Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Horace Bohmer Newman (1889–1968)

by Suzanne D. Rutland

This article was published:

Horace Bohmer Newman (1889-1968), importer and manufacturing agent, was born on 20 November 1889 at Chorlton upon Medlock, Manchester, England, eldest of eight children of Jewish parents of Polish-German descent Levi Newman, commercial traveller, and his wife Mary, née Böhmer. Soon afterwards the family moved to Glasgow, Scotland. On leaving Hillhead High School, Horace was employed as a 'boy' in a drapery business. About 1904 he went to London to work for Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd, publishers, and was sent to Sydney in 1911. Back in London before World War I, he tried to enlist, but was turned down because of a heart murmur. He returned to Australia and married Ella Katie Lyons on 28 August 1918 at the Synagogue, St Kilda, Melbourne.

Based in Sydney, Newman worked as a commercial traveller until setting up as a merchant in 1926. He went into partnership with his cousin Alfred Newman in 1929 as a manufacturers' agent, importing such diverse products as pens, soap, glue, ink, books and jewellery. In 1931 Felix Benson in London and Harold Ponsford in Melbourne joined the firm; Newman was to be managing director of Ponsford, Newman & Benson Pty Ltd until the early 1960s. During World War II he served as a warrant officer in the Volunteer Defence Corps and was attached to a searchlight unit on South Head. After the war he returned to his business, which was taken over in the late 1960s.

In 1935 Newman had become involved in Jewish communal affairs through his close friendship with Max Freilich and Norman Schureck. Newman was president (1945-48, 1952-60) of the Zionist Council of New South Wales. As president of the Zionist Federation of Australia (1947-49, 1962-68) and of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (1949-50), he headed the two key national organizations. Perceiving Zionist political activity as 'dangerous', a number of leaders of the Jewish community in New South Wales opposed Freilich and Newman in their attempts (from 1939) to win the support of the Commonwealth government and of the Australian Labor Party for the concept of a Jewish state in Palestine: Dr H. V. Evatt played a central role at the United Nations in the creation of the Jewish state (1948) and its admittance to the U.N. (1949).

Newman also presided over the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies (1952-55, 1957-67) and the Jewish National Fund. Associated with the Great Synagogue for more than fifty years, he served as its vice-president (1958-62). He was a member of the State Opera of New South Wales committee, the Bankers' Club and the Commercial Travellers' Association, and was a Freemason.

Noted for his gentlemanly and dignified approach, and for his command of the English language, Newman set high standards, for himself and others. He lived at Rose Bay, and enjoyed reading, gardening and playing tennis. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died on 22 March 1968 at Randwick and was buried in Rookwood cemetery. A portrait by William Pidgeon, submitted for the 1959 Archibald prize, is held by the Jewish Board of Deputies, Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Staedter and H. Kimmel, Sydney's Jewish Community, 2 vols (Syd, 1953)
  • M. Freilich, Zion in Our Time (Syd, 1967)
  • Sydney Jewish News, 13 Aug 1943, 20 May 1952, 29 Mar 1968
  • Hebrew Standard of Australasia, 30 Jan 1953
  • Australian Jewish Times, 28 Mar 1968
  • Australian Jewish Historical Society, Journal, vol 6, no 8, 1970, p 497
  • private information.

Citation details

Suzanne D. Rutland, 'Newman, Horace Bohmer (1889–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 24 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 November, 1889
Chorlton upon Medlock, Lancashire, England


22 March, 1968 (aged 78)
Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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