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Shloimy Alman

I have not written an article for publication before and am feeling a little anxious.I very much want to write about my late husband Shloimy Alman.

It's not very often that someone can be described as unique - Shloimy certainly was that. He was one of a kind.

Shloimy was born Shulem Nachman Alman in 1950 to Sarah and Moishe Alman, both Holocaust survivors who met after the war. His parents married and moved to Manchester, England with Sarah's daughter Eva. Shloimy was born in Manchester. He was the only person I knew of our generation who spoke fluent Yiddish. He was not only fluent in the language, but also in Yiddish culture.

After qualifying as a High School Teacher, Shloimy decided to teach in a different way. In 1974 he became the Manchester Zionist Central Council's first Jewish Community Worker. He realised early on that Jewish Manchester was going to vanish, and began spending his spare time taking photographs of all that interested him. As Shloimy was sociable and enjoyed talking to people, this was no hardship. Shloimy's photographs are a look into a life that probably seems strange to most people today; but many of our peers will be able to relate to the photos as they will recognise the various shops and institutions. The same holds true of the photographs he took of London's Jewish East End in the 1970s.

Shloimy's parents craved the vibrant Yiddish culture of Poland which was largely missing in post-war Manchester, although a number of Jewish shops and businesses, particularly in the Cheetham Hill, Hightown and Strangeways areas still existed. Shloimy would accompany his mother on shopping trips. He remembered going with his mother to buy a live chicken before taking it to the slaughter-house. There, the owner would find a warm egg for him to eat. Shloimy remembered being spoiled rotten by most of the Jewish shopkeepers because he was able to speak to them in Yiddish.

After our aliyah in 1978, Shloimy's photographs of Jewish Manchester and the East End of London remained in a cupboard. Then, in May 2019, writer and oral historian Rachel Lichtenstein visited us. She decided to document and exhibit Shloimy's East End photographs at Sandys Row (the oldest Synagogue in the area) and the Manchester photographs at the People's History Museum in Manchester. In order to help describe each photograph to Rachel, Shloimy began to write down his memories of his Jewish childhood.

Sadly, Shloimy was too ill to attend his "Vanished Streets" East End exhibition. He died in November 2020 before his Manchester exhibition, also called "Vanished Streets," took place. In order to honor his memory and to keep his legacy alive, I decided to publish the memories Shloimy wrote to describe his Jewish childhood in Manchester. With help from good friends I managed to complete this project last month and self-published it on Amazon.

Shloimy was a charismatic and sociable figure, who left an indelible impression on all who met him. Most of our contemporaries, members of the UK Jewish community born in the fifties, were at least second generation born in the UK; people who had lost touch with the Eastern European, Yiddish-speaking culture of our ancestors. Shloimy was one of the few who straddled the divide between the old culture, largely obliterated in the Holocaust, and the new Hebrew-speaking nation-building Zionism - to which we aspired to be part of.

Shloimy reminded us of where we came from. He also showed us that building a future did not contradict remembering our cultural past. His book also shows us a side of the community that, for many, was hidden. The remnants of the old Jewish community of Manchester, which many thought had already disappeared, in the early seventies, were still alive, vibrant, and well described in his memoir. Despite being an intensely personal account, written with passion, humour and words filled with love and admiration for the people who shaped his life, his writing is of historic importance. Shloimy helped preserve a unique historic record - a role which he was uniquely qualified to fill. 


Comments 1

Guest - vb on Thursday, 20 October 2022 09:24

Wonderful piece Linda. You done him proud!!
Viv xxx

Wonderful piece Linda. You done him proud!! Viv xxx
Friday, 14 June 2024

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