Sir Ronald Harwood: Obit by Abel Levitt

Plunge, Lithuania

Sept 2020: planted by Eugenijus Bunka at Litvakland, Plateliai

Sir Ronald Harwood 


The Ronald Harwood International Art Competition

The Tolerance Centre

More artwork to follow….

Abel Levitt on the passing of Sir Ronald Harwood from natural causes at his home in Sussex on 8 September 2020, at age 85.


I would like to write specifically about Ronald’s connection to Plungyan in Lithuania and his visit there with his wife Natasha in 2005.

I grew up with Ronnie Horwitz. We started school at the Kings Road Primary School in 1941, in the same class of sub A. We completed our schooling at Sea Point Boys’ High in 1951. Throughout our school lives we were in the same class, at Kings Road, at Sea Point Junior and at Sea Point Boys’ High. We lived close to one another, Ronnie in Victoria Road Bantry Bay, and, I, 150 yards away in Brompton Avenue. We were in the Cubs and Scouts together at the 10th Green and Sea Point, We played tennis together, watched cricket at Newlands together, competed with one another at the Eisteddfods. 

At school, Ronnie took the lead in the school plays. He was outstanding. After we had finished writing our matric exams, Ronnie left for London, to study Dramatic Art, dropped out of the Royal Academy due to financial difficulties, and the rest, as they say, is history. A career of writing and leadership. We maintained a loose relationship, the occasional phone call when I was in London, but we did spend a day together after watching his acclaimed play “Taking Sides”.

It was whilst reading his novel “HOME” that I learned for the first time that Ronald’s father Isaac Horwitz had emigrated from Lithuania. In half a lifetime, our fathers’ ancestry was not a subject of discussion. Glenda and my journey to Lithuania had already began, when I read Ronnie’s book “Home” and discovered that both of our fathers were from Plungyan. I called Ronnie. “What about you and Natasha joining us in a trip to our shtetl Plungyan” I asked. The reply was immediate. And the date 25th May agreed upon, with our guide Regina to be our leader.

The meeting at the airport was emotional. Ronnie had recently been awarded the Oscar for writing the screenplay of what was to become a Holocaust Classic “The Pianist”. And here he was, with his dear wife Natasha, in Lithuania.

Our journey to Plungyan was via Kovno where we visited Eugenijus Bunka, the son of the “Last Jew in Plungyan”, and our friend and partner in our Plungyan ventures. Eugenijus was in hospital, recovering from an operation. He would not be with us on the upcoming welcome to the Oscar winner.

 Upon our arrival in the town our first stop was at the apartment of Yacovas Bunka. During the few years of Lithuanian independence from the Soviet occupation, Yacovas Bunka had welcomed some hundreds of Plungyaner Jews. Few would have been of the international stature of the writer, playwright, literary giant and Oscar winner as Ronald Harwood. There was an immediate warm relationship although Bunka spoke no English and Ronald did not understand Yiddish.

The following morning we proceeded to the mass graves, where 1800 Plungyan Jews had been murdered by the Germans and their Lithuanian Collaborators in July 1941. The mass graves in Plungyan are special .The acclaimed sculptor Bunka, together with his Lithuanian sculptor friends had carved the sculptures which stand as sentinels overlooking the mass graves. These mass graves in the Kausenai Forest have been described by some as the most impressive in the whole of Eastern Europe. Ronald did not have family who had remained in Lithuania, but he walked around, silent, as he absorbed the sanctity of the moment. He was profoundly moved. The photo of Ronald sitting quietly on a bench describes the emotion of the visit.

Our next visit was to the Saules Gymnasium. The headmaster Jouzas Milacius welcomed his important guests, the Harwood’s, in one of the multiple European languages that he spoke, but not a word of English. Jouzas is a true friend of ours, a man who was directly helpful when we proposed the establishment of a Tolerance Education Centre in his school.  The pupils were assembled in the hall, waiting for the guests to arrive. They were well prepared. Every class had seen the film, “The Pianist”, and had lessons about the Warsaw ghetto uprising. And here they were, seated and waiting to hear from Ronald. The students were riveted by Ronald’s charm and dynamic personality.

The questions were intelligent. These children had as a teacher Danute Serapiniene, a committed and sincere lady who since 1995 had been teaching children about the Holocaust and about the Jews who lived in their town Plunge.

In the evening there was an event at the local Ogynski Palace where Ronald addressed the intellectuals of the town, relating his experiences of working in Poland with the director of the film Roman Polansky. Again the audience interacted with his engaging and charismatic personality and interacted with many questions about the film.

The following morning was a scheduled meeting with the mayor of Plunge, all arranged by the school? We sat in the mayor’s office, listening to the usual welcome and niceties.

And then Ronald Harwood spoke. I remember his words very clearly. “Mr. Mayor, I know that you have difficulties with budgets. I appeal to you, whatever you do don’t reduce the budgets for culture. To do so will be to the detriment of your society.”

As we walked down the stairs at the conclusion of the meeting, Glenda looked at me, and I looked back at her. We were both thinking of the very same thing. That was to create an art competition, called “The Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art competition“. Ronald’s words to the mayor of Plunge had inspired us and since that time the Ronald Harwood Art Competition has grown from a local event, to a regional event and to a national event. The word “Art” has become “Arts” as all forms of art are part of the competition today. Painting, drawing, sculpture, drama, music and writing.

We were present at the 10th anniversary of the Ronald Harwood Arts Competition, held in the Plunge Town Hall. There was an exhibition of prize-winning art works from previous years and entries from throughout Lithuania. The International School in Vilnius arrived with two full busloads of children of all ages who took part in a musical play, in Lithuanian, English and Yiddish with

Vilna and the Holocaust as the theme.

On Friday night at our hotel in the nearby resort of Plateliai we had a traditional Friday night dinner with candle lighting and Kiddush. Our guests included teachers from the district.

Before leaving Plungyan we had a special visit to make. Living in the centre of the town was Kazys Vitkevicius and his wife. As a 14year old in 1941 Kazys had helped his mother to save Jewish girls. He did this by digging pits in which he hid the girls covered by branches, and bringing them food. Both his mother and Kazys were honoured by Yad Vashem and became Righteous among the Nations. Ronald and Natasha were visibly moved at the experience of meeting this special man.

And so back to Vilnius where Ronald addressed the students at the Sholem Aleichem Jewish Day School. Again, the subject was the movie The Pianist and once more the children at the school were enthralled by the charm and competence of the writer of the script of the film

The Harwoods returned to their home in London after an experience which Ronald told me was something beyond his expectations.

 For us, that experience of being with my lifelong friend in the land of the birth of our fathers, to witness the appreciation of the young people of the artistry of Ronald Harwood inspired us to talk about Tolerance Education and to display the winning art works from the Ronald Harwood competition in countries around the world, including South Africa and Lithuania.

Abel Levitt 

Eli with Glenda & Abel Levitt in Ra’anana, Israel – July 2017


Sea Point High School 

Sea Point High School – Wikipedia

Sea Point High School, formerly Sea Point Boys High School, is a co-educational public high school in Main Road, Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa. The school was established on 21 April 1884. In 1925, the senior grades were separated from the junior grades. In 1989, the school merged with Ellerslie Girls’ High School after becoming co-educational.

Sea Point Boys connected to Plunyan

  • Sir Ronald Harwood (Horwitz)
  • Sir Antony Sher
  • Abel Levitt
  • Eli Rabinowitz (KehilaLink manager)


The Last Jew in Plunge

Last Jew




Gintautas Rimeikis and Yolanta Mazhukne


Yolanta Mazhukne, Gintautas Rimeikis and Danutė Serapinienė 

With Gintautas Rimeikis, Yolanta Mazhukne and Danutė Serapinienė 


Inspiring Services Held In Perth Australia

Rabbi Shalom White earlier in the week.

One of the advantages of living in Perth, Western Australia, is that, in the times of the world-wide covet-19 pandemic, where the majority of shuls around the world were closed, one could still attend full Rosh Hashanah services,  hear an excellent choir, and listen to an outstanding performance from our young Jewish kids! Perth is rated as one of the most isolated Jewish communities on the globe!

Bibi Shapiro, 6, sang with Yehuda White, son of Rabbi White, and Shakaed Friedl-Mishali,  at services on first and second day of Rosh Hashanah. They sang with the CHABAD choir, led by Anthony Gordon. Of the 13 man choir, 10 had sung in shul choirs in South Africa, before migrating to Perth. The choir was established  around 1986.

The CHABAD Choir at practice

The boys also sang Adon Olam with the choir.

Contrary to a few reports,  Bibi, his brother and mother, Nina Shapiro, attend CHABAD of Noranda in Perth, Australia.

Bibi is a student at Carmel School, Perth.

I first heard about the media interest in this story from friends in Toronto, Canada!

The CHABAD WA choir at practice before Yom Tov. 

Rabbi White blowing the shofar earlier in the week.

The ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ kid isn’t Amar’e Stoudemire’s son. But he does have a message for the High Holidays. Take it from his mom.

CHABAD held two services on each of the first two days – a full service at 7:30 – 11am, and a highlights service at 11am – 1:15pm. Delicious cholent was served between the two services.

The choir performed at the second service and the torah was read at both.

I sang the haftorah twice on the First Day, a bit like Groundhog Day!

For me, this certainly matched the special occasion when I repeated my barmitzvah Maftir and Haftorah at the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw in 2018:

Shabbat Nachamu

Eli Rabinowitz


SA Jewish Life – Vol VI Reminder

These are the towns covered in Volume VI:

East Rand: –  Alberton, Benoni,  Boksburg, Brakpan, Edenvale, Germiston, Kempton Park and Springs.

Mid Rand: –  Centurion, Irene, and Thaba Tshwane (Voortrekker Hoogte), Midrand and Olifantsfontein.

Southern Great Escarpment: –  Piet Retief, Volksrust, Wakkerstroom.

Southern Highveld: – Amersfoort, Balfour, Bethal, Breyten, Carolina, Delmas, Devon, Ermelo, Greylingstad, Heidelberg, Hendrina, Kinross, Leandra/Leslie, Morgenzon, Nigel, Ogies, Standerton, Trichardt.

Can be sent by Postnet Courier Services

Raele’s 19th Yahrzeit

Raele (Ray) Zeldin Rabinowitz’s 19th Yahrzeit tonight 4th Av.

Ray was born on 11 May 1919 in Dvinsk, now Daugavpils, Latvia.

She passed away on 24 July 2001 in Cape Town, South Africa

She passed away 24 July 2001.

The last photo

We Are Here – Now!

How an idea has progressed around the globe!

From: UK Jewish Telegraph Manchester – May 2018

To: Philadephia – April 2020


Australia 2019

WE ARE HERE! For Upstanders

For Upstanders – Founded by Eli Rabinowitz


Melbourne, Australia
The William Cooper Legacy

The Ark Centre Melbourne

Elder Shane & Rabbi Gabi

Barbara Miller & Federal Minister Ken Wyatt

With Viv Parry

Maroopna VIC, Australia 2019

Uncle Boydie, Maroopna VIC

London 2019 – World ORT

With Shoshana, Daniel & Edwin

Johannesburg  – ORT SA

Marcelle & Ariella

The Together Plan 2019

With Debra Brunner & Michael Mail in London

Birzh Lithuania 2019

Benny Rabinowitz

Aldone Shapiro & Emanuelis Zingeris MP at Birzh commemoration

Ambassadors to Lithuania

Kedainiai, Lithuania 2019

Keidaner descendants weekend at cemetery with Laima Ardaviciene 

Kedainiai Students

Israel 2019

Group at Yad Vashem

Belarus 2019

The welcome committee to Novogrudok – Tamara & Olga 

Nance Adler, Aron Bell- the last of the original Bielski with wife Henryka

Jerusalem Forest, Naliboki

IAJGS Conference in Cleveland 2019

With Saul Issroff, Roy Ogus & Henry Blumberg – all ex SA

South Africa

King David Victory Park, South Africa

Zog Nit Keynmol on Yom Hashoah 2020

Zog Nit Keynmol on Yom Hashoah 2020

South Africa  – Footage from SAJBD Facebook Live Stream with thanks


Choir Performances | WE ARE HERE!

Choir Performances | WE ARE HERE!

At Perth Modern School at Kristallnacht Commemoration on 10 November 2019 The joint choir of Ellenbrook Secondary College and Carmel High School The World Premiere performance at Ellenbrook Secondary


Audience at Perth Modern School


Sammy Marks & Heiny Ellert

Two men who came from the same town of Neishtot-Tavrig  in Lithuania

Sammy Marks square in Pretoria is one of the best known landmarks in South Africa’s capital city, but how many people actually know who Sammy Marks was?

The interesting history of Sammy Marks on Simcha TV (South Africa SABC) with Prof Richard Mendelsohn (ret) UCT History Dept.

Simcha TV

Simcha is SABC 2’s Jewish Magazine programme aimed at allowing Jews to celebrate their life of faith and culture and offering others an opportunity to learn about Judaism.

Naumiestis, Lithuania


This town in Lithuania has over time been known as eleven different names!
Heiny Ellert
Another son of this town is Heiny Ellert, who lives in Perth Australia
Heiny’s  story is also on the above KehilaLink
Heiny Ellert’s Testimony

Heiny Ellert’s Testimony

Heiny Ellert, a Lithuanian Holocaust survivor, tells his story to Eli Rabinowitz. Accompanying him is his wife Toby, also from Lithuania, but who escaped to …


His photebook is also on the KehilaLink:
Photo book


Yom Hashoah – The Partisans’ Song Legacy

Commencing tonight, on 20 April 2020, and continuing tomorrow, on the 21st, corresponding to the 27th day of Nisan, the State of Israel and many Jews around the globe, commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the  Holocaust, as well as the heroism of survivors, and Jewish Partisans and rescuers.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdown, regular ceremonies will not be held.

We have compiled this YouTube highlights video to give you a perspective of why the the Partisans’ Song is so integral to a meaningful commemoration:

Educators and students are welcome to download a functional powerpoint presentation (1.8gb) that matches this video:

I can also run an online ZOOM presentation for your school or organisation.   Please contact me at to arrange this. There is no charge for this or the accompanying lesson plans and films.

Here is a pdf of the List of Slides on my presentation:

A List of Slides


Here is more information for you:

Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In Israel, flags are lowered to half-mast, there is no public entertainment; ceremonies are held, and a siren at 10:00 signals the start of two minutes of silence.

The ceremonies held, usually conclude with Zog Nit Keynmol, the Partisans’ Song and Hatikvah.


Zog nit keyn mol” (Never Say; Yiddish: זאָג ניט קיין מאָל‎, [zɔg nit kɛjn mɔl]) or “Partizaner lid” (Partisan Song) is a Yiddish song considered one of the chief anthems of the Holocaust survivors and is sung in memorial services around the world.

The lyrics of the song were written in 1943 by Hirsh Glick, a young Jewish inmate of the Vilna Ghetto. The title means “Never Say”, and derives from the first line of the song. Glick’s lyrics were set to music from a pre-war Soviet song written by Pokrass brothers, Dmitri and Daniel, “Терская походная” (Terek Cossacks’ March Song), also known as “То не тучи – грозовые облака” (Those aren’t clouds but thunderclouds), originally from the 1937 film I, Son of Working People (story by Valentin Kataev).

Glick was inspired to write the song by news of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. During World War II, “Zog nit keyn mol” was adopted by a number of Jewish partisan groups operating in Eastern Europe. It became a symbol of resistance against Nazi Germany‘s persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


For more information on the WE ARE HERE! Foundation, a not for profit organisation, please visit:

WE ARE HERE! For Upstanders

WE ARE HERE! For Upstanders

For Upstanders – Founded by Eli Rabinowitz



Sea Point March 2020

Sea Point, Cape Town

29 February 20
Tea at the Winchester Mansions Hotel

Beachfront Walk

6 March 20

With Ian Stein and Dimitri Coutras

Cheryl Edwards

Foggy morning on the SEA POINT beachfront

7 March 20

Marais Road, Sea Point

Bordeaux – cnr Beach Road &  Marais Road

Ruemer Court  – I lived here from 1967 to 1975. Rent – R48 per month!

Green & Sea Point Hebrew Congregation

Queens Road – house once owned by my Zeldin grandparents

Ian & Irene Stein

Leaving Cape Town


Socher and Chassia moved to Queens Road Sea Point in 1953.

Socher Zeldin outside his Queens Road house.
Socher and Chassia Zeldin – outside their house in Sea Point
Socher and Chassia, their 5 married daughters and their husbands.


11 of the 15 his Cape Town grandchildren.

The founding of the Arthurs Road Shul, Sea Point in 1953
Socher passed away on Guy Fawkes Day – 5 Nov 1958 aged 77.
Pinelands #1



Clifton Beach, Cape Town

Clifton was originally called Skoenmakers Gat (Cobbler’s Cave) after a ship deserter who lived in a cave above second beach – see Wiki below

Here are some of my photos on a magnificent March day!

Believe it or not, the water was not freezing, and so I had a quick swim after the walk to Moses’ Beach from 4th Beach and then back, followed by a delicious Gatti’s Granadilla Fruit Sherbet ice lolly! Nothing like it! Yum!

In the old days, we never went to Clifton for a swim, only to socialise. For a swim, we went to Muizenberg on the False Bay coast in the morning, before the South-Easter came in! See my previous post on Muizenberg.

One way of finding out the weather in Muizenberg in the old days was to call the Muizenberg Police Station or a hotel for a weather report. They always answered very positively, but by the time we got there, the wind was up and unpleasant. Were they really being honest? So we sheltered between the rows of boxes or in  Snake Pit corner. The boxes have mostly disappeared, and the ones that remain, are in poor condition. The water is much warmer there, but also difficult to swim when the bluebottles washed in! Muizenberg is great for surfers!

On Clifton, the beaches are numbered First, Second, Third, Fourth and Moses’ Beach. At different stages in our own histories, we frequented different beach numbers. First was the beach for students in our time, sometimes Second was, and Fourth was the “family” beach. In those days, Third was the domain of gays, and Moses Beach was for those who wanted some seclusion.  It should be noted that when the tide was in, it wasn’t always straightforward to get from one beach to another.

On the Atlantic Coast, the water at Saunders Rock, at the end of Sea Point, is rather cold, but not a breath of wind!

There are also numerous beaches on the Sea Point Atlantic coast, but not as popular. Several have rock pools for protected swimming.  Rocklands is directly opposite my old high school, Sea Point High School  (Boys’ High in my time at school) 

So, take your pick!

Notice the mezuzah on the house doorway above Clifton Second Beach!

Clifton, Cape Town – Wikipedia

Clifton, Cape Town – Wikipedia

Clifton is an affluent suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. It is an exclusive residential area and is home to the most expensive real estate in South Africa,[2] with dwellings nestled on cliffs that have sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.[3]


Saunder’s Rock

Saunders Rock

Saunders Rock Beach in Bantry Bay, Cape Town

Saunders Rock Beach in Bantry Bay, Cape Town

Saunders Rock Beach in Bantry Bay, Cape Town. Saunders’ Rocks Beach, so named because of the imposing granite rocks that are a feature of this mostly …


Cape Town KehilaLink


Jewish Community of  Cape Town