Harris was born in Glasgow, Scotland. During his tenure as Chief Rabbi, he was noted for his support of full democracy during South Africa's apartheid years. He spoke at the induction ceremony of President Nelson Mandela in 1994, and also gave a blessing at Mandela's wedding to Graça Machel in 1998. Mandela frequently referred to Harris as "my rabbi."
He trained at the Jews College, and served suburban congregations in Kenton and Edgware and finally St Johns Wood from 1979. From 1966 to 1971, Harris also served as Senior Jewish Chaplain to the British Armed Forces. Ahead of the 1991 retirement of British Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, Harris was shortlisted as a potential successor. Ultimately, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was appointed to the position. He later went on to become one of the founders of Afrika Tikkun which is a South African based NPO that focuses on the Holistic Development of young people in disadvantaged townships of the country. They focus on the Holistic Development of young people ages 2 – 35 years and provide them with education, family support services, primary health care, and food and nutrition services.
- Freedland, Michael (16 September 2005). "Rabbi Cyril Harris". The Guardian.
- staff (19 September 2005). "Rabbi Cyril Harris". The Times. London.
- staff (15 September 2005). "Cyril K. Harris, 68, Chief Rabbi in South Africa". The New York Times.
- Meir Persoff (7 September 2012). "The inside story of choosing a Chief Rabbi". The Jewish Chronicle.
Bernard M. Casper
| Chief Rabbi of South Africa
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