Museum acquires rare silver plate uniting two Manchester families and Pope Pius IX.

 The Museum has recently acquired an engraved silver plate with a fascinating history connecting two Manchester Sephardi families and Pope Pius IX!

The story of this plate starts inJerusalemin 1846. The Chief Rabbi of Palestine was one Hayim Avraham Gaguin. One of his friends was Moshe Israel Hazan who as admired and respected in Jerusalemas a great scholar.

Meanwhile in Rome Pope Pius IX needed a learned Hebrew scholar to be the guardian of his library of Hebrew books and manuscripts. He asked Moshe Israel Hazan to take up this position and even allowed him to bring nine or ten Jewish families along to live in the Vatican and form a little Jewish community there.

Chief Rabbi Gaguin was so pleased for his friend that he presented him with a silver plate to mark the appointment. He had the plate engraved in Hebrew explaining the circumstances of the gift.

The Hazan family remained in Rome for a while but their descendants moved to Egypt and then Morocco. The silver plate travelled with them.

A lady from Manchester who had moved to Casablanca Morocco to marry a member of the Hazan family decided to return to Manchester when her husband died. So she and her son moved back to Manchester taking the plate with them, unaware of its history.

By 1946 the son Victor Hazan was married and he and his wife had just had a baby boy.  They belonged to a Manchester synagogue whose rabbi was Rabbi Maurice Gaguine (great-grandson of Hayim Avraham Gaguin). Rabbi Gaguine was present at the circumcision ceremony for the baby and the silver plate was being used to hold the wine cup during the ceremony. The baby’s grandmother approached Rabbi Gaguine, explained that the plate had been in the family for generations and had some Hebrew writing on it. She asked him to translate it.

Rabbi Gaguine read the Hebrew inscription and immediately asked to keep the silver plate but the grandmother who had brought it from Morocco flatly refused to part with it and Rabbi Gaguine left empty handed.

Eventually Victor Hazan and his wife Evelyn decided to give the silver plate to Rabbi Gaguine on his 70th birthday and it remained with the Gaguine family until recently.

It has now been kindly donated to the Museum by Rabbi Gaguine’s daughter.





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