South Manchester Synagogue was founded in 1872 by a group of people who wished to cater for those Ashkenazi families who lived south of Manchester city centre. In 1913, the congregation moved from premises in Sidney Street to a new building in the then semi-rural location of Wilbraham Road, Fallowfield. This was to be its home for nearly 90 years.
The Synagogue flourished for many years in its new location, due in no small part to the arrival of successive waves of refugees from Europe in the 1930ís. Such was the growth in membership, that an extension had to be built to the Ladiesí Gallery, and later additional parallel services had to be held in the new Synagogue Hall during the High Holydays. Membership peaked at over 800 during the 1970ís.
The Synagogue has been blessed with a number of charismatic leaders, including for many years Rabbi Felix Carlebach and Chazan Solomon Morris. Today the tradition of vibrant leadership is continued by Rabbi Yitzchok Rubin and Chazan Michael Isdale.
Throughout its history, the Synagogue has had to come to terms with demographic trends within the community. In the same way as the move to Fallowfield reflected the move of the membership out of the city centre, so its most recent history reflects the move of many members of the congregation to Hale, Bowdon and the surrounding area. Even though the Synagogue was able to withstand the impact of the opening of new synagogues in Sale, Gatley and Hale for many years, and had strong links with the Jewish student population of Manchester, the decline in membership accelerated from the late 1980ís, to the extent that the congregation could no longer afford the upkeep of its Grade II listed building.
Discussions started on the feasibility of building a new home for the congregation in the Bowdon area and a group of benefactors independently undertook to build a new Synagogue in the area. In November 2001, the congregation decided to sell its premises in Fallowfield to a Jewish student trust and to move its home to the new Synagogue in Bowdon. An associate kehilla is, however, still maintained at Wilbraham Road for those members unable to worship in Bowdon.
The first services in the new building were held on 10 August 2002, when the congregation were joined by the members of the Bowdon minyan, with the Synagogue officially opening for Rosh Hashanah. The opening was marked by a visit by HRH Prince of Wales in April 2003 - the Prince unveiling a plaque at the entrance of the Synagogue and planting a tree in honour of Rabbi Carlebach - and by a visit by the Chief Rabbi in April 2004.