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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish communities of Greater Manchester

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Migration Stories: Manchester Muslims and Jews tell their own and their parents' migration stories

23 May 2021

Just under two years ago, on 23 June 2019, we held an in-person event "Migration Stories: Manchester Muslims and Jews tell their family migration stories" where eight Manchester Muslims and Jews talked about how they or their ancestors came to be in Manchester. Audio recordings of seven of those stories can be heard on the linked page.

We repeated the format again on Sunday 23 May, online. Using Zoom enabled us to record videos of the speakers, which you can watch below. This was our 133rd event since the Forum started.

40 participants watched intently as five people told their fascinating, and very moving, personal stories about leaving homes in Europe and Asia to make new lives in the UK, and what brought them to Greater Manchester.

The compere for the event who introduced each speakr was our Jewish Co-Chair Cllr Heather Fletcher. Our Muslim Co-Chair Mohammed Amin handled the technology. The following links lead to Heather Fletcher and Mohammed Amin telling their stories at the 2019 event.

Cllr Ahmed Ali JP

Cllr Ahmed Ali JP came to the UK from Bangladesh aged just 10 years old. He explained that his father had been far sighted to see that he could forge a better life for the family in the UK. 

Ahmed recalled growing up in Oldham. While generally people were welcoming, Ahmed also recalled marches by the far-right through Oldham in the 1970's and mentioned that he learned kung fu to protect himself. He has had a successful career in social work and race relations, is now a grandfather, and sees Greater Manchester as home.

Professor Alexander Samely

Professor Alexander Samely grew up near Frankfurt am Main in Germany. Although he encountered very little antisemitism whilst growing up in Germany, he harboured deep seated suspicions and often wondered about the parts that older people in his town had played in World War 2.

Since arriving in the UK 39 years ago he feels he now has a "more balanced relationship with his Jewish identity" and said "living here has done me the world of good." He has found people in the UK to be welcoming, tolerant and self-deprecating which made him feel relaxed. He is currently Professor of Jewish studies at Manchester University.

Safiya Florence Ascoli-Ball

Safiya Florence Ascoli-Ball originates from the Alsace region of France and has lived in the UK for 27 years. She has mixed Italian, Irish and French ancestry, and has always liked travelling to broaden her mind.

In the 1980's the exciting place for young French people to live was London so she went to live there. She found the English  to be reserved but welcoming and non-judgemental. Safiya feels more free to able to practice the faith of her choice, Islam, in the UK than in France.

Safiya is a translator and French tutor and feels that her roots are firmly in this country especially since she has four children born here and she would never consider going back to France permanently.

Michael Rubinstein

Michael Rubinstein shared the stories of his parents, both of whom were Holocaust survivors.

His late father Joseph had been born into a Chassidic family in Poland, encountered considerable antisemitism whilst growing up, and was the only member of his large family to survive the Holocaust.

Michael’s late mother Alice was born in Hamburg and also experienced considerable antisemitism in her childhood in Germany. She had told Michael about her memories of Kristallnacht, and also recalled seeing Hitler being driven through the streets of Hamburg. She had been a compassionate, inclusive woman and raised Michael to understand that younger Germans should not be blamed for what older Germans had done. Alice had arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport.

Michael said that both his parents had always been grateful to the UK for being able to forge a much better life here.

Cllr Naeem Ul Hassan JP

Cllr Naeem Ul Hassan JP was born in Lahore. He spent the first 24 years of his life there and was involved in Lahore’s city planning. He said that although it had been a wrench to leave his home city, it had also been exciting.

Naeem has had many jobs since he came to live in Manchester 37 years ago. The pinnacle of his career had been serving as Lord Mayor of Manchester 2013 - 2014 which had allowed him to see first-hand the good work carried out by the people of Manchester

Vote of thanks

The Forum’s Co-Founder, Afzal Khan CBE, MP for Manchester Gorton, gave the vote of thanks. Afzal is also a migrant to Greater Manchester, having come from Pakistan aged 11 over 50 years ago and briefly mentioned his own story in his vote of thanks.

You can hear Afzal Khan telling his story at our 2019 event at the link.

Participants' feedback

Audience member Jackie Harrison said: "This was an inspiring, moving event of people sharing their stories, often of great adversity."

Anne Isaac told her story at our 2019 event. She herself a migrant from France who arrived in the UK 30 years ago and said:

"It was an extremely interesting evening with very touching and inspirational stories. In our current climate it was moving to hear the stories of Jewish and Muslim migrants to the UK and their love of Manchester. Once more it shows we are humans before everything else and we share similar values "



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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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