Memories Of Muizenberg In Toronto

Download PDF

EXHIBIT RECALLS SOUTH AFRICA’S ‘SHTETL BY THE SEA’

Muizenberg
Muizenberg

Dubbed by some “the shtetl by the sea,” North American Jews might best understand Muizenbeg, a beachside suburb of Cape Town once brimming with both Jewish residents and Jewish holiday-goers, as the Miami of South Africa.

Memories of Muizenberg, a South African exhibition featuring photographs and recollections from the post-World War II hub of Jewish life and culture, will be showcased Nov. 16 to 29 at Toronto’s Schwartz/Reisman Centre, marking the show’s 10th international appearance.

Most recently shown in various cities in Australia, the exhibit, curated by Johannseburg-based Joy Kropman, was brought to Toronto by Richard Stern, 78, a Torontonian who himself grew up along the beach in Muizenberg.

Eli Rabinowitz, who organized the exhibit in Australia, was, Stern said, “instrumental in organizing for the exhibit to come to Canada. Without his guidance and support, it would have been difficult to achieve this.”

Memories of Muizenberg exhibit
Bathing boxes at Muizenberg ELI RABINOWITZ PHOTO

He said the exhibit features about 40 panels displaying memorabilia – mainly images and accompanying text – from what was considered a kind of golden age for Jews in Muizenberg, as well as more than 1,000 photographs submitted by Jews who had lived or vacationed in the town during its Jewish heyday, roughly between 1950 and 1965.

Stern, who moved to Canada in 1963, explained that in this period, anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 Jews would regularly travel to Muizenberg to escape the heat of the South African interior and relax by the sea during the country’s summer months of December and January.

In addition, at the peak of the town’s popularity among South African Jews, about 600 Jewish families made Muizenberg their permanent residence, and the town had both a synagogue and kosher hotels.

“That beach used to be absolutely packed during summer months. There were thousands of young people. The older people would sit by the seaside and the younger people would be by what was called the ‘snake pit’ – a protected area, a piece of sand with bathing boxes on one side and a pavilion on the other that people packed into from one corner to another,” Stern recalled.

“Muizenberg was very much a part of people’s lives growing up. Many Jews met their spouses there,” he added.

After Stern’s brother, who lives in Israel, made the opening speech for the exhibit’s Herzliya stop, Stern said he inquired about bringing Memories of Muizenberg to Toronto, and he ultimately paid to ship the exhibit here.

“They were going to destroy it, because after Australia, no one else wanted to take the exhibit. I thought it would be a good community project, as so many South African Jews live here in Canada… It’s a real walk down memory lane,” he said.

He noted that many Jews hailing from Muizenberg became quite influential, starting large companies in South Africa.

“The whole of the beachfront was settled by mining magnates like the Oppenheimer family and the Schlesinger family. All the houses along the beachfront were designed by Sir Herbert Baker, an architect who designed the Union Buildings in Pretoria,” he said.

Memories of Muizenberg exhibit
Muizenberg during its heyday

Stern’s own grandfather, Max Sonnenberg, moved from Germany to Muizenberg and later became a member of parliament in South Africa during World War II.

Due to political upheaval in South Africa from the mid-1960s to the 1980s, the country’s Jewish population dwindled substantially, and a large number of Jews who had either lived or vacationed in Muizenberg moved to Canada.

Stern, whose four grandparents hailed, respectively, from Germany, England and the United States before ending up in Muizenberg, said the exhibit’s illustrative panels give viewers who are unfamiliar with the seaside town a real sense of what Jewish life was like there.

And for those who are actually from Muizenberg or who spent their summer vacations there, the exhibit will be an opportunity to reminisce and recognize people they once knew in the many photographs.

After Toronto, Stern said, the exhibit will head to San Diego, and then, possibly, to Dallas.

Also on the Muizenberg KehilaLink:

Birzai Report by Abel Levitt

Download PDF

Photograph (1)

Photograph (2)

Report by Abel Levitt, who with his wife Glenda, has just returned from Lithuania.

While in Lithuania last week we spent a fascinating 4 days in Birzai, known
to the Jews who lived there as Birzh.

On 8th August 1941 the 2400 Jews of the town were marched to the forest
where they were all murdered, Men, Women and Children.

There exists in Birzai an ancient Karaite and Jewish cemetery. For years it
remained neglected and uncared for.

And then a few years ago, the local teacher of History and Tolerance,
Vidmantas Jukonis, together with his son Merunas, also a teacher of History,
started a project of cleaning up the cemetery  ,  removing the overgrown
grass and weeds, and cutting the trees.  They were joined by the local
Reformed Lutheran Church where they are members ,and then by a Lutheran
community in Germany who came to Birzai in the summer, camped outside the walls of the cemetery, and helped with the work. Later they made contact with a group of Yiddish
speakers in Russia who joined in the project and expertly cleaned the gravestones, identified the names, and mapped out the gravestones that were still there.

The leader of this group was Motl Gordon, a St. Petersburg Jew, who became
religious a few years ago.

In Birzai on Friday afternoon an event was held to celebrate the completion
of the project, and to launch the book that had been written about the
project and its findings.

The book, 374 pages , in Russian, was published by SEFER  with the help of
the  GENESIS Philanthropy Group and the UJA FEDERATION OF NEW YORK.

Photograph (5)

INSIDE OF FRONT COVER

There is little in English in the book. But from the table of contents (in
English) it appears that there is much of interest. The book is written in
the form of essays written by scholars involved in the project and tables recording the 1627 stones that were found in the cemetery, mostof them with names.

Glenda and I were given a copy. When I asked if we could buy some more, for family and friends with an interest in Birzai (Birzh) Motl Gordon told usthat they had distributed the few copies that they had brought for the event, but that he would enquire from Sefer in Moscowwhat the cost would be to buy.

It is hoped that a translation into English will be available via a PDF document on-line.

Attached are photos of the front cover (1), the back cover (2), a photo on
the inside front cover (5) and a photo on the inside back cover (6).

This book is of great historic importance.

A rough check of the list of tombstones shows that the last two tombstones
to be erected and that remain are those of Barukh Michaelson (he was the
famous town photographer) who died on 13th July 1939, and Herce (Hirsch) Evin,  who died in 1940.  Michaelson’s tombstone was found buried during the work on the cemetery and restored.  It should be noted that after the Soviet occupation in

June 1940 Jewish religious life came to a halt and it is probable that no further Jewish funerals and consecration of tombstones took place.  And the newer tombstones from the ’30’s were probably stolen and used in building as was the case throughout Lithuania.

Correction: There is also a stone with the date of death 1945

Regards
Abel

Photograph (6)

INSIDE OF BACK COVER

The Story of the South African Fallen in Defence of Israel

Download PDF

6-4-2015 7-12-00 PM_0053

Every year, on the National Day of Mourning for those who have fallen while serving the country, we, the Southern African Jews in Israel, collectively remember the eighty seven fallen from our community.

Their names are engraved on a memorial wall in the heart of the JNF-KKL Lavi forest close to the Golani junction, on a plaque in the offices of the SAZF in Raanana and appear at the end of this article.

For the grieving families each name encapsulates the individual life story of their beloved sons and daughters. But those names do more than that. They tell the story of Israel’s long battle for safety and security in an often hostile neighbourhood.

That is the story I would like to tell. Gidon Katz, who lost a brother in the Yom Kippur War and who was largely behind the restoration of the stone monument alongside the wall of names, provided me with details of all eighty six fallen. As I read them and made my own notes I realised to what extent these eighty six soldiers not only fought in all Israel’s wars but are a cross section of Israeli society.

Some came on aliya with their parents; some came on their own immediately after completing school; some were Sabras whose parents had come on aliya; some studied in universities both in Israel and abroad.

Some were very young, still doing their national service while others were much older, serving in the reserves. Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel they served in the Irgun (Etzel), the Hagana and the Palmach, and thereafter they served in the paratroopers, the armoured corps, the artillery, the navy and the air force and a few had even served in the SA air force and navy. They were in Nachal, in Givati, in the Security Services and in the border police.

Some were career soldiers and officers, others were promoted posthumously. Many were outstanding soldiers in the courses in which they participated and some were awarded medals of valour for their bravery beyond the call of duty. One fell in a training accident in the US, while the family of another donated his organs to seven recipients.

Some were not yet married while others left young, heartbroken wives. Some had not had time to have children while one left seven devastated orphans. They lived in cities, in villages, on kibbutzim and moshavim, within the 1949 cease-fire lines and beyond them in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s War of Independence began during the British Mandate and the first South African to fall in 1938 spent four months in the Acco prison before being fatally wounded while on guard in the fields of Hanita on the Lebanese border. During the months between the UN Resolution on the partition of Palestine in November 1947 and the final ceasefire agreements in April 1949 there were battles throughout the land, some better known some less so. South Africans fell in the battle for Jaffa, on the convoys through Bab el Wad to Jerusalem, in Operation Hiram in the western Galilee and against the Egyptians near Ramat Rachel.

Eighteen months passed before the bodies of those who fell at Kfar Etzion and the pilot shot down over Syria, near Mishmar HaYarden were reinterred in Israel while the remains of the pilot shot down while strafing the Egyptian forces near Asdud (modern Ashdod) were only recovered three and a half years later.

Over the next years there were South African losses during the numerous skirmishes and terrorist attacks from the Egyptian Sinai desert culminating in Operation Kadesh, the Sinai Campaign, in 1956. The Egyptian nationalization of the Suez Canal led to the Anglo-French attack on Egypt. As Egypt had closed the Straits of Tiran to all shipping to Eilat Israel was invited to participate. Israeli troops reached the Suez Canal and Sharm el Sheikh, thereby ending the blockade of Eilat. Under pressure from the US Israeli troops withdraw from Sinai and were replaced by UN troops.

In May 1967 Egypt once again closed the Straits of Tiran threatening a full scale war with Israel. Jordan signed a Joint Military Pact with Egypt and Syria continued her bombardment, from the Golan Heights, of Israeli settlements in the eastern Galilee. Throughout the world Jews and non-Jews feared for the State of Israel, 350 miles from north to south, 10 miles wide from Netanya to the Jordanian border.

During the very brief Six Day War in 1967, in which many South Africans took part, there was one South African casualty. When the ceasefire agreements were signed Israel was in control of the entire Sinai Peninsula right up to eastern bank of the Suez Canal. On the Jordanian front Israel was in control of the entire West Bank right up to the western bank of the Jordan River. On the Syrian front, the Golan Heights were under Israeli control.

Israeli offers of withdrawal in return for peace treaties were rejected by all Arab states. The War of Attrition on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts began as did terrorist acts in Israel itself coupled with airplane hijackings and the massacre of Israeli sportsmen at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. The PLO leadership, expelled from Jordan by King Hussein, moved to southern Lebanon

While Russia provided Egypt and Syria unlimited and updated armaments, including SAM and Sager missiles and RPG’s, France, previously Israel’s main supplier, had imposed a boycott on Israel. For the first time Israel began to get supplies from the USA.

During this period South Africans fell on the Suez Canal, on the Syrian front and on a special mission to destroy the PLO headquarters in Lebanon.

Despite all indications to the contrary the Israeli Intelligence believed that a full-scale war was not imminent and so it came as a complete surprise when Egypt and Syria opened their attack at 14.00 on Yom Kippur 1973.

Within forty eight hours the Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal and captured all the Israeli positions on the Bar Lev line, excluding the northernmost fortification, ‘Budapest’. It was here that the first two South Africans to lose their lives in the Yom Kippur fell. One had returned from abroad to join his unit, as had others among the fallen. His comrade had married a few months earlier, not the only one to leave a new bride.

The tables were turned when Israeli troops succeeded in creating a bridgehead across the canal and began storming into the African part of Egypt separating the Egyptian army in Sinai from their logistic supplies.

From Port Said to Kantara and Ismailia and in the ‘Chinese Farm’ South Africans fell with IDF heroes fighting relentlessly in tanks and with whatever was still operable. They won the Oz and Mofet medals of valour. Two members of a kibbutz fell in the same tank. Medics fell while trying to save fellow soldiers.

On the Golan Heights the Syrians almost reached the Bnot Yaakov Bridge on the Jordan River before the tables were turned thanks to the heroic stand of the tanks crews who persevered against unbelievable odds. Israeli troops crossed the 1967 ceasefire lines and destroyed the Syrian airfields, infrastructure and the Iraqi units assisting the Syrians but refrained from attacking Damascus.

Among those who fell on the Golan Heights was an officer who insisted on joining his unit although he had lost a brother, he too an officer, on the Suez Canal during the War of Attrition.

In 1977 Anwar Sadat visited Israel. Prior to his visit the Egyptians returned the bodies of twenty soldiers who had fallen in Sinai, among them one South African. Within two years of the historical visit Israel and Egypt had signed a formal Peace Treaty and by 1982 Israel had withdrawn from the entire Sinai Peninsula. Wisely perhaps, Egypt refused to include the Gaza Strip which had been under Egyptian control prior to the Six Day War.

With the Palestinian terrorist groups firmly ensconced in Lebanon, the towns and villages of the Upper Gallil now came under fire. After an attack on an Egged bus on the coastal road Israel launched Operation Litani in 1978, with the express aim of expelling the PLO from Lebanon. Among the casualties was a South African paratrooper.

The South Lebanon Army (SLA) filled the vacuum left by the withdrawal of the Israeli troops. Over the coming years there were a number of daring operations whether in Lebanon or the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear installations in 1981. As many of them still secret it is impossible to know just where and how our soldiers fell.

The SLA were unable to prevent the rain of Katyusha rockets, which now had a longer range, on the Upper Galilee so Operation Peace for the Galilee (Lebanon War) was launched in 1982, as part of an agreement with the Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel. With his assassination, instigated by Syria, Lebanon came under Syrian control. However, Yasser Arafat and the PLO were expelled to Tunis.

Six South Africans fell during this war including one who fell while rescuing injured soldiers at Sultan Yakub. Another SA medic fell in 1985 which was when Israel withdrew from Lebanon, excluding a 14 km buffer zone. Despite two more operations in Lebanon (Operation Accountability in 1993 and Grapes of Wrath in 1996), during which a SA soldier fell, Israel was unable to prevent Hezbollah’s continued attacks on northern Israel and in 1999 Israel withdrew, unilaterally, to the international border. This was confirmed by the UN in 2000.

In 1987, with the outbreak of the first intifada (uprising), due to the spread of a false rumour and incitement from the PLO, road blocks were set up in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza. For the first time since the Six Day war entry to Israel was no longer unrestricted. One year later Jordan cut her links to the West Bank, including administration of the Temple Mount and with the Peace Treaty signed in 1994 relinquished all territorial claims to the West Bank.

There were occasions when soldiers fell in training accidents but a particularly rare incident occurred in the USA when two young officers who had been sent to take part in the development of an improved weapon were killed when a shell exploded in the barrel. The Americans erected a memorial to both, one of whom was a South African, in the base in Arizona.

1990 saw the Temple Mount riots and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and 1991 Operation Desert Storm when Iraqi scuds fell on Israel while Israel took no action even though the USA did not destroy the launching sites. But the 1990’s also saw the beginnings of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The handshake between Rabin and Arafat on the White House lawn; the Declaration of Principles (DOP) in Oslo; the Israeli withdrawal from Jericho and other towns and villages in the West Bank; the Interim Agreement (Oslo II) and the withdrawal from Hebron.

Through all these discussions terrorism and rockets from Lebanon continued as did Israeli casualties, including a SA soldier who fell in a skirmish on the Lebanese border and one who was among the 76 killed when two helicopters collided near Shear Yishuv.

Despite the Wye River Memorandum at Camp David in 2000 when Netanyahu and Arafat agreed to facilitate the 1995 Interim agreement, to the surprise of Clinton, Arafat refused to accept any proposal drafted by American negotiators and the second intifada began, at his instigation.

As the terrorist attacks and suicide bombings increase culminating in the Passover Massacre, Israel initiated Operation Defensive Shield, the largest in the West Bank since the Six Day War. South African soldiers fell in terrorist attacks in Nahariya and near Ofra and in clashes near Kisufim, Shechem and the Hebron Kasbah.

In Aqaba Abbas promised to end the intifada and Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo signed the Geneva Accord, which has no legal standing as it is not signed by a government, but terrorism continued and in an attack at Itamar seven young children are left without a father.

Another truce in 2005 at Sharm el Sheikh followed by a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a number of settlements in the northern West Bank area was rewarded with a bombardment of rockets from the Strip. The kidnapping of Gilad Schalit brought Operation Summer Rains and Operation Autumn Clouds during which Hamas and other militant groups, their infrastructure and smuggling tunnels in the Philadelphi Corridor between the Strip and Egypt were targeted. The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was short lived.

On the Lebanese front a barrage of rockets on Israeli towns and villages the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah resulted in the IDF sea and air blockade of Lebanon and then to a land attack in an attempt to destroy the Hezbollah infrastructure. The campaign was not a success and the Israeli losses were high, among them a South African member of a tank crew, a medic and a reservist officer trying to assist the injured. One and a half million Israelis in northern Israel were confined to the proximity of their bomb shelters by four thousand rockets fired by Hezbollah.

In the meanwhile Hamas succeeded in greatly increasing the range of Qasam rockets which now reached as far as Ashdod and Ashkelon. After three years of restraint at the end of 2009 Israel launched the three week long Operation Cast Lead which ended when Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire followed by a complete withdrawal.

Once again the ceasefire was temporary and lasted only until Hamas and the other terrorist organisations in the Strip had replenished and improved on their arsenals. 2012 saw Operation Pillar of Defense.

Since then there have been sporadic rocket firing both from the Gaza Strip and the Lebanese border which is where the last South African to fall was felled by a sniper. But the introduction of the Iron Dome has reduced both civilian casualties and damage to property.

The intrinsic involvement of the Southern African community in Israel, which has been illustrated by the stories of the fallen, extends not only to those serving in the various branches of the IDF but also to those who were killed in terrorist attacks over the decades and to those who volunteered to serve as overseas volunteers in Machal and Nachal.

Indeed a community of which to be proud.

=======================================

 

This article was written by Beryl Ratzer at the request of Gidon Katz in November 2013 and updated in 2015.

It may be used in its entirety, with acknowledgement to the author, without the need for specific permission from the author. Any alterations to the article, whether modifications or removal of sentences or paragraphs, can only be done with the permission of the author.

Beryl Ratzer is the author of “A Historical Tour of the Holy Land”. A complete list of the fallen can be found on her website is www.ratzer.com

 

S. A.  FALLEN
Name Birth   Date
1 Katz Avraham Isa 1912 1.7.38
2 Levin Yonatan 12.1.30 13.3.48
3 Kaploun Oded 19.12.25 28.4.48
4 Berelowitz Yechezkiel Chatzi 17.4.18 12.5.48
5 Lipshitz Zvi 1920 13.5.48
6 Rosenberg Gideon 7.2.23 16.5.48
7 Cohen Eddie Shlomo 2.7.22 30.5.48
8 Bloch Lesley Morris 30.11.21 10.7.48
9 Hack Louis 14.8.23 23.10.48
10 Silber Meir Matey 18.8.27 23.10.48
11 Sanders Benzion 11.7.50
12 Levinson Shmuel 21.1.26 11.5.51
13 Chait Chaim 14.1.25 23.9.51
14 Friedman Natan 1.6.29 29.10.51
15 Sidlin Moshe 17.1.28 25.12.51
16 Levy Joshua 12.1.34 30.5.52
17 Glazer Yitzchak 28.9.35 1.11.56
18 Lemkin Donald 6.7.37 6.6.67
19 Lavi Orit 17.6.49 12.8.68
20 Leibowitz Harold 7.10.46 1.9.69
21 Weiler Adam 22.9.44 31.3.70
22 Kahan Daniel 22.5.45 2.4.70
23 Shur Avida 23.4.51 10.4.73
24 Katz Rami Norman 15.4.49 6.10.73
25 Kaye Terrence 11.9.52 6.10.73
26 Lowenberg Raymond 4.4.47 6.10.73
27 Goldman Michael 10.4.52 7.10.73
28 Katz Avraham David 12.4.39 7.10.73
29 Tamari Michael 23.1.53 7.10.73
30 Bar-El Jacob Meir 17.6.52 8.10.73
31 Weiler Gideon 9.5.50 9.10.73
32 Urie Micha 1.5.52 12.10.73
33 Shanan Gideon 9.6.49 14.10.73
34 Agayev Yigal 25.11.52 15.10.73
35 Aviram Eli 1.6.39 16.10.73
36 Shapira Ilan Haim 13.2.49 16.10.73
37 Melcer Yitzhak 13.5.49 16.10.73
38 Silbowitz David Jonathan 6.12.49 18.10.73
39 Freed Neil 13.4.48 18.10.73
40 Rubin Rami Avraham 21.1.48 22.10.73
41 Comay Yochanan 22.9.39 24.11.73
42 Shomroni Jonathan 10.12.53 4.9.74
43 Whiteson Paul 22.9.55 21.1.75
44 Meir Dr. Yehonatan (John) 6.2.27 23.7.76
45 Solomon Chaim 10.8.58 10.5.77
46 Wittert Shai 31.8.58 15.3.78
47 Adar Boaz 25.10.58 15.1.79
48 Feldman Alan 8.1.60 20.6.79
49 Golan Guy 19.9.53 29.9.79
50 Preiss Yochai 1.9.59 11.3.80
51 Berman Ofer 25.10.58 8.10.80
52 Chemel Roi 20.1.56 10.9.81
53 Myers Gary 29.10.61 16.12.81
54 Lipshitz Zohar 20.6.56 11.6.82
55 Zipper Ran 2.10.49 11.6.82
56 Eidelman Ronen 6.9.60 12.6.82
57 Messerer Ron 25.6.61 16.6.82
58 Lahak Joel 20.6.48 25.6.82
59 Fredman Dan 18.10.58 28.8.83
60 Weinberger Jonathan 21.5.64 30.11.84
61 Gotsman Yaron 20.5.66 16.2.85
62 Ben-Atar Neil 28.12.66 16.6.86
63 Gordin Yonat 8.7.69 22.2.87
64 Katz Barry David 17.5.55 9.9.87
65 Rabinowitz Idor 3.12.67 25.11.87
66 Eilon Mark 24.9.67 6.11.89
67 Kaufman Ilan 9.9.63 22.4.90
68 Zlotnik Tamar 15.9.70 1.10.90
69 Shemer Avi 24.6.70 27.3.91
70 Rockman Daniel 1.2.75 15.2.95
71 Shefts Natai 7.3.72 19.9.95
72 Mishieker Gilad Moshe 13.5.76 4.2.97
73 AberRaz 8.10.76 25.6.97
74 Loew Guy 2.2.81 20.12.2000
75 Ifrah Danny 18.6.82 9.9.01
76 Damlin David 8.6.73 3.3.02
77 Kenisberg Steven Ian 17.7. 3.3.02
78 Yacob Avihu 13.2.78 3.5.02
79 Gadri Matan 16.4.82 8.6.03
80 Miller Mark Shlomo 20.3.54 13.8.04
81 Bar-On Yaniv 9.11.86 12.7.06
82 Slavin Lotan 3.5.85 24.7.06
83 Calo Naor 10.3.81 9.8.06
84 Novick Asher 24.7.70 9.8.06
85 Rothenberg Maayan 7.12.88 30.11.07
86 Harari Dov Barry 7.1.65 3.8.10
87 Walt Dylan 30.3.95 23.12.14

 

Original post: the-story-of-the-south-african-fallen-in-defence-of-israel-by-beryl-ratzer

Beryl on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ratzer.beryl

5-14-2015 12-12-16 PM_0024

We even searched in Australia for families of the fallen.

These articles appeared in the Australian Jewish News in 2010 and resulted in all the families coming forward within a week of publication!AJN006APR1610 copy

AJN Follow Up copy

Norman Rami Katz on the right, with me in Florida, South Africa in the early 60s

Scan10013

Central Shule Melbourne

Download PDF

DSC_7668 DSC_7669 DSC_7674 DSC_7676 DSC_7678

IMG_9970

With Rabbi Riesenberg and Arnold Bloch, gabbai of the Marais Road Shul, Sea Point, Cape Town

IMG_9973

With Smiley at Shacharit

IMG_3627

With cousin David Bloch

IMG_3624

More photos on the Melbourne Kehilalink:

jewishgen.org/melbourne/Central_Chabad_P.html

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 3.50.11 PM

Central Shule Chabad

By

SUZANNE BELLING

SA Jewish Report

The “tidal wave” of emigration from South Africa, following the Soweto riots, fear of a bloodbath instead of the new peaceful transition to democracy, the scarcity of jobs, black economic empowerment and the falling rand, led many young Jewish families to relocate to Australia, where there are similarities to South Africa in the climate and an approach to traditional Judaism. “In the 1990s this wave of immigration to Australia caused the Jewish community of Melbourne to swell to about 55 000. We do not have exact figures, as the many Holocaust survivors are reluctant to reveal their religion,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Riesenberg, spiritual leader of the Central Shul Chabad, Caulfield – colloquially known as the “South African Shul”.

The shul was the brainchild of Rabbi Riesenberg and former Johannesburger Ian Harris, who has lived in Australia for 28 years. To test the market place, they placed an advertisement in the Australian Jewish News to meet at Harris’ home and explore the idea further. The first service was held in a meeting room in the Caulfield Town Hall, which was soon filled to capacity. Within weeks, former South African Brett Kaye became honorary chazan and the first two High Holy Day services were held in the Beth Weizmann Community Centre. The committee then arranged a lease with the ANZ Bank in the area, and, after running out of space, the next location was sharing a hall at Glen Eira College, nicknamed “Shul in a Box” as Harris and his family unpacked and packed the shul contents before and after every Shabbat.

Little time elapsed before it became apparent that the synagogue needed its own space. Harris approached congregants to become foundation members and the congregation acquired land at the Caulfield South Municipal Library. Funds were raised for a permanent shul, which was opened officially on December 16, 2012. The building incorporates flowing South African planes similar to the outback in Australia and the interior, adorned with Jerusalem stone, is flooded with light – “symbolic of being a light unto the nations.

Former Capetonian, Barry Barron, who immigrated to Melbourne 28 years ago with his wife and two daughters, serves on the building and finance committee. “Most of us are former South Africans – our new chazan Rabbi Yedidya (Didi) Levin’s father is South African. The president is Phil Goldman. Building and finance committee chairman Earle Sacher was originally a member of the Tifereth Israel Synagogue, Schoonder Street, Vredehoek. “There are 300 families who are members and the shul seats in excess of 750,” Barron said.

Melbourne has become an increasingly Jewish city with 10 Jewish day schools and 15 kosher restaurants. The South African accents dominate and they seem to prefer to stick together in friendship and in worship. Esther Bassin, from Rouxville, whose son, Leslie, his wife Arlene and their three children immigrated to Melbourne 15 years ago, often attends the shul on her visits to Caulfield. A little bit of South Africa in a Melbourne shul.

Thanks to Suzanne Belling, and the SA Jewish Report for their permission to allow me to post this.

Original article in SA Jewish Report

a-little-bit-of-south-africa-in-a-melbourne-shul

Photos from my presentation.

IMG_3662 IMG_3664 IMG_3668  IMG_3673 IMG_3675 IMG_3677IMG_3659IMG_3679

IMG_3672

 

 

image_pdfimage_print