Harris Newman

Harris Newman1863 - 1953

Harris Newman
1863 – 1953

In June 1895 Rev Harris Newman was elected as First Reader to the Great  Synagogue which, at the time, was Manchester’s most prestigious  Synagogue. Cantors from all over Europe and the United States sought the post, but it was the Cantor from Poland who could not speak one word of English, who filled the Synagogue to overflowing.Cantor Harris Newman was brough from the Synagogue of the Polish town of Kalwarje Steppe.

In an age when personalities abounded, the Rev. H Newman stood out prominently. His wide brimmed black hat, astrakhan-collared coat and silver -topped walking stick adoerned a tall elegant figure that made him easily  recognisable wherever he went. He was a most revered member of the Manchester community for many years.

Chazan Newman was often told that he could have made a fortune on the  concert platform or the operatic stage, but he chose to use his vocal chords  for Avodat Hashem (service to God).

Cantor Harris Newman was of Germanic origin and spoke fluent German. He  took great pride in his son Philip, who was a world-class violinist, who,  during  his career, received many honours and rewards. Philip’s career was based in Belgium and among his admirers was Queen Elizabeth of Belgium who attended many of his concerts . he became her personal professor of violin.  Philip passed away at the age of 62 and a street is named after him.

Chazan Newman served at the Great Synagogue,  also known as the English  Shool, from 1895 – 1941 as Frist Reader, and was its Emeritus Reader from his retirement until his death. He served the congregation with great  distinction, and even after 40 years of loyal service his congregation did not want him to retire as his voice was still in good shape. To this day he is Manchester’s longest serving Chazan.

Chazan Newman passed away in 1953 in his 90th year. Music that he  composed forms part of the inscription on his memorial stone. The music is a setting of the words from Psalm 118 ‘Lo Amut Ki Echyeh’ ‘I will not die, but I shall live.

(I am indebted to Chazan Yehudah Marx of Machester for this article. He  states that most of the information therein was taken from newspapers and  periodicals)