Simcha Kussevitsky


1905 – 1998

Simcha was born in Smorgon, near Vilna, Poland, the third of four sons. As a youngster he sang in the choirs of the illustrious Chazanim Shlomo Ravitz and Ephrayim Spektor and when he was only 22, the famous Zeidel Rovno died, and Simcha was invited to become Chazan in his place. He remainied there for until 1938, and was then invited to the UK to become Chazan in the Queen’s Park Synagogue, Glasgow.

Sometime later he moved to North London where he occupied the position of Chazan at the Stoke Newington Synagogue, and he became a very popular, and much sought-after performer.

In 1935, Simcha was appointed to become ‘First Reader’ of the Great Synagogue, in Duke’s Place, London.  This was regarded as one of the most important synagogues in Loondon at that time. It was frequently visited by the, then, Chief Rabbi, Dr Hertz, and counted many distinguished and prominent Anglo-Jewish personalities amongst its membership.  It’s reported that the Friday evening services were so well attended during his tenure there that the police had to be in attendance to control the crowds!

Conditons during the war were very difficult and Simcha sent his wife and children to live in the country where it was considered much safer. Sadly, the Great Synagogue was destroyed by bombing during the blitz and Simcha participated in a service that was held in its ruins.

After the war, in 1947, Simcha accepted a position at a synagogue in Greenside, Johannesburg, South Africa, and In 1952, he moved to Cape Town, where he became the Cantor of the newly built Tifereth Israel Synagogue, Schoonder Street the ‘Round Shul’.

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of Simcha’s career was a concert at the Royal Albert Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra in February 1946, where he sang on a program that included violinist Alfredo Campoli, leading operatic soprano Eva Turner, and tenor Frank Titterton.

On the 26th of December 1947 a spectacular concert entitled ‘The Four Koussevitsky Brothers’ was staged at Carnegie Hall, New York.

Simcha retired in 1983, and remained in Cape Town until 1985, when his wife Sonia passed away. He moved to Johannesburg for a few years, and then back to Cape Town.

Cantor Simcha Koussevitsky passed away in Cape Town at a retirement home, June1998.