Isaac Hirshow Russian Federation Scotland

Biography of Isaac Hirshow

Izaak Hirszow, known as Isaac Hirshow, graduated MA 1929 and B.Mus. in 1939, becoming the University's first Bachelor of Music.

Izaak was born Yitzhak Girshov in Velizh (Russia), a small town to the northeast of Vitebsk. His father, Simon, was a merchant. The young Yitzhak began at cheder (Hebrew school) aged 3, and went on to yeshiva (Bible and Talmudic study) in Vitebsk.

At 15, Hirshow moved to Warsaw to begin work as a choirmaster at Adas Yeshurun synagogue on Nalewki. Hirshow became one of the synagogue’s cantors in 1905. In 1918, Hirshow accepted an invitation to become chief cantor at Lomza’s main synagogue, headed at that time by the prestigious rabbinical scholar Yehuda Leib Gordin. Whilst in Lomza, Hirshow gave public concerts, including his own settings of Hebrew poetry. He would give similar concerts in 1920s Glasgow.

He and his family emigrated to Scotland in 1922, when he took up the post of cantor at the Chevra Kadisha synagogue in the Gorbals area of Glasgow (he became a British citizen in 1931). In 1925 he moved to Garnethill synagogue, where he stayed for 30 years.

Hirshow first enrolled at the University in 1926, aged 42, to study for an Arts degree. He attended classes in Logic, Russian, Moral Philosophy, German, Political Economy and Chemistry. After graduating MA in 1929, he enrolled the following year to study for his Bachelor of Music, which he gained in 1939. As the University's first Bachelor of Music, Hirshow was given the privilege of choosing the academic colours of the new degree, blue and white. His son, Wolff, studied Medicine at the same time.

A memorial plaque based on Hirshow's headstone remains on the wall of Garnethill synagogue’s main hallway, and several of his liturgical melodies are still in use.


Printed Materials

  • The College Courant, 1956, p.139

Archival Materials

  • R1/1/2 MA Graduation Album 1926-1961
  • R1/9/1 BMus Graduation Album 1925-1980


  • THE LONDON GAZETTE, 5 MAY, 1931, p.2886


Isaac Hirshow
Born 1884.
Died 23 March 1956.
GU Degrees: MA, Arts, 1929; B Mus, 1939; Arts,
University Link: Alumnus, Graduate
Occupation categories: clergy; composers
Additional Information: Information about his non-university life provided by Philip Alexander, Research Associate, Jewish Lives/Scottish Spaces
English snippet: The University's first Bachelor of Music degree
Record last updated: 22nd Dec 2022

Country Associations

Russian Federation Russian Federation, Velizh
Place of Birth

Scotland Scotland, Glasgow
Place of Death

University Connections

University Roles