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


TEC News From Lithuania

TEC – Tolerance Educational Centres in Schools.


Established by the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.
The Commission was established upon the Lithuanian independence, and has been under the chairmanship of Emmanuel Zingeris, the long-serving Jewish Member of the Seimas.

In 2004 the Tolerance Centre principle was approved. The Tolerance Centre in Plunge was the 8th such centre established. There are now in excess of 100. The co-ordinator of the T C in each school, or museum, has autonomy.

The emphasis on the Tolerance Centre in Plunge is on the Jewish tragedy rather than the Russian brutality. Naturally, we are more concerned with the crimes against the Jews. Programs also include a study of Jewish life before WWll.
There are a number of Jews who are against the “Commission” because they are there also to teach about the Soviet regime.









Visit the KehilaLinks for many of these towns

New Jewish Websites & Shemot


In honour of the Jewish Pedlar or Smous – see Graaf Reinet KehilaLink


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My article about the Shanghai KehilaLink has been published in the April 2016 edition of Shemot, the publication of the JGS of Great Britain.

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My interest in family history started in 1992, after my cousin wrote seven ancestors’ names down on a scrap piece of paper.

I have had many genealogical success stories since then. This is due to my often unorthodox, multi focused approach, described by my daughter in law as “tangential”!

In 2011 I visited Eastern Europe for the first time. My heritage travels have taken me back four additional times. I have visited Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic and Turkey.

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I started writing KehilaLinks in 2011, the first being for Orla, near Bialystok in Poland in 2011.

What is a KehilaLink:

JewishGen KehilaLinks (formerly “ShtetLinks”) is a project facilitating web pages commemorating the places where Jews have lived.  KehilaLinks provides the opportunity for anyone with an interest in a place to create web pages about that community.  These web pages may contain information, pictures, databases, and links to other sources providing data about that place.

Kehila קהילה [Hebrew] n. (pl. kehilot קהילות): Jewish Community.  It is used to refer to a Jewish community, anywhere in the world.

Sites are hosted by JewishGen, the world’s largest Jewish genealogical organisation, an affiliate of the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York City. JewishGen provides amateur and professional genealogists with the tools to research their Jewish family history and heritage.

People are invited to send in their own stories, photos and memoirs. There is no cost in participating in a KehilaLink and it is a great way to share one’s family history


My list has grown to 63 websites with 3 more in the pipeline.

The full list and links are available at

The Shanghai KehilaLink

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Ironically, the one place I have not been to is Shanghai! Yet, I have been drawn to it by its connection to the Jewish people and especially because of the story of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kovno, the capital of Lithuania during WWII. Against his government’s wishes, Sugihara issued transit visas to Jews, enabling them to get to Shanghai, and therefore saved many lives. The story only surfaced in the 1970s. See  Rabbi Levi Wolff of Sydney Central Synagogue:

The video:

Sugihara also appears on several of  my other KehilaLinks: Mir in Belarus, Kedainiai in Lithuania, and Sydney and Melbourne in Australia.

See also:

Four New South African KehilaLinks

This week we went live with:


Graaff Reinet



Please visit the sites. If you have connections to these towns or cities, please contact me.

There are already some interesting contributions:

Read about the tribute to the Jewish pedlar (smous) from Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft


Photos of the Wertheim family from Amanda Katz Jermyn: Read Amanda’s story:


Amanda’s grandfather’s uncle, Hermann Wertheim, his wife Mathilde, and children Julius, Max, Fanny and Fritz who lived in Graaff-Reinett. It was taken in about 1892


The general store, Wille & Wertheim, formerly Baumann Bros., where Amanda’s grandfather, August Katz came to work for his uncle Hermann Wertheim.

August Katz, Boer War

August Katz, Amanda’s grandfather, in his British Boer War uniform


Grave of Fritz Wertheim, son of Mathilde and Hermann Wertheim. Hermann was a brother of Amanda’s great-grandmother, Mathilde Wertheim.

Kol Tuv



Five New KehilaLinks


I am pleased to advise that I am now working on five new KehilaLinks.

I compile and manage these Jewish websites as a volunteer for, the world’s largest Jewish genealogical organisation.

JewishGen should be the first stop in the journey of discovery of your family history.

If you have roots in these towns, please contact me at

I hope you are able to share your family’s story and photos of Jewish life in these places.


Ziezmariai (Zhezhmir)

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Ukmerge (Vilkomir)

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Jelgava (Mitau)

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South Africa


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Graaff Reinet

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Have a look at the list of KehilaLinks I manage:



Talk in Israel & New KehilaLinks

If you are in the Herzlia, Israel area on Sunday night, 5 July, don’t miss this presentation at Beth Protea at 7:30pm:

Exploring our Roots: Back to the Shtetl


A virtual heritage tour and contemporary photographic journey to unlock the mysteries of Jewish life in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

Discover how to share your family stories and cultural yiddishkeit.

For more details, visit:

Telfed 1

Telfed 2


From JewishGen

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We are pleased to welcome the following webpages to JewishGen KehilaLinks

We thank the owners and webmasters of these webpages for creating fitting
memorials to these Kehilot (Jewish Communities) and for providing a
valuable resource for future generations of their descendants:

Druskininkai (Drosknik, Druskiniki), Lithuania
Created by Eli Rabinowitz

GOOD NEWS!  The following webpages were adopted:

Created by Joseph Rosin z”l (webmaster: Joel Alpert)
Adopted by Eli Rabinowitz

I have updated Birzh

Birzai (Birzh)

The others will follow:

Alytus (Olita)

Kaisiadorys (Koshedar)

Kapciamiestis (Kopcheve)

Klaipeda (Memel)

Kybartai (Kibart)

Marijampole (Mariampol)

Kudirkos Naumiestis (Naishtot)

Panevezys (Ponavesh)

Varena (Aran)

This is the full list of the 25 sites adopted:


Recognise anyone here?

Cape Town c1950s?

NM CT Shot 50s?

I was sent this photo this morning by Abe Gulis in Israel.

Who is clever or old enough to know who is in this photo and what the occasion was?

My Zaida, Rev Nachum Mendel Rabinowitz of the Vredehoek Shul is third from the left in the second row from the front.

Two away from him in the middle of the row is Chief Rabbi Israel Abrahams, of the Gardens Shul.

I believe it was taken on the occasion of the visit to Cape Town of Rabbi Yosef Shlom Kahaneman, the Ponevezher Rav.

He is seated on Rabbi Abrahams’s left (with a white beard).

Also in the photo are Rabbis / Revs Weinberg, Franks, Malamed, Pakter, Zucker and Lipshitz and Cantor Lichterman.

Identification and comments are welcome!

Do you have any South African Jewish community photos like this? Please share with us.
I am setting up JewishGen Kehilalink websites for several cities and towns and this is exactly the kind of material I am looking for!
These photos are priceless. Imagine the hundreds of photos lying around in boxes which no one will ever see or understand! What a waste!
We must not lose our S A Litvak heritage!!!!
Please email your photos now, so that we can honour the memory of those who contributed so much to the Jewish life of South Africa!
Best regards & G’mar Chamitah Tova


Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman (1886–1969), יוסף שלמה כהנמן, was an Orthodox rabbi and rosh yeshiva of the Ponevezh yeshiva. He was a renowned Torah and Talmudicscholar, a distinguished member of the Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel, a man of deep piety and sharp wit.


Rabbi Kahaneman was born in KulLithuania, a small town of about 300 of which about a third were Jews.[1] As a young boy he attended the Yeshivah in Plunge lead by Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak Hacohen Bloch, who is credited for cultivating Rabbi Kahaneman’s great potential.[2] At the age of 14 he went to study Talmud at the Telshe yeshiva, where he studied Torah until he was twenty, under the direct inspiration of Rabbi Eliezer Gordon, who saw his potential. Another mentor of his in Telshe at the time was Rabbi Shimon Shkop. He then spent a half year in Novardok yeshiva, after which he spent three years in Raduń Yeshiva studying under the tutelage of the Chofetz Chaim and Rabbi Naftoli Trop. He married the daughter of the rabbi of Vidzh, and became rabbi there at the end of 1911, when his father-in-law became the rabbi of Vilkomir (Ukmergė).

With the passing of Rabbi Itzele Rabinowitz in 1919, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman was appointed the new rabbi of Ponevezh (Panevėžys), one of the largest centres of Jewish life in Lithuania. There, he built three yeshivas as well as a school and an orphanage. He was elected to the Lithuanian parliament. All of his institutions were destroyed and many of his students and family were killed during World War II.

Rabbi Kahaneman emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1940 and built Kiryat Ha-Yeshiva (“Town of the Yeshiva”) in Bnei Brak and Batei Avot orphanages. Rabbi Kahaneman travelled widely in the diaspora to secure financial support for his yeshiva, which he constantly improved and extended. With the help of long time friend Rav Moshe Okun, Rabbi Kahaneman succeeded in the face of opposition in turning the re-established Ponovezh yeshiva into one of the largest in the world.

He sought to take care of many orphans and tried to rescue them from the clutches of secular Zionist organizations, especially the Yaldei Tehran (“Children of Tehran”) – children who escaped from Nazi Europe by walking across Europe to Tehran (including the famous Biala Rebbe – Rabbi Ben Zion Rabinowitz).

In contrast to the prevalent haredi opposition to Zionism, Rabbi Kahaneman showed some signs of support for the State of Israel. For instance, he insisted that the flag of Israel be flown outside of the Ponovezh Yeshiva on Israel’s Independence Day (a practice still continued to this day).[3] He also refrained from saying the Tachanun prayer, a daily prayer of penitence, on that day as a sign of celebration. When asked about the apparent hypocrisy for his not saying the Hallel prayer, a prayer of active celebration, he answered jokingly that he was following the practice of David Ben Gurion who also didn’t say Hallel or Tachanun on that day.[4]

Following Israel’s military successes of the Six Day War, he published an article which included the following:

My dear brothers! Can we allow ourselves to be small minded at this great and awesome hour? Should we not be embarrassed to remain unobservant of this wondrous period, when we are surrounded by obvious miracles, and even a blind person can sense the palpable miracles… the miracles, wonders, salvations, comforts and battles [Ed. a reference to the Al HaNissim prayer recited on Purim and Hannukah], that occurred in the Holy Land and in the Holy City [Ed. of Jerusalem] and the Temple Mount, even those who saw it with their own eyes, even those who experienced it themselves, they cannot manage to express the depths of their emotions. Perhaps one like myself who was wandering during those days among the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, is better capable of recognizing the tremendous miracles and can consider the nature of these wondrous events.

—Rabbi Kahaneman, Beit Yaakov monthly, edition 100, Elul 5727

See also

Are you from Port Elizabeth, Pretoria or Oudtshoorn?


I have set up three basic websites for PE, Pretoria and Oudtshoorn, forerunners of the Kehilalink websites.

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These websites celebrate and document the Jews of these cities from its pioneers, through the families who lived and worked in these cities over the decades to those still there today. It will tell the story of the Jewish institutions, the shuls and other Jewish buildings and  cemeteries.

The site is hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society. It is managed by Eli Rabinowitz

Please join us on this journey – and if you or your family have connections  with these cities then we look forward to hearing from you and receiving your stories, memories, photographs and family biographies. Only by doing so, will the story of Jewish life will be revealed and available for the benefit of current and future generations – wherever they may be. We have made a start in July 2014 and created the possibility – now please will you help to fill in the details by telling us about your family.

Time is of the essence as the number of those that can “tell the story” and the remaining community dwindles.  So please contact me to send material and for any queries.

Here are the links:

Port Elizabeth



Please send in your photos and stories and fill in the questionnaires


To see a working kehilalink, visit Kimberley:

Thanks again to Geraldine Auerbach MBE in London, who has been an inspiring partner in the Kimberley kehilalink project.

Those from Kimberley, please send us your photos and stories as well.



Kehilalinks: Seeking Information

I am currently setting up the following new Kehilalinks for JewishGen:
Port Elizabeth
Cape Town
I would appreciate any relevant input including stories, memoirs and photos that could be shared on these sites:
My  South African Kehilalinks are – click the images to visit
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Pietersburg Banner
Geraldine Auerbach MBE in London is the driving force behind the Kimberley Kehilalink. She is energetically providing me with lots of great ideas on the new structure and input.
Thanks also to Charlotte Wiener in Iarael for her input on Pietersburg.

My other Kehilalinks are:

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