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



Digging Up Old Jewish Johannesburg

Poswohl Synagogue - Heritage Portal - September 2015 - 3
Photo by James Ball  – The Heritage Portal

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
  • Rabbi Silberhaft
  • 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.

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More details about the Poswohl synagogue on my Johannesburg KehilaLink website.

With permission from James Ball The Heritage Portal:

The Poswohl Synagogue – A Memorial to a Community that No Longer Exists

A captivating story appeared in the 1982 issue of Restorica. It was compiled by Hymie Amoils and traces the origins, history and significance of the Poswohl Synagogue in Mooi Street Johannesburg.

 In answer to Carol Hoffman’s query:

Tell me please, would this shul have been settled by Litvaks who had come from what is now known as Pasvalys?

From Rose Norwitz

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With Rabbi Silberhaft







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The Tangential Traveller Meets The Travelling Rabbi!

Travelling Rabbi

This blog has been updated.

It now includes video clips as well as photos. If your connection is slow, you may wish to wait for the video to download before playing it.

Last night in Perth, Western Australia, I had the pleasure of hearing Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft speak to an enthusiastic crowd at the PHC, the Perth Hebrew Congregation. I had just returned early the same morning from my 3rd Roots trip to Europe, Israel, Turkey and the UK, so the timing was perfect!

While his job is a serious and often a difficult one, Rabbi Silberhaft is a great storyteller. He kept his audience of mainly expat South Africans entertained throughout his presentation.

At lunchtime today, Rabbi Silberhaft spoke at a lunch at CHABAD WA and was again well received.

I highly recommend his book, written by Suzanne Belling, which I bought in South Africa last year. I immediately connected with it.

We both travel extensively – I can relate to being on the road visiting Jewish communities. Just read my previous blogs!

Ruth Feigenbaum, who co-heads the running of SGOFOTI in Bulawayo, is my brother-in-law Gidon Katz’s sister.

A predecessor of Rabbi Silberhaft, Professor Rabbi Dr Jacob Newman was my rabbi in the early 60s at Waverley and then at the Green & Sea Point shuls.

A couple of photos from last night.




The 15 minute SHALOM presentation edited from the hour long film shown on the SABC

[wpvideo 6FKBGQ5v]


Photos from CHABAD WA today:

The video of Rabbi Silberhaft’s talk at CHABAD today  – parts 1, 2, & 3 are in order.

Part 1

[wpvideo tx0x9YhK]

Part 2

[wpvideo QRDI9qG7]

Part 3

[wpvideo qVihpEqQ]

Enjoy and be inspired

Eli Rabinowitz