BORN PIOTRKOW-TRYBUNALSKI, POLAND, AUGUST 22, 1922. DIED LONDON, FEBRUARY 27, 2008, AGED 85.
APOWERFUL INFLUENCE in the development of Reform Judaism in Manchester, Dr Moshe Ish-Horowicz contributed a depth of rabbinic scholarship, love of Judaism and the sorrow of Holocaust survival.
A brilliant student and ardent Zionist from a Gur chasidic family, he taught himself Hebrew in pre-war Poland. In 1936 he went to the Haifa Technion in British mandate Palestine to study civil engineering, a decision which saved his life.
Most of his family, including his parents, a sister and a brother, perished at Treblinka, though other siblings survived. Their tragedy and the question, “Where was God at Treblinka?” were the mainspring of his doctoral thesis 50 years later.
His oldest brother, a talmudic genius, had run away from home to get a secular education and study textiles. The outbreak of the Second World War blocked his return from a business visit in England. After the war he learned that his wife and child had perished.
Settling in Manchester, where he remarried and had three sons, he offered Moshe the opportunity to study for a second engineering degree at Manchester University’s Institute of Science and Technology (now UMIST).
In 1947, a few months before Israel’s declaration of independence, Moshe came to Manchester with his wife, Hava née Berman, whom he married in Jerusalem in 1946. He combined study with working for his brother, before branching out on his own in textiles.
He came to Jackson’s Row (Reform) Synagogue through its cheder, which not only taught in modern Hebrew pronunciation while traditional shuls retained the old Ashkenazi accent, but had an inspirational teacher for his oldest son. He became a mainstay of the community, imbuing it with his knowledge, intellect and integrity. He was a guide and mentor, especially to the younger generation.
He was president of Jackson’s Row from 1974-76, helped found Sha’arei Shalom (North Manchester Reform) Synagogue in 1977, supported Menorah (Cheshire Reform) Synagogue, and was active in the national Reform movement. He was said to support at least five synagogues in England and three in Israel through membership.
He and his wife retained close ties with Israel through Tarbut (“Culture” in Hebrew), the Manchester Hebrew Speakers Association. Moshe was active in the JPA (Joint Palestine Appeal), forerunner of the UJIA.
The couple later spent long periods in Israel, where Moshe lectured on Jewish ethics and led classes for proselytes at Beit Daniel Progressive Synagogue in North Tel Aviv.
Keeping open house in their Tel Aviv flat, he held remarkable Seder nights with erudite explanations for non-Jewish guests and a Russian translation of the Haggadah for new immigrants.
In England he wrote constantly about Jewish life and ethics in articles, pamphlets and letters to the JC. He was a regular and much-loved lecturer at Limmud.
He wrote constantly about Jewish life and ethics. Jewish Law versus Equity (Halakhah versus Aggadah) and Religious Tolerance and Diversity in Judaism were published in the Jewish Law Association’s Library of Jewish Law, as was Righteousness (Tsedek) and its Significance in Judaism, which offers some solutions to the problem of the agunah, the “chained” wife. He contributed Judaism and Business Ethics to A Genuine Search (RSGB 1979).
At 70 he gained his PhD from Manchester University. His dissertation, Theodicy as Evidenced in Early Rabbinic Discussions of the Flood, used traditional commentaries to tackle the problem of good and evil, which never ceased to haunt him. Two years later he moved to London to be near his daughters.
He is survived by his wife, Hava; son, David; four daughters, Ruth, Judith, Miriam and Naomi; and nine grandchildren.
Dr Moshe Ish-Horowicz: asked tough ethical questions