Received the following earlier today, on my email.
I'm not sure who the originator is, but it might be of interest to fellow
LITVAKSIGers, doing Litvak genealogy research with South African connections.
Researching SMIEDT, FINFELSTEIN and EPSTEIN of Lithuania, and LEVY of
England, Romania and South Africa
GP 42,393,000 ~ JP 92,000
The great majority of South African Jews trace their origins back to
Lithuanian immigrants who arrived between the end of the 19th century and
1930. The two largest centers are Johannesburg (55,000) and Cape Town
(15,000). There are many smaller communities, including Durban (5,000),
Pretoria (3,000), and Port Elizabeth (1,200). Since 1970 some 50,000 Jews
have left the country, but approximately 10,000 Israelis have moved to South
Only at the beginning of the 19th century, when freedom of religion was
introduced, were Jews able to come to South Africa legally. At that time,
small numbers of Jews arrived >from Britain and Germany, and the first
Hebrew congregation was established in Cape Town in 1841. In the 1880s, large
numbers of Jews began to arrive >from Lithuania, and their contributions changed
the character of the community.
The community is overwhelmingly Ashkenazi, with a small Sephardi
population in Cape Town. It is affluent, well-educated, and has a strong
and Zionist bent. The central body of the Jewish community is the South
African Jewish Board of Deputies. South African Jewry has a long record of
Zionist activity, and the movement remains strong. There are local chapters of
most of the major international Jewish and Zionist organizations. The four main
youth movements are Habonim, Betar, B'nai Akiva, and Maginim (Progressive).
Culture and Education
There are Jewish museums in Johannesburg and Cape Town (the latter housed
in the beautiful Gardens Synagogue, built in 1849) and several Jewish
libraries. A number of weekly, monthly, and quarterly publications appear,
the quarterly Jewish Affairs published by the Board of Deputies.
The Jewish day school system is comprehensive, embracing about 60% of all
Among old timers, the town of Oudtshoorn in the semi-arid Little Karoo is
known as the "Jerusalem of Africa". Lithuanian Jews were pioneers in the
ostrich feather trade and developed it into an important export business.
Jews >from Chelm were among the most active in the trade and they strove
valiantly to re-create the atmosphere of their beloved home town synagogue and
graft it on to the veldt. Many years later, when the synagogue fell into
the magnificent onion-domed ark was preserved in Outdtshoorn's C.P. Nei
Museum, which has a special Jewish section.
Most of the community is religiously traditional, and some 80% are
affiliated with Orthodox synagogues, of which there are 65 in the country.
are affiliated with the Progressive movement and a smaller number with the
Masorati (Conservative) movement. Kosher food is widely available, and
there are several kosher restaurants and hotels.
In the United Nations and in other forums Israel was often signaled out
for special condemnation on account of Jerusalem's commercial and military
ties with Pretoria, despite the fact that compared to the level of trade with
other states, the scale of Israel's ties was negligible. Relations with the new
majority government are good. Aliya: Since 1948, 16,300 South African Jews
have emigrated to Israel.
The Mooi Street Synagogue in Johannesburg, founded by Lithuanian
iimmigrants >from the shtetl of Poswohl, has been declared a national
Johannesburg there is an impressive Holocaust memorial at the West Park
Cemetery. South Africa's wine country outside Cape Town is also home to
the Zaandwijk Winery, the country's only kosher vintner.
Tree planting at the Herzlia Jewish day School, Cape Town, 1981
South African Jewish Board of Deputies
PO Box 87557
Houghton, Johannesburg 2041
Tel. 27 11 486 1434, Fax. 27 11 646 4940
Dashing Center, 339 Hilda Street, Hatfield
PO Box 3726, Pretoria
Tel. 27 12 34 22 693, Fax. 27 12 34 21 442
from January to June the embassy is in Cape Town:Church Square, P.O. Box 180, Cape Town 800
Tel. 27 21 34 22 698, Fax. 27 21 32 41 442
Heastern Industries Pty Ltd
Fax: +61-3-9894 1216 Phone: +61-3-9894 1228