Mesivta History - The Early Days
Not every Mossad Hatorah (Torah based educational establishment) that is founded survives; among the senior schools that have achieved success beyond the dreams of its founders is the Manchester Mesivta .
Following the successful launch of day schools in the Manchester Jewish community of the forties, an initiative was taken to establish a high school.
Involved in this project were such illustrious people as Dayan Weiss, Dayan Golditch, Rav Rappaport, Rabbi Segal (the late Manchester Rosh Yeshiva) and Dr. Menachem Rottenberg. Also involved were Rebbe Balkind and Rev. Leslie Olsberg, who contributed greatly to the teaching staff. Valiant though these efforts were, real success eluded the school. Most of the community still preferred to send their boys to the direct grant schools. A new approach was clearly needed.
In 1959 a new Board of Governors, mainly composed of parents of prospective pupils, was formed to take over the running of the school. The chairman was Anshel Pfeffer, and the board included such askonim as Leo Grosskopf, Abe Smith, Tony Myers, Jacob Sanger, Shmuel Rechnitzer, and Shlomo Reich. These new governors, men of action, selflessness, and dedication, were inspired by the dream of creating a school in which the Manchester Jewish community could take pride. This ideal school would provide a well balanced Jewish Religious and Secular education within a framework in which both spheres of study would be given their due importance, neither suffering at the expense of the other. This visionary Board of Governors was helped by an equally determined, dedicated and hard-working Ladies Committee, who saw it as their task to "put the school on the map."
Thus it began. A small number of boys began their higher education in a dilapidated building with scant resources and virtually no facilities for general school activities. The future lives of these few precious boys had been entrusted by their parents into the hands of the school and its staff in order to build Manchester's own Jewish Grammar School. This trust would prove to have been well placed and laid the foundation for the establishment of an institution whose success exceeded the most optimistic expectations.
The first item on the agenda for the new board, was the appointment of a principal to take charge of the school and who would inspire confidence in the community. It was supremely providential that a man came on the scene who possessed the qualities needed for the new position.
Rabbi Lippa Rabinowitz was already known in the Yeshiva world as a leading Talmid Chochom with an established reputation as Rosh Yeshiva in Tangier and in the Montefiore Yeshiva in Ramsgate.
Taking over the reins of the school, Reb Lippa (as he has always been known) took the bold step of refusing entry into the school for a year while he reorganized the school on entirely new lines. What emerged was a new concept in Jewish education in Britain, and success was its reward.
Having turned around the school into a successful, if still small, institution it was now time to find a head for the secular programme. The appointment of Mr E.S. Wilson as new headmaster was again an inspired choice. He filled the post with outstanding success and brought to the office a high degree of expertise and dedication. His tenure lasted from 1962 until 1976 when he left to head the King David School.
As the school's reputation grew so its roll of student increased. In 1973 a new building was commissioned and constructed through the generosity of Mr Sidney Beenstock whose tireless and dedicated contribution towards education in Manchester as a whole is beyond measure. For the first time, Mesivta was housed in a purpose built premises.
In 1976, Mr Pink took over the position of Headmaster. His appointment proved yet another milestone in the school's history and he soon made his mark working tirelessly for the school and its pupils. Mr Pink successfully led the school for 35 years, during which time the school became a byword for excellence in Jewish education. Amongst Mr Pink's many achievements and innovations was the establishment in 1978 of a Teachers' Training Programme that remains the model for similar courses to the present day.
Aware of its social responsibilities, and in order to accommodate the wide range of academic abilities, the school decided to introduce streaming. This innovation enabled teachers to maximise the potential of the less able students, achieving results far in excess of normal expectations. It also began to accept boys initially from out of town, and later from the international community, especially from Russia. Many of these boys went on to become high achievers, whilst others returned to their home countries in order to try to better the lot of their fellow Jews.
True to his groundbreaking reputation, Reb Lippa, in 1997, introduced yet another unique concept to the school's educational programme. This took the form of a day Koliel, based in the school's Beis Hamedrash (Study Hall), where several young men study religious subjects together, as well as with the school's students, often on a one-to-one basis. This innovation proved highly successful and further enhanced the school's reputation as a centre of excellence.
In 2000, after some 40 years at the helm, Reb Lippa retired as Principal, but continued his association with the school as Rosh Mesivta
Taking over as Principal was Reb Dovid Kestenbaum, who drew on a wealth of experience, gained as one of the leading mechanchim in the USA, to further enhance the Kodesh curriculum. Presently, as senior Rov, devoting himself exclusively to the Yeshiva curriculum, he has profoundly enhanced the standard and reputation of the Limudei Kodesh of the school.
As the school grew, both in numbers and courses offered, so did its budget, which at no time has been covered by fees: no boy has ever been refused entry for financial reasons.
During the 1990's it became increasingly apparent that the school building was proving inadequate both in size and facilities offered and the financial burden on the governors was becoming extremely onerous. Prudence dictated that help be sought from outside the community and it was decided, after much deliberation, that the school would apply for Voluntary Aided Status. This would allow for a new campus to be constructed, reduce the fee burden, and enhance the school's facilities, and so offer an even broader curriculum.
With the indomitable effort of Mr Pink, together with the invaluable help by Mr Ivan Lewis MP and after much effort on the part of many individuals, the school's application was ultimately successful. The then Chair of Governors Mr Josh Pine spent a significant part of every day for four years working on this project together with the governors and the senior management of the school. The school was granted 90% of capital and current expenditure and built a new state-of-the-art campus.