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Samuel Aaron Claff was born in Lithuania in 1861. He came to England in 1882. Samuel was attracted by the idea that somebody Jewish could achieve a position of prominence in England. Working first as a pedlar, after 12 months he established a furniture business in Widnes.
Samuel eventually moved to Manchester in 1890. His many communal associations included the Manchester New Synagogue and Beth Hamidrash, the Shechita Board, the Talmud Torah and the Board of Guardians. Mostly notably, in 1891 Samuel purchased a former church building in Red Bank and converted it into the Holy Law Beth Aaron Synagogue. It was known locally as ‘Claff Shool’ and Samuel was Honorary Life President.
Samuel was proudly British (he naturalised in 1895) and a great supporter of the royal family. Yet he was also passionate about his Jewish faith and an advocate for poorer fellow Eastern European Jews in Manchester. This was demonstrated in his choice of philanthropic work. Samuel was a founder of the Manchester Victoria Memorial Jewish Hospital built in 1904. When the established communal leaders in Manchester opposed the creation of the hospital, Samuel fought passionately for the project.
His wife, Rachel, died in 1905 after a long illness. Samuel married Elizabeth (Bertha) Jacobs in 1906 and moved to Southport, commuting to Manchester for work in his money-lending business. His daughter, Marjorie, was born there in 1909.