On Sunday 19 June, Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis visited The Fed, of which he is an honorary patron, at its headquarters at Heathlands Village. He mingled with residents of the charity’s Prestwich care home, and met several storytellers – clients of the charity’s My Voice project which records and publishes the life stories of Holocaust Survivors and Refugees who settled in Greater Manchester after the Second World War.

Rabbi Mirvis spoke of his happiness that, “we now find ourselves in post-pandemic times and having spent the last two years ‘busy in the house’, I’m at long last able to get out and meet people face-to face. Now is a time for catching up and Sundays are wall-to wall booked with visits all over the country.  When a gap came up in my diary I said, ‘I want to visit The Fed!’ It’s one of my priorities and I wanted to come and wish you all yashar koach – continued strength in your good work.  You are my inspiration. I came for some inspiration from you!”

The Chief met Shoshi Black, from the home’s activity team who oversees the religious and cultural content of the residents’ weekly programme. She told him how she uses a portable tablet to visit residents throughout the home so that they can enjoy his weekly online parsha shiur. Many of his regular devotees were thrilled at the opportunity to have a personal exchange with him.

The charity’s chair, Bernie Yaffe, introduced Rabbi Mirvis to a group of North Manchester based Holocaust Survivors – Ike Alterman, Werner Lachs, Ruth Lachs, Marianne Philipps and Gerda Rothberg who are amongst the 32 who have so far published their stories. Copies of their books were signed and presented by their authors to the Chief Rabbi.

A further 12 volumes are currently in production. The books cover the entirety of their authors’ lives and include experiences of childhood before the war and later the rebuilding of their lives in the UK and, as Bernie pointed out, offer stories of survival and hope. My Voice is unique in that, being set within a social care project, it is able to offer storytellers a ‘wraparound’ support service, if needed.

Louise Senderowich, who is the Project Lead for My Voice said, “It was a wonderful honour to meet Chief Rabbi Mirvis.  The Holocaust survivors and refugees who attended were delighted to speak with him and share some of their experiences.”