BORN MANCHESTER, JULY 12, 1914. DIED LONDON, FEBRUARY 26, 2008, AGED 93.
ONE OF the last surviving patriarchs of Sephardi Anglo-Jewry, Haim Manuel Cansino was thrust into communal activity early in life. His mother died when he was an infant; his father, Isaac, when he was a 15-year-old pupil at Manchester Grammar School.
His grandfather had been instrumental in the building of the Sephardi synagogue at Cheetham Hill and his father left a considerable fortune.
Manuel felt it his responsibility to continue his father’s generous contributions to Jewish causes. Though he briefly attended Manchester University, he devoted himself mainly to the Cheetham Hill congregation, of which he soon became a member of the Mahamad, board of management.
It was his financial support that enabled Haham Gaguine in 1934 to publish his major work, Keter Shem Tov (‘ Crown of a Good Name’), which contains a dedicatory poem to him.
Manuel’s focus on the Sephardi cause derived from a devotion to his father’s memory and pride in his family heritage. His mother was a Pinto, his grandmother was a Belisha.
He was a cousin of Lord (Leslie) Hore-Belisha, war minister in Neville Chamberlain’s cabinet at the outbreak of the Second World War, and a direct descendent of Jacob Cansino of Oran, whom Charles V of Spain ennobled in 1556 and appointed ambassador to Morocco. The Cansinos lived in Morocco and Gibraltar. Manuel’s upbringing meant that he spoke Spanish and some Arabic.
After the war he lived in London with his wife Cecile, nee Carvalho. To- gether with his brother-in-law, Robert Carvalho (the long-time leader of the Anglo-Jewish Association), Sir Alan Mocatta and Neville Laski, QC (a former president of the Board of Deputies), he largely ran the Lauderdale Road Synagogue in Maida Vale, West London, Britain’s principal — though not the oldest — Sephardi centre of worship.
He occupied every main congregational position. He served on the Mahamad and took his turn as Parnas Presidente (senior warden). He was a life elder and a governor of the Beth Holim, home for the aged or hospital, relocated from Mile End to Wembley as Edinburgh House in 1977.
Fluent in the Spanish and Portuguese minhag and melodies, he often chanted the Shabbat zemirot (songs) and haftarah.
One of his greatest pleasures was to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He carried out this mitzvah with great ceremony. Young members of the choir typically timed his teruah gedolah (great blast) on their watches to see if he could break his record for length of time.
Beyond the Sephardi community, he was honorary secretary of the organising committee for the 1956 commemoration of the tercentenary of the resettlement of Jews in England, a task recognised by his appointment as MBE. He also chaired the London Shechitah Board.
Occasionally excitable and a marvellous raconteur, he was a man of great kindness and total integrity. Following his wife’s death and the onset of ill health in his older son, the England bridge international Jonathan Cansino, Manuel devoted over 20 years to his care. He later moved into Edinburgh House, where he died.
He is survived by a son, George; daughter, Stella; two grandsons and five great-grandchildren.
Manuel Cansino: Sephardi patriarch