in Cheetham Hill, the UK’s second Reform Judaism community moved to the city centre after the Park Place building was bombed during the Blitz.
The only items that remain from the original synagogue are the rimonim, which sit on top of one of the Torah scrolls used by the 165-year-old congregation.
The current synagogue in Jackson’s Row, opened in 1953, was one of the first buildings to be built in central Manchester after the Second World War.
Two members of the choir who sang at the first service returned to the bima – a raised platform – for the deconsecration almost 70 years to the day later.
Marianne Phillips, a 98-year-old holocaust survivor, also took part in the final services alongside children, displaying the synagogue’s diversity of ages.
Attending the service was Lord Mayor Donna Ludford, who said: “For decades, the Jewish community has been a massive part of Manchester.”
Around two decades ago, when the building was in need of refurbishment, developers were invited to come up with new plans for the city centre site.
This eventually led to the approval of plans backed by former footballer Gary Neville in 2018, with work starting on the site earlier this year.
It brings to an end a long running saga, in which the pundit’s plans being rapidly redrawn due to fierce criticism from Historic England, who warned the project would lead to a “high level of harm” to the town hall.
Now it has been given the all-clear, the consortium developing the £200million St Michael’s project have promised a five-star hotel and a nine-storey office building on the site, which also includes the former Bootle Street police station.
Initially, the synagogue’s members planned to stay on the site as part of the development plans, but later decided to sell and move somewhere else.
Former president Danny Savage said the negotiated £15million price-tag for the sale is double the value of any valuation of the building.
He choked up as a he described his “fond memories” of the synagogue and said he hoped the money received through the sale will help the next generation.
Following the deconsecration service, the holy Torah scrolls will be taken to the community’s temporary home at the Manchester Universities’ Chaplaincy, where service begins next week.
The community must now decide what comes next, with anything on the table, including the possibility of merging with another reform synagogue in Whitefield.
In her final address to the congregation, Rabbi Robyn said the deconsecration plans included a ceremonial snuffing out of the ner tamid , an ‘eternal light’ at synagogues which always stays on.
However, no one was able to find a switch or circuit for the red light sitting above the Torah ark, which has remained on since the building first opened.
“How symbolic,” she said. “The light will go out when the building’s gone.”