Calling all Mancunians

Unraveling the mystery of Manchester House, an edifice on Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus with an intriguing history.

By
June 20, 2019 13:25
Calling all Mancunians

SURI AND Antony Ordman take a closer look at the building that bears their hometown’s name.. (photo credit: BARRY DAVIS)

 
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Had it not been for a chance deviation, Hebrew University’s Manchester House may have remained under wraps. Actually, that and a naturally inquisitive mind nurtured by the parents of a certain Boaz Ordman.
I recently popped along to the Givat Ram edifice, which houses the Department of Mathematics, where I met Suri and Antony Ordman, who made aliyah from the eponymous city in northwest England a full 37 years ago. As I spent a large part of my misspent youth in Manchester and had never heard of the university building, I asked Suri, Boaz’s mother, how it had remained the Hebrew University’s best kept secret – unknown to Mancunian olim and, ergo, the second and third generations as well.
“I have no idea,” she says with a smile. “Everybody I have spoken to, and I have spoken to many people – all from Manchester – not one of them knew about it, and that includes people who work here!”
The “it” is the crux of the whole mystery, referring to the fact that the two-story Building 69, across the expansive lawn from the venerable National Library of Israel, owes its existence to the generosity of a large number of Mancunian Jews. When Boaz, a PhD student at the university, strayed from his beaten path between the library and the parking lot, he espied the plaque with the names of 87 people who had shelled out to help make their Zionist dream, at least partially, become a brick-and-mortar reality.
Suri jokingly suggests that the university left-field system of numbering doesn’t exactly help the cause. “Nobody knows where Building 69 is because it comes after Building 66,” she laughs.
Be that as it may, Boaz didn’t bother about the numerical order of things on the campus, but began to explore the ground-floor foyer when he came across a large metal plaque on one of the walls, which went some way to explaining the origins of the building.
“Boaz wandered around and he suddenly sees these words – Manchester House Erected Through the Generosity of the Manchester Jewish Community,” Suri recalls.
It also happened to be an auspicious day.
“It was October 18, my birthday, and as Boaz looked through the names [of the donors], he suddenly sees the name of my dad, S. Hytner – Sidney, or Shimon, Hytner.”
That was quite a discovery, and quite a present for the birthday girl.
“Boaz texted me and said that grandpa wants to wish you a happy birthday,” says Suri.
There’s more familial content in the roster.
“That was his uncle, Morris Hytner,” Antony interjects, pointing to M. Hytner Esq., one name up. “And that’s my grandfather, A. Nadler,” Suri adds. “And there are lots of other people we know here.”

A LETTER, written by Weizmann shortly after he joined the University of Manchester teaching staff, in which he expresses his dream of gaining a degree from a Jewish university in a Jewish state. (Credit: COURTESY OF THE SHAPELL MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION)

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