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South African Settlers - Jewish

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This is a project devoted to the Jewish settlers and progenitors in South Africa. It is also a place where you can share links to online resources, tell other users where records etc. can be found and make queries or ask for help through the discussion facility. Please feel free to add to the information here and to correct any information which you consider to be incorrect.

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  • Please add the profiles of Jewish Progenitors - (not their entire families and descendants!) and also those of prominent, famous, influential, interesting South African Jews. This is easily done from the profile page using the Add to project link.
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History of the South African Jewish community

Jewish cartographers in Portugal assisted Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama who first sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and 1497. Portugal's baptised Jews were still free until the Portuguese Inquisition was promulgated in 1536. Jews were amongst the directors of The Dutch East India Company which controlled the Cape from 1652 – 1795.

The Dutch East India Company only permitted Protestant Christians to live at the Cape despite the significant number of Jewish shareholders in the company. Due to this, Jacobson and Hijlbron were baptised Christians on December 25, 1669, with records of these baptisms found in the registers of the Dutch Reformed Church. This was in contrast to the Dutch West India Company, which sent two hundred Jews to colonize Brazil in 1642. Religious freedom was granted by the Dutch in 1803 and guaranteed by the British in 1806.

There were 16 Jews among the first British Settlers, including the Norden, Norton and Sloman families, who played a significant roll in the early development of the Cape Colony. The first South African Jewish congregation was founded in 1841 when 17 men formed a minyan at the home of Benjamin Norden, Helmsley Place. The first synagogue, Tikvat Israel (“Hope of Israel” referring the to Cape of Good Hope) was established in Cape Town in 1849, and is still there today. Over the following 30 years British Jewish settlers built more synagogues and cemeteries were established.

One of those 1820 Settler Jews, the infant Joshua Abraham Norton, later went on to North America, where he declared himself Emperor of California, and became very famous. He was tolerated as such until he died, issued numerous edicts which the papers always published, wore a grandiose uniform, and thousands attended his funeral.

Early 19th Century

Jewish settlers from Germany and Holland arrived in Cape Town in the early 19th century. Some joined the Boers on the Great Trek into the hinterland. Others travelled into Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe and Zambia) Rhodesian Jewish Community project. The Jews established a commercial infrastructure for the Boer farmers and set up trading stations in villages and railway sidings. These soon became local business centres. They also set up a credit system to finance new industries.

The discovery of diamonds in 1867 in Kimberly attracted Jewish entrepreneurs and businessman from all over the world. Because of the extensive Jewish trade network, Jews immediately became involved in the diamond and precious stones industry, many moving north from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Two famous Jewish South African entrepreneurs were Barney Barnato and Sammy Marks. Barnato founded the De Beers Consolidated Mines for mining diamond fields.

Marks became involved in diamond trading and mining. After amassing a huge fortune he focused his attention on the Witwatersrand gold fields. He also became an industrialist and developed the Transvaal, planting fruit farms and forests, manufacturing bricks, glass, steel and leather goods. He exploited Transvaal’s coal and established the South African Breweries. He was also the founder of the town of Veeringing. Marks openly practiced Judaism and served as a mediator between the British and the Boers during the Anglo-Boer Wars. Marks served as senator for the first Parliament in South Africa.

The movement of Jews to Johannesburg reduced Cape Town's Jewish community to only a few hundred families. Between 1880 and 1910, the Jewish population swelled from 4,000 to 40,000 with Yiddish speaking immigrants from Lithuania, revitalizing the Jewish community in Cape Town. The new arrivals were fleeing political persecution in Europe. South Africa became known as a Lithuanian colony. Many of the Eastern European immigrants discarded their old garb and mores and adopted new Anglo-Jewish customs. With no capital, they made a living by peddling goods to the farmhouses which studded the primitive landscape very irregularly. With the passing years and accumulated profits of their early trade, they began to erect stores in the villages and stabilized themselves financially. So the early peddlers eventually became shopkeepers.

These new immigrants infused South Africa with a love of Israel and a strong Zionist connection. They were instrumental in the creation of the South African Zionist Federation in 1898, responsible for coordinating all the Zionist activities throughout the country.

Jewish organisations in Barberton and Lydenburg

  • Barberton Anglo-Jewish Association, established by Henry Heller 1889
  • The Barberton Zionist Society, formed in 1898 at the request of Theodore Herzl to promote Zionism in every town and village.
  • The Lydenburg Zionist Society, established 1917

Prospectors in the area

  • Included Simon Lissak, Mark Lowinsky, Joseph Masur, Mr Freedman, Maurice Schwartz, Theodore Sonnenberg (Germany), Nuna Davis - previously the general manager of both the Hatton Diamond Mining Company and the Bultfontein Diamond Mining Company in Kimberley, came to Barberton in 1887. Partnered Leopold Albu in produce -dealing business. David Holt (Hull, England) - local secretary of Kimberley Imperial Gold Mining Company. Napthali Cohen - solicitor belonging to the High Court of Griqualand in 1886, secretary of Eagle's Nest Mining Company. Herbert T Marks - engaged by Transvaal Republic as assayist and analyst. Joseph Marks - appointed collector of Customs by Kruger Government in 1887.

Solomon Rosenbloom - by 1889, working as a digger at goldfields in Steynsdorp (approximately 60 kn south of Barberton). He was one of the diggers arrested as a leader of a lynching party and sent to Pretoria for trial. Subsequently released due to lack of evidence. Sydney Adler walked from Lourenco Marques to Lydenburg, Ikey Sonnenberg, William and Henry Adler all prospected in the area. Joshua Hershensohnn (Russia) came to South Africa in 1858, successfully prospected for gold before moving to Pretoria in 1881, later becoming a newspaper-owner, journalist and editor based in Pietermaritzburg.

  • Jewish Life in the South African Country Communities - (researched by the South African Friends of Beth Hatefutsoth) Volume 1, Northern Great Escarpment.

20th Century

In 1903, attempts were made to restrict immigration; a strong Jewish lobby was able to influence legislation and Eastern European Jews were allowed to enter the country. Between 1920 and 1930, 20,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in South Africa.

Jews served on both sides during the Boer War. Some Boers were prejudiced against the Jews. In 1910, after the Boer War, ehe British gave the Jews an equal status with other white citizens.

The Jewish community of Cape Town formed its own community organization, the Cape Jewish Board of Deputies, and, a year later, a similar board was created for the Transvaal and Natal regions. In 1912, the two boards merged and became the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). Today the SAJBD represents nearly all of the Jewish community institutions and synagogues, works as a watchdog against anti-Semitic articles in the media, examines legislation concerning the Jewish community and maintains contact with Diaspora communities world-wide, as well as other political and religious organizations in South Africa.

In 1930, increased feelings of anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazism in Germany sparked the passing of the Quota Act, which restricted immigration from Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Palestine. While not expressly stated, the aim of the Quota Act was to restrict Jewish immigration. Still, the quota excluded Jews from Germany and, by 1936, another 6,000 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany went to South Africa. The new German immigrants started the Reform movement in South Africa, formally instituted by an American-born rabbi in 1933.

As Nazism influenced militant and nationalistic Afrikaners, anti-Semitic organizations began to form. The Aliens Act, was passed in 1937, closing the doors to Jewish immigrants fleeing Nazi Germany. Further fear developed after the anti-Jewish National Party came to power in 1948.

Apartheid Regime

Many South African Jewish individuals and organizations supported the anti-apartheid movement. Most Jews had voted against the apartheid National Party, casting their votes for either the Progressive Party or the United Party. The Union of Jewish Women sought to alleviate the suffering of blacks through charitable projects and self-help schemes. Fourteen of the 23 whites involved in the 1956 Treason Trial were Jewish and all five whites of the seventeen members of the African National Congress who were arrested for anti-apartheid activities in 1963 were Jewish. The Jewish Board of Deputies refused to take a stand against apartheid until 1985. The rabbinate also avoided taking a stance on the issue until the late 1980's.

One of the great leaders of the anti-Apartheid movement, Nelson Mandela, wrote about Jews in South Africa:

“I have found Jews to be more broadminded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice." Mandela's defence attorney, Isie Maisels, was Jewish.

Jewish university students vehemently opposed the apartheid movement. Many Jews were arrested for anti-apartheid protests. Jews were also involved in organizations such as The Springbrook Legion, The Torch Commando, and the Black Sash. which led both active and passive anti-apartheid protests. Other Jews sought to teach, train, and include black citizens in South African society. Jews could be found in the majority of anti-apartheid organizations and protests throughout the apartheid regime.

Israel maintained diplomatic relations with South Africa throughout the period. Various Israeli leaders publicly condemned the apartheid system. During the early 1960's, Israel aligned with other African countries against apartheid. After the Six-Day War in 1967, most African countries broke diplomatic ties with Israel, except for South Africa, leading to increased relations between the two countries.

Two Jewish organizations formed in 1985: Jews for Justice (in Cape Town) and Jews for Social Justice (in Johannesburg), tried to reform South African society and build bridges between the white and black communities. In 1985, the South African Jewish Board passed a resolution rejecting apartheid.

“Jews prospered during the apartheid era, as did many non-Jewish white citizens. The Jewish population, however, contained a higher than usual percentage of college graduates. More than 50 percent of the Jews were matriculated, compared to the average 23% in the total white population. Ten percent of the Jewish community had university degrees, compared to only 4% of the total white population. Jews were disproportionately represented in the commercial and financial sectors of society. The Jewish population peaked in the early 1970's reaching nearly 119,000 people”.[1]

Between 1970 and 1992, more than 39,000 Jews left South Africa, during this same period approximately 10,000 Israelis moved into the country.

Lemba People

The Lemba or Lembaa are an ethnic group today numbering about 70 000 in southern Africa who claim a common descent and belonging to the Jewish People.

They are Bantu speakers with specific religious practices and beliefs similar to those in Judaism, which have been transmitted orally over generations.

See also

Notable, prominent, famous and Interesting South African Jews.

(Please elaborate on these characters if you can; any anecdotes, stories, incidents - all welcome)

Profiles on Geni

  • Franz Auerbach 1923 - 2004 born in Frankfurt, Germany to Erich and Alice who qualified as a dentist. She was sacked from the municipal dental clinic with Hitler's rise to power. Franz spent many years in Luxembourg, living with another family, kept a positive attitude and supported his mother.
  • Leopold Albu - born in Germany. Produce dealer in Cape Town, diamond broker in Kimberley before going to Barberton in 1884 and becoming a member of the Stock Exchange.
  • Barney Barnato - London born, was a partner of Cecil John Rhodes in the formation of the De Beers Diamond Company (later control passing to the German Jewish family of Ernest Oppenheimer with the assistance of the Rothschilds).

Barney Barnato - Ancestry 24

  • David Benjamin - founded Transvaal Gold Mining Exploration and Land Company in 1883 (TGME). Granted a concession at Pilgrim's Rest, situated in Mpumalanga at the foothills of the Transvaal Drakensberg.
  • Nahum Brozin 1890 – 1980 - Geni Private profile -A merchant. Born in Kupishki, Russia, in 1895. Educated at Vilna, Commercial School. Came to South Africa in 1911, married Rose Abrahams in 1926; one child. Town Councillor; Chairman Zionist Society. Secretary, Middelburg Hebrew Congregation. Postal Address: Box 137 Middelburg, Transvaal.[4]
  • Nadine Gordimer (born 20 November 1923) Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer and political activist. She was awarded the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her writing has long dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. She was active in the anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress during the days when the organization was banned. She has recently been active in HIV/AIDS causes.>Nadine Gordimer Wikipedia
  • Joseph Herman Hertz (September 25, 1872 - January 14, 1946) - Jewish Hungarian-born Rabbi and Bible scholar. He is most notable for holding the position of Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom from 1913 until his death in 1946, in a period encompassing both world wars and The Holocaust. >Joseph Herman Hertz Wikipedia
  • Max (Menachem Mendel) Kaplan – 1876-1923

Gisa Kaplan Table.
Max Kaplan's emigration from Russia which took place probably at the end of 1903, or the early days of 1904, was very different from the Kushlick family (see below). He had already been conscripted and sent to Siberia. He deserted. His desertion was not typical but he was only one of the thousands of Jewish men and boys who left Russia, largely because of the harsh discrimination against the Jews in the conscription laws. Max’s family had been emigrating to South Africa since the early 1890s and his reason for choosing to go there is obvious. He managed to escape from Siberia and find his way to Vladivostok, terminus of the trans Siberian Railway, and jump a ship. He made his way to Cape Town. He was 27 when he arrived. His home language was Yiddish and he probably knew Russian.

  • Isaac and Solomon Kaplan - (sons of Max Kaplan) and Solomon Kushlick (son of Sarah Kushlick) began a business which in 1979, some 50 years later, was to be one of the largest private companies of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
  • Rabbi Dr. Landau - Chief Rabbi of the Federation of Synagogues. Revered head not only of the United Hebrew Congregation but as well as most of the South African Jewry.
  • Fritz Frank - entrepeneur. Left Germany together with four friends. Married Lisa Hirsch, the sister of Helmut with whom he was in business. The two brothers in law started 'Frank and Hirsch', a well known wholesale fancy goods establishment. Fritz was very involved in Jewish Affairs, most notable for his success in fundraising for the United Israel Appeal.
  • Harry Grauman - from England started a trading business with Henry Heller in Barberton in 1884. Aged 16, in partnership with Hirschel Cohen he became a financier and stock broker of some repute. He was first Jewish Mayor of Johannesburg in 1909, member of Parliament in 1915, received a knighthood, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1923.
  • Ernst Hochfeld (1911-1982) Private Geni profile - born in Lemgo (Lippe) Westphalia, the youngest child of Siegmund and Paula Hochfeld. Surviving WW1, his father died just before Ernst's 13th birthday, having fallen off a horse and developing a lung infection. As a result, Ernest did not have a Barmitzvah. After attending a rally in Nuremberg in 1936, Ernst decided there was no future for Jews in Germany and arrived in Cape Town 27 May 1936. He married Sigrid Maybaum in 1937, they have 4 children.
  • David Knep (1902 - ) Private Geni Profile" - born in 1902 in Lithuania, his father Simon Joel left Lithuania and sailed to South Africa leaving his wife and four children behind. He sent for his two sons, Jack and Abraham David in 1912. Dave was 8 years old. The family had little money and lived in Fordsburg, living from the proceeds of delivering coal from a horse and cart. Dave went to the Jewish Government School, left at age 15. He was 17 when he went to work for K and L Timbers as a traveling salesman. He opened his own company 'Wustrow and Knep' which became Knep Timbers when war broke out in 1939. Wustrow and his son went to fight for Germany as there was anti- German rioting in South Africa. They were interned in Germany and returned to South Africa in 1947 in a prisoners of war exchange. Information provided by his son.
  • Abba Kushlick 1842-1915
  • Sarah Gertrude Millin - well-known South African writer, (Liebson) 2 x Private Geni profiles.
  • Fritz Sonnenberg - Mayor of Cape Town 1951 - 1953
  • Joseph Louis Zadik, 1870 – 1954, Private Geni profile - artist photographer, Commissioner of Oaths. Born and educated in Sweden. Came to South Africa in 1893. Married to Florence Goldman in 1905; has two children. Past Member of Cape Hospital Board and Committee Cape Jewish Orphanage; Past Committee Member, United Hebrew Schools. Postal Address: 80 Adderley Street, Cape Town.[4]
  • Joseph Zwarenstein born 26 July 1873 Strijen, South Holland, The Netherlands, died April 1942 Lydenburg, South Africa - third of the three Zwarenstein brothers to be made a POW during the guerilla war, was captured at Bloedrivier in the Eastern Transvaal on 29 September 1901 when his commando was ambushed by Walter Kitchener 19. His brothers Simon and Jacob were captured on 12 May and 8 September 1900 respectively and sent to St Helena (where Simon was chess champion).
  • "'Hyman Abraham Behr - came to South Africa in 1895, settled in the Bronkhorstspruit district as a farmer and businessman He fought for the Boers during the war, was captured and sent to the prisoner-of-war camp in Simonstown until the end of the war. [5]
==Profiles not yet on Geni==

*Simon Bernstein - from Lithuania, and his cousin Jacob Bernstein lived at Wilgerivier, near Balmoral, establishing businesses, part mill, part farm, and part hotel. Simon died of Enteric fever. [5]

  • Arthur Bloch - born 1880 in Lithuania, lived for several years in England before going to South Africa. He died in Muizenberg, Cape Town in 1965. Arthur was a member of the Johannesburg City Council for 24 years, and in recognition the Arthur Bloch Park in Mayfair was named after him. In Jewish Affairs he was Chairman of the Mizrachi of South Africa. A keen sportsman, he was Chairman of the Rangers Football Club for 50 years. In recognition the Club presented him with 6 Volumes comprising the Chumash, the Midrash and the Zohar.
  • [Fordsburg Mayfair Congregation 1983-1964, Bernard Sachs]
  • Joseph Ben - born in Salant, Lithuania in 1894, one of the foremost Jewish communal workers. He came to South Africa in 1913. Took a particular interest in Hebrew Education and became Chairman of the Fordburg Talmud Torah and Lomdei Torah in 1925. He was associated with the Jewish Helping Hand and Burial Society for 25 years, and also a Trustee of the Witwatersrand Jewish Old Age Home. He died in 1956.
  • Franz L. Benedick - born 9th July 1915 in Berlin, to Paul and Aenne Benedick. From the age of 15 he worked for a French textile company, and at the age of 20 left Germany. He took advantage of the 'open door' policy of the South African Government, and in 1935 left from Genoa on the Dullo with four friends, Horst Loewenheim, Fritz Frank and Helmut and Lisa Hirsch, Helmut's sister. Franz Benedick Biographies, Jewish Immigrants in Johannesburg.
  • Sydney Brenner - Biologist, Nobel Prize 1927 - Wikipedia
  • Emil Cohen, Jewish geologist from Denmark. Arrived in Cape Town 1871. The Lydenburg Gold Prospecting Company, the first in the Transvaal, founded in March 1871.
  • Wolf Cohen - one of the early pioneers on the Rand and one of the leading figures in the ranks of traditional Judaism in the country. Founder of the Rand Steam Matzo Factory Ltd., and of Cohen's Bakery. Born in 1848 in Pumpiani, Lithuania, came to South Africa in 1895 when he immediately concentrated on the manufacture of Matzoth. Annual production, which at that time was sufficient for the needs of the whole of Transvaal Jewry. During the Boer War, when the British were advancing in the Free State, Mr. Cohen was granted a special permit by the Boer Government which enabled him to travel to Bloemfontein for the purpose of obtaining supplies of Kosher flour. While this flour was being ground in Bloemfontein the British Army was approaching the city. When the occupation of Johannesburg was becoming imminent, the Boer troops attempted to commandeer Mr. Cohen's supply of flour, but the plan was frustrated by Dr. (now Mr. Justice) F.E.T. Krause, who at that time was commandant of the town.

In 1903 the factory was transferred to Ophirton where it is still situated to-day. The factory employs 100 per cent Jewish labour and is conducted under most hygienic conditions and on strictly traditional Jewish lines. Mr. Cohen was one of the founders of the Beth Hamedrah in Fox Street, and of the Beth Hamedrash Hagodel in Doornfontein. Mr. Cohen died at the ripe old age of 90 years on the 1st May, 1938, and left in his will considerable sums of money for all Jewish institutions in Johannesburg, and for a number of Talmud Torahs in Eastern Europe. His estate which is not to be wound up for 50 years makes ample provision for his grand, great-grand children, should any of them desire to study Rabbinics in any of the Yeshivas of Europe and Palestine.[4]

  • Julius First - Manager, Union Mattress Co. Born Bauske, Courland, in 1896. Came to South Africa in 1906. Educated in Johannesburg. Married in 1924 to Matilda Leveton; has one child. Ex-Hon. Secretary, Russian Famine Relief Fund. Postal Address: Box 6648, Johannesburg.[4]
  • Dr Siegfried Frankel - was the first practicing Jew who arrived in 1800. A Danish ship's doctor, he was arrested on arrival with the rest of the crew as Britain was at war with Denmark at the time, and when released in a prisoner exchange, he got permission to remain in Cape Town. Dr Frankel later helped to establish the South African College where his sons were among the first students.

Family Group

  • Bernard Friedlander - chairman of numerous organisations in Nelspruit, including local MOTH shell hole, school committees, Lowveld Country Club and local Scout 1948 while serving with the Third Transvaal Scottish Unit he was awarded the George Medal for Bravery by Kind George VI. He and wife Peta were active in Jewish community for over 30 years.
  • Abel Hossy - born in Lithuania, and was one of the first Jews to obtain a mining degree in South Africa. He played an important part in the growth of the mining industry in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia and was associated with the opening of the Orange Free State Goldfields.
  • Woolf Harris - from Lithuania was involved in the discovery of coal in Witbank in 1978 [5]
  • Yosef and Clara Himmelhoch - were living in Belfast, Northern Highveld in 1909.
  • Emanuel Kaufman - born in Austria, educated in Prague. Went to South Africa in 1888.
  • Abraham Marcus - went from Lithuania to Erasmus in 1903, at age of 21, becoming a shop keeper. [5]
  • Joseph and Max Masur - born in Germany, Joseph Solomon went to South Africa in 1880. Vice-chairman of the Urban Board and Justice of the Peace in the Machadadorp district. Max was one of the founders of Transvaa Mattress Co.
  • Mosenthal family - owned a business in Machadadorp which they sold to Emanuel Kaufman in 1894 [5]
  • Sigismund Neumann - from Germany, in 1896 established the Witbank Colliery with his colleague Samuel Stanford. Records show that Jewish men fought in the Boer forces in the Second Anglo-Boer War and one participated in the 1914 Rebellion. [5]
  • Abraham Perlman - large general dealership in Tzaneen in the years before World War 1. [5]
  • Sir Lionel Phillips - mining magnate and philanthropist. Around 1912 he bought the estate Westfalia, 5 km from Duiwelskloof, from a German settler as a wedding present for his son Harold. After Harold's death in 1926, Lionel took back the estate which was sold to Dr Hans Merensky. [Fordsburg Mayfair Congregation, 1893-1964 - Bernard Sachs] [Jewish Life in South African Country Communities]
  • Dr Hyman Aubrey Sack - member of the Machadadorp Town Council, mayor in 1929.
  • Israel Schlosberg - born 1849 in Lithuania, and wife Matla went as farmers to Palestine around 1879, and founded Petach Tikvah, the first agricultural settlement in modern Palestine. He was instrumental in creating a Synagogue in Tel Aviv. Israel left his family in Palestine and went first to London then Madagascar before reaching South Africa and settling in the Bronkhorstspruit district at Renosterkop with his son Robert. His brother Joseph joined them in 1893 where they established businesses, relocating to Pretoria during the Second Anglo-Boer War. [5]
  • Helen Suzman (nee Gavronsky) Helen Suzman - Member of Parliament for Houghton 1953–1989, energetically championing the disenfranchised and winning world wide recognition.
  • Jacob Goldberg - Diamond Dealer. Grandson of the Gaon Rabbi Peisach of Tarnow and son of the Gaon Naphtali Zewi Halevi Goldberg, Rabbi of Tarnow for 40 years, author of the well-known Talmudical work "Beth Halevi." Born in 1885 in Tarnow, Galicia. Studied for many years Talmudical literature with his brother Rabbi of Povianetz, near Lodz, Poland. Came to S. Africa in 1911; married in 1917 to Hetty Rosenberg; travelled widely in the various countries of Europe and America. Postal address: 140, Shakespeare House, Johannesburg.[4]
  • Mary S. Gordon - Medical Practitioner, M.B., B.S. Born in Russia in 1890. Educated at Argyle House, Sunderland and University of Durham. Came to South Africa in 1917. Hon. Medical Registrar, Johannesburg Hospital; M.O., Education Department, Transvaal. Postal address: Adderley House, Johannesburg.[4]
  • Samuel Barnat Hersman - Produce Merchant (Trading as Hersman Bros). Born in Lithuanian Province of Kovno in 1885. Educated in Russia. Came to South Africa in 1902. Married in 1910 to Rebecca Futerman; has four daughters. Committee Member, Capetown Jewish Helping Hand Association; supporter of Jewish and non-Jewish causes. Postal address: P.O. Box 992, Capetown; or 9 Woodside Road, Tamboers Kloof, Capetown.[4]
  • Ellen Hellman 1908 - 1982 - Born in Johannesburg to German Jewish parents, Ellen became a lecturer in economic history at the University of the Witwatersrand. She entered parliament as a member of the United Party in 1953, and six years later was part of a breakaway group that founded the Progressive Party. [The Jews in South Africa - Professor Richard Mendelsohn and Milton Shain ]
  • Nathaniel Isaacs, an early explorer of Natal who befriended the famous Zulu chief, Chaka, was a Jew.
  • Samuel Jacobson – earliest recorded Jew in South Africa, Dutch 1652 – not on Geni
  • Salli Kahn - from Germany, settled in Nelspruit around 1892 [5]
  • Hyman Lieberman – first Jewish Mayor of Cape Town (1904-1907) - His house, Rosecourt, is today a halfway house administered by the Jewish Sheltered Employment Agency.
  • Joseph Suasso de Lima of Amsterdam, started the first Dutch newspaper in SA, arrived. He was an eccentric, a man of learning, a doctor of law, who came from Batavia with his wife in 1818. Lame he was continually involved in quarrels, defending himself and vigorously attacking his enemies with a satirical pen. At Amsterdam, where he was born of of an old impoverished Sephardi family, he had published a volume of poetry. At the Cape he wrote and published the first history of the Cape of Good Hope, edited a Dutch newspaper, "Versamelaar", and sold Dutch books. He became a member of the Dutch Reformed Church and was engaged to teach the catechism to the slave children, though his Jewish origin was notorious. It is notable that he gave a generous subscription to the fund for founding the first Cape Town synagogue in 1849.[3]
  • Jacob Ber Lurie, 1878 - ? - farmer (known as "The Potato King"). Born in Poneves, Lithuania, in 1878. Educated at Yeshiva. Came to South Africa in 1896. Married Anny Shavell in 1912; has three children. Director of the S.A. Palestine Enterprise Co. (the "Binyan"); Director, Johannesburg Poneves Yeshiva Buildings; Trustee, Bloemfontein Congregation; takes a most active part in, and contributes generously to, all communal and Zionist work. Postal Address: Tweespruit, O.F.S. The first Jewish marriage took place in 1844 between Simeon Marcus' daughter. Amelia, and Michael Benjamin. As there was neither synagogue nor rabbi, the wedding took place in the St George's Church under the Senior Colonial Chaplain, Rev Hough of St George's Church in a ceremony in which, with the permission of the Attorney-General, all allusions to the Trinity had been carefully removed. Their son was to become the first barmitzvah boy in 1858 although the 13 year old son of Sloman was the first boy to be called to the Torah in 1849 at the first public reading of the Torah in South Africa by the Rev Pulver. This brave young man had his bris the year before when he was 12 years old because there had been nobody in the Cape qualified to do it before then.
  • Isidor Maisels, Nelson Mandela’s defence attorney.
  • Isaac Manuel - a prominent Cape Town merchant who pioneered the export trade in hides. He settled in Cape Town in 1819. In later years, when the Jewish congregation had been formed, he associated himself with it, attended a Tisha B'Av service in 1843, and gave frequent donations to the congregation, though it is probable that both Isaacs and Rebecca Manuel, his wife, had become connected with the English Church long before a Jewish congregation was thought of in Cape Town. One of their sons, Charles Manuel, was for many years a member of the Cape Parliament.[3]
  • Joffe Marks (b. 1866 circa) - arrived in South Africa at the age of 18 years old. He started the icon company Premier Milling that became the most important enterprise to occupy western Newtown and eventually incorporated the Fordsburg and Germiston Mills. During the 1930s and 1940s Premier Milling expanded its operations nationally, and acquired mills in the Free Statem Cape Town and then Rhodesia.
  • Sammy Marks from Neustadt, Suwalki Gubernia (province) - regarded as the pioneer of Lithuanian emigration – he became a friend of President Paul Kruger and was highly successful as an industrialist. [2]
  • Karl Mauch - from Germany arrived 1868 circa. Drew first geological map of Transvaal, pronounced there was gold in the district.
  • Harry Mirvis - purchased the business Lawrence and Venn in Nelspruit, renamed it Lowveld Emporium in 1912. Served on health committee in 1916/7. [5]
  • James Miller - trading in Nelspruit with Harry Mirvis in 1912 [5]
  • Isaac Moses - a soldier known as “old Moses the Moneychanger” arrived in South Africa in 1817 and lived at the Castle. He was a town oddity, the butt of many jokes, who had been an officer in the garrison in his youth. He wore eccentric clothes and paraded the Heerengracht daily with a leather bag slung round his neck and smoking a long German tobacco pipe.[3] He was immortalized in a popular song called Katy Kekkelbek (Chatterbox) with the lines: “Right it is true what Old Moses says in the Cape, that it is all flausen and homboggery."
  • Alois Nellmapius - a Hungarian Jew, one of the earliest Jews in the town of Sabie in 1873 where he went to join the gold strikes.
  • The Norden sons - distinguished themselves in settler activities. One of them, Benjamin, explored the interior trading with the Xhosas and reached Natal where he brought a letter to the Zulu chief, Dingaan, from the Governor Benjamin D'Urban about a new settlement to be called Durban. Benjamin retired to Cape Town where he went into business, selling guano. He brought together the first minyan on Yom Kippur 26th September 1841 when seventeen men met at his house, 5 Helmsely Cottages on the Helmsley Estate in Hof Street including Morris Sloman, Simeon Marcus and Dr Frankel. The following week they met again at the home of Simeon Marcus in Loop Street and established the Society of the Jewish Community of Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope or Tikvath Israel (Tikvath meaning Hope). This later became the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation. Contributions also came from Old Moses and Dr Da Lima. The following year they bought two plots of ground in Woodstock for what became the Albert Road Cemetery. The first person to be buried there was Abraham Horn one of the trustees of the Tikvath Israel, whose posthumous son was the first recognised Jewish birth in 1845.
  • Alfred De Pass, who played a major part in the establishment of the shipping, sugar and fishing industries.
  • Reverend Isaac Pulver (1803-1873) - arrived in Cape Town on 8 August 1849 to take up the position as the first rabbi of the newly-formed Cape Town Hebrew Congregation. Rev Pulver, a qualified shochet and mohel, was the former minister of the Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation. More at Obs - Mowbray Shul.
  • Joseph Ratner (1871 - 1960)
  • Chaim Sadowsky - extraordinary character in Fordsburg. Social worker, shared the poverty of everyone. [Fordsburg - Mayfair Congregation - Bernard Sachs]
  • Julius Schneider - served on Nelspruit Village Council, chairman twice [5]
  • Harry Heinz Schwarz (13 May 1924 – 5 February 2010) - South African lawyer, statesman and political opposition leader against apartheid, who eventually served as the South African ambassador to the United States during the country’s transition to representative democracy.
  • Harry Heinz Schwarz Wikipedia
  • Harry Heinz Schwartz - Maringo Profiles
  • Harry Schwartz Who's Who Southern Africa
  • Harry Heinz SchwartzBiographies - Jewish Immigrants in Johannesburg.
  • Solomon
  • Nathaniel Solomon from Kent, England, had a few sons that became merchants in St Helena and some of them or their descendants came to South Africa.
    • Benjamin Solomon (6th child of Nathaniel) was an English Jew from Kent ( his younger brother settled in St.Helena) who went to Cape Town immediately after the British occupation in 1806. He was Messenger of the Court in Cape Town for many years, and died at Greenpoint in 1877 aged 91.[3]
    • Saul Solomon who founded the English press in Cape Town
  • Bertha Solomon - born in Minsk in 1889 - 1969, Bertha came to South Africa at the age of four. She was the daughter of Idel Solomon, a prominent Zionist leader in Cape Town. Continually campaigning for women's rights, she was the first female advocate in the country and was elected to Parliament in 1938 as a member of the United Party. [The Jews in South Africa - Professor Richard Mendelsohn and Milton Shain]
  • Ivan Solomon - lawyer from Pretoria, in 1927 instrumental in establishing Crocodile Valley Estates, one of the largest citrus growers in South Africa [5]
  • Isaac Sonnenberg
  • Elie and Henry Susman - brothers and Jewish businessmen from Riteve, western Russia, now Lithuania. Originally cattle traders. The Susman brothers went to Livingstone in 1901 (Rhodesia) and went on to build a business empire that included copper mines and cattle ranches. Elie Susman, the younger of the two, was the founder of Susman Brothers. However, it was not until 1907 that the business name of "E. Susman" was changed to "Susman Brothers". They developed an extensive trading, transport and ranching network, which stretched from Botswana to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though they operated in many different places, their main focus was always the country now known as Zambia.
  • Bernard Sachs (1893-1964) - the family started out for South Africa from the Lithuanian village of Kamaai. He is the author of ""Fordsburg - Mayfair Congregation"" which is the story of another link in the long chain of Jewish destiny and future. The the newly arrived immigrant from Lithuania wanted a Rabbi who would perpetuate the traditions to which they were accustomed in their 'old country'. Without some kind of communal life that a Synagogue provides, spiritual disintegration would soon overwhelm them. And thus it was that a number of Jewish immigrants met on 20th August 1893 for the purpose of forming a Synagogue in Fordsburg.
  • Mr M de Vries - from Holland, was a member for Middelburg of the Volksraad in 1875.
  • Angel Wolf - 1874 - ? - merchant. Born in London in 1874. Educated in London. Came to South Africa in 1901. Married to Anna Weiner in 1905; has four children. Responsible for introduction in this country of system of C.O.D. through the post. Postal Address: P.O. Box 399, Capetown.
  • Heinz Wallach (1916 - ?) - a middle child with two sisters, born in Soest, Westphalia, Germany, on 24 January 1916 to Ernst and Clara Wallach. His father was a grain merchant. As conditions in Germany worsened in 1936 Heinz and his sister Elsbeth manage to immigrate to Johannesburg, South Africa. His first job was at the Coligny Granary in the Western Transvaal, where he worked from 1936-1938. After which he went back to Johannesburg and studied at night school. He then worked for Domestic and Foreign Trade, an importing house established by a German Jew, until the mid sixties, except for the period during World War II , in which he fought in the South African army. October 1948 met Ida Kooperberg, whose family had been hidden from the Nazis in Holland and had immigrated to Johannesburg after the war. They were married in April 1949 and had two children, Charles (1950) and Ruth(1954). []
  • Joseph Zwarenstein born 26 July 1873 Strijen, South Holland, The Netherlands, died April 1942 Lydenburg, South Africa - third of the three Zwarenstein brothers to be made a POW during the guerilla war, was captured at Bloedrivier in the Eastern Transvaal on 29 September 1901 when his commando was ambushed by Walter Kitchener 19. His brothers Simon and Jacob were captured on 12 May and 8 September 1900 respectively and sent to St Helena (where Simon was chess champion).

Query section - linked to discussions.

Shuls and Synagogues.

(Because images cannot be added to projects the links below serve that purpose. Please add individual Synagogues with notes about them that you have).

  • The Old Synagogue, Cape Town (1862) originally named 'Tikvat Israel', translating to 'Hope of Israel' is the oldest in South Africa and still standing today.
  • The Great Synagogue in Cape Town was built for the sum of 26,000 pounds and consecrated in 1905. In the same year, Cape Town boasted its first Jewish mayor, Hyman Liberman, who was also President of the congregation.
  • The beautiful Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town (the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation) was established 1841. On the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, 26 September 1841 the first Services were held in Helmsley Place in Hof Street. It was on this historic night that the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation was founded with 17 male members. The Congregation grew slowly and in 1849 was able to purchase a house that they converted into a small Synagogue. Reverend Isaac Pulver was the Synagogue's first spiritual leader. It is located in the Cape Town Botanical Gardens, The original building built in 1849 no longer exists. It has two notable historic structures - the 1863 building, (which is still standing and may be the oldest synagogue building in South Africa) and the 1905 Synagogue. The Gardens Shul is the oldest congregation in South Africa. Rabbi Osher Feldman is the Rabbi.
  • The first services at Kimberley Synagogue took place in 1869.
  • The Paul Kruger Street Synagogue was expropriated in 1952 by the Government to erect a new Supreme Court.
  • The "'Fordsburg-Mayfair Congregation'"'
  • Hebrew Congregation at Pilgrim's Rest - founding congregation 1915, Rev. Schechter the minister.

Jewish Sources

The Johannesburg Jewish Helping Hand and Burial Society (Chevra Kadisha). The majority of Jews have been buried in large cities. Johannesburg probably accounts for over 75% of all burials. The earliest record is that of Albert Rosetenstein in May 1887. Burials commenced in 1887 for Braamfontein cemetery, Brixton in 1914 and West Park in 1942).

Specific information about individuals or communities may often be obtained from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
Synagogues and communal records include:

Marriages: Marriage authorization certificates and copy Ketubot marriage certificates) and ‘Gets’ (religious divorce)

South African Online Jewish Genealogy

The Jewish South African SIG (special interest group) was founded in 1998. The SIG publishes a quarterly newsletter.

The SA-SIG has an electronic discussion group with a free subscription on JewishGen WebForm Centre for Jewish Migration & Genealogy Studies.

Their intention is to create a comprehensive database of records and information relating to Jewish immigration to South Africa.

The thinking behind the inception of the Jewish Migration and Genealogy Project is twofold:

  • To map the entire history of Jewish migration to South Africa with the aim of providing authoritative and definitive data for the Discovery Centre at the South African Jewish Museum (SAJM).
  • To integrate the genealogical data in multi-disciplinary research initiatives under the auspices of the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town.

The primary aim of the project is to research the estimated 15,000 core families who migrated to Southern Africa between 1850-1950 from England, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus.

In broad terms, the research will focus on the locations where the families originated, patterns of migration to South Africa, where families first settled, communities they established, growth of families, and subsequent movements and emigration. As such, aspects such as passenger arrival lists, naturalization lists, community records, records of marriages, births and deaths, family trees, etc., will be looked at.
The centre is under the umbrella of the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town and will also have a public access section located at the South African Jewish Museum.


  • "The Jews in South Africa" - an illustrated History by Richard Mendelsohn and Milton Shain. 1906
  • From Shtetl to Steelmaking Mendel Kaplan with Solomon Kaplan and Marian Robertson1979


A copy of the book is to be found at YIVO in New York, the Gitlin Library in Cape Town, South Africa, and the Jewish Studies Collection at the University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.



  • Alte Afrikaners - Jews who had come over to South Africa before 1890s or Jews who had managed to establish themselves very soon after arrivals, refers specifically to Jews of Eastern European origin
  • Ashkenasi - term that refers to Jews of Eastern and Western European extraction.
  • Tisha B'Av - is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 655 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date. Although primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temples, it is also considered appropriate to commemorate other Jewish tragedies that occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Accordingly, the day has been called the "saddest day in Jewish history"
  • Bar Mitzvah - ceremony by which a boy becomes a man in the eyes of Jewish law and the community and thus takes on the religious responsibilities of an adult in the community.
  • Beth Din - Jewish Ecclesiastical Court, the highest authority to which all religious and communal disputes are taken, also make decisions over the wellbeing of the community.
  • Beth Midrash Boereverneukers - House of Learning, also refers to a place of prayer.
  • Boereverneuker' - Afrikaans term referring to the racist stereotype of Jews as conmen and tricksters that swindled Afrikaners out of money.
  • Bywooners - is the Afrikaans term for sharecroppers who worked on other people’s farms and were generally the poorest segment of the Afrikaner population. There was also an element of social welfare inherent in the relationship between farmers and the bywooners.
  • Bund - The General Jewish Workers Union was a socialist movement created in Lithuania in 1897.
  • Cheder/im (pl) - after school lessons in Hebrew and Jewish studies for young children.
  • Common Era - a non-denominational measure of time contemporaneous with the system using the birth of Jesus Christ as its starting point.
  • Gemilut Chesed - literally translated means ‘Acts of loving kindness’, refers to a charitable organisation established in Johannesburg in 1891.
  • HaShem - is the name used in secular texts to refer to G-d, the full name of G-d is reserved for spiritual and religious writing.
  • Haskalah - was an intellectual enlightenment movement that swept through Europe from the 1770s until the 1880s. It inspired rational consideration of religious texts and encouraged Jews to study secular topics and disciplines.
  • Kosher - Jewish dietary law which details which foods can and cannot be eaten and the ways that the food should be prepared in order to make it ritually clean.
  • Landrost- local government official in the South Africa
  • Landsmanschaften//Landsleit societies - organisations established by people originating from the same Geographical areas, these were set up to provide support for new immigrants from Eastern Europe.
  • Litvak - colloquial term or Jews originating from Lithuania.
  • Minyan - a gathering of ten men required to hold a religious service.
  • Melamed - Jewish studies or Hebrew teacher, always male.
  • Minyan A quorum, called a minyan, is required for a complete religious service. Ten adults (aged 13 years plus a day) constitute a minyan. In the absence of a minyan, the Barechu and Kaddish are not recited aloud, and the Torah is not read from the scroll.
  • Peruvian- anti-Semitic term for Jews originating from Eastern Europe, origins of the term remains unclear.
  • Pogrom- a violent attack on Jews or a Jewish settlement in Eastern Europe, resulting in the death and or injury of the inhabitants.
  • Rabbi- Jewish religious and communal leader, attained through a series of academic examinations after years of study.
  • Sephardi - Jews who are from Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Portugal, and South America.
  • Shabbat - the seventh day of the Jewish week and the Jewish day of rest. On Shabbat, Jews recall the Biblical Creation account in Genesis in which God creates the Heavens and the Earth in six days and rests on the seventh. Shabbat is a festive day when Jews are freed from the regular labours of everyday life. It offers an opportunity to contemplate the spiritual aspects of life and spend time with family. Shabbat observance entails refraining from a range of activities prohibited on Shabbat, such as lighting a fire and cooking.
  • Shechichtah - Jewish ritual slaughtering of animals in the Kosher way..
  • Shochet - a person trained in the ritual slaughter of animals and is qualified an certified by the Beth Din
  • Shtetl - ‘Yiddish–speaking, provincial society, orthodox in its religious practice and traditional Jewish way of life’ (Zemel, 1994: 194).
  • Smous - itinerant peddler who supplied goods and services to farmers in the interior of South Africa.
  • Talmud - the oral law passed down initially verbally and finally written down and captured in the Talmud.
  • Talmud Torah - refers to the act of studying the Holy Texts of Judaism and can and should be enacted by men and women who are over the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and are considered to be adults in the community. In the South African context it refers to the schools where people, including children preparing for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies, could study Jewish lore
  • Torah - the first five books of the Old Testament, making up the core of Jewish religious texts.
  • Tzedakah - charity and the responsibility of those who are able to help those who are in need. It is a religious obligation.
  • Uitlander - Afrikaans term for European people living in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek who were not of Afrikaans extraction.
  • Uitvalgrond - literally translated as left over land, meaning land that is not included in any official boundaries.
  • Volksraad - the parliament of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek.
  • Yiddish - Yiddish is a language comprised of German grammar, Aramaic, and Hebrew words, and contains a number of expressions from the Slavic languages.

The bulk of the above list (other sources have been used for words not included in the original list) is from The Jewish Community of Johannesburg, 1886-1939: Landscapes of Reality and Imagination well worth a read although the full text is not included.

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