E Goldstein <eligold@...>
I have established that the "Oudsthoorn Volunteers" were the local town
guards of the town
Oudtshoorn during the Boer War of 1899-1902.
The discovery of gold fields in the Transvaal in 1886 and diamond fields in
Kimberley in 1896 brought an influx of fortune seekers. A rebellion
culminated in the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) which was caused by the clash
of two political ideologies namely British imperialism and Afrikaner
Britain sought the unification of whole of South Africa under the British
flag. The existence of the two Boer republics namely the South African
Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State therefore was a stumbling
block. The two republics on the other hand wanted to preserve their
independence and to build their republics into regional forces. They were
therefore not prepared to become part of a united South Africa under British
Among old timers, the town of Oudtshoorn in the semi-arid Little Karoo was
known as the "Jerusalem of Africa". Lithuanian Jews were pioneers in the
ostrich feather trade and developed it into an important export business.
Two synagogues were built in Oudtshoorn. The older shul was the one in Queen
Street and this was regarded as too "Anglicised" by some of the newcomers.
This led to the building of the St John's St Synagogue in 1892 which was
nicknamed the "Greene Shul", while the Queen Street Congregation was called
the "Englische Shul" Most of the congregants >from Queen Street came from
Siauliai (Shavli or Shavel) in Lithuania, whereas most of those at St John's
Street Shul were >from Kelme.
Jews >from Kelme were among the most active in the feather trade and they
strove valiantly to re-create the atmosphere of their beloved home town
synagogue and graft it on to the veld. Many years later, when the synagogue,
which was originally in St Johns Street(1896), fell into disuse, the
magnificent onion-domed ark was preserved in Outdtshoorn's C.P. Nel Museum,
which has a special Jewish section.
The Ostrich feather industry collapsed just before the onset of the first
world war. It was at its height in about 1907.