During Ishvara Dhyan’s walking tour of Doornfontein in February, he mentioned the Poswohl Shul.
I did some follow up research and found some very interesting info from:
The Archives at Beyachad
Friends of Beit Hatfutsoth
James Ball’s Heritage Portal
I want to thank Naomi Musiker and Rabbi Silberhaft for giving of their time and sharing information; my appreciation to Rose Norwich for allowing me to use parts of her dissertation for her Masters in Architecture in 1988; and to Elona Steinfeld and the researchers for the next two volumes of Jewish Life in the Country Communities.
Ishvara Dhyan’s Walking Tour – the shuls in Doornfontein
My thanks to Naomi Musiker of the archives at Beyachad for showing me this two volume set and to Rose Norwich for writing them and giving me permission to use extracts. Rose’s thesis has never been published. Hopefully someone will take on this project!
1. The world-famous cantor, Berele CHAGY (HAGGAI), was born in Dagda, Latvia on July 25, 1892. He emigrated to the United States in 1913.
(Information from Paul Silverman)
2. The famous Cantor (Chazan) Berele (Boris) CHAGY, the son of Yitzchak and Sheine CHAGY was from Dagda.
(Information from Eli Goldstein, Johannesburg, South Africa)
3. Berele Chagy was a great hazzan and officiated at Smolensk by 17. Later he had congregations in USA (New York, Detroit and Boston) and in South Africa (BETH HAMEDRASH HAGADOL). The last few years he was at the great Brooklyn shul Bethel (Bethel Synagogue created some rushes towards a movie of its great cantors). He went from Dagda to Riga to study, thence to Smoilensky (a cigarette case given to him with inscriptions in Hebrew “From the Hassids of Smolensk” is still in the family). Because of his youth he required special permission to be a cantor presiding there.
His father and his father’s father are supposed to have all been cantors. At nine he was accompanying his own father in singing and praying. One day he ran away to another village and was found davvening there!
He married very early a young woman, Esther, who was very active as a Zionist, though they never made aliyah together and she visited only late in life. His sons became philosophers and pianists. His grandchildren are in the arts.
He had a hard time escaping the army and came to America. He died while praying in Newark, New Jersey, in l954.
(He is listed in many Jewish encyclopedias.)
(His students – or those who sang under him are – interesting: From Jan Peerce and Danny Kaye to others.)
(Information from David Shapiro, New York, USA)
Any further information about Berele CHAGY (HAGGAI) will be greatly appreciated. Write to: Elsebeth Paikin
Marc Latilla’s blog
Next time – The Great Synagogue, Wolmarans Street.
I only found out about this tour a couple of weeks before leaving for South Africa from Lewis Chiat, who also lives in Perth.
I was lucky as the tour operator and guide, Ishvara Dhyan, only runs this tour three times a year and my dates in Jo’burg matched his next tour.
I was given a lift to Doornfontein by Marc Latilla, who writes a fabulous blog: Johannesburg 1912 Suburb by suburb research- see below.
We met the rest of the group in the parking lot of Ellis Park rugby ground. It is quite safe to park there. Some of us left our cars in China City nearby.
There were 53 on this tour that day and Ish told me that he had to turn away a further 60.
My father z”l was Hachazan Yizchak Rafael Lerman and was born in the old city of Jerusalem into a family of chazonim and baalei tefilot and very musical. He was in the famous Rivlin choir and often sang solo and gave concerts as well. My Abba z”l learned chazanut under chazan Mann of operatic fame. My Abba was Chief chazan of Herzliah and davened in the shul where chazan Leibel Glans was. In 1964, a few weeks before Rosh Hashana, my Abba came to South Africa and davened in the Germiston shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom kippur. My Abba got married in the Doornfontein Lions Shul, at which chazan Shlomo Mandel and Greenblatt afficated My Abba was at the Lions Shul for 3 years, then moved to Glenhazel Shul in 1969 and was there for a long time. In between he davened at various shuls in South Africa
My Abba z”l was a baker as well – the Lerman Bakery in the old city. He also taught Bar Mitzvah lessons in cheder and taught over 1000 bochrim their bar mitzvah. My Abba didn’t make any tapes, but all the recordings were left in Eretz Yisrael. He taught people Nusach
My Abba z”l was an excellent chazan and had a good voice and everyone enjoyed my Abba’s chazanut.
My Abba z”l passed away 9 years ago and is buried on Har Hamenuchot in Givat Shaul in Eretz Yisrael.
My father comes from a chassidic and rabbinical family and was a 5th generation sabra Jerusalemite
Published on Sep 7, 2014
The Lions shul is Johannesburg longest standing congregation.
It is a vibrant, active and dynamic congregation.
The 108 year old synagogue is in pristine condition and the chavershaft is warm and family oriented.