Dave Meyerowitz – A legend in his own lifetime

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Photo by Shawn Benjamin/Ark Images

Highly respected legal giant, long-standing communal leader and family patriarch Advocate Dr. David Meyerowitz passed away on 7 February at the age of 94.

Dave Meyerowitz was born in Cape Town in 1917 and grew up in Salt River. After attending SACS he studied at the University of Cape Town, graduating with an LLB in 1937. A member of the Cape Bar, he took silk (senior counsel) in 1963. In 1990 he was honoured by UCT when he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Law. When he retired two years ago, at the age of 92, he was the oldest active member of the Bar.

Adv. Meyerowitz was an expert on the administration of estates and income tax, both subjects on which he was published widely. His seminal text, The Administration of Estates, the first comprehensive text on the subject, was published in 1949. Described as “a legal umbilical cord for the profession,” it is a book found in every attorney’s office and advocate’s chamber. In 1952, with two other established legal authors (Aubrey Silk and Erwin Spiro), he began and edited The Taxpayer, a journal devoted to the law, practice and incidence of income tax and death duties. He continued to edit the journal until his retirement.

Dave was highly respected and held in great esteem by his colleagues. Judge Dennis Davis, who paid tribute to him on his retirement, said “He has always been, and remains, the pre-eminent practitioner in the field. To have maintained this standard into his 90s is testimony to an extraordinary intellect and a wonderfully practiced mind… It is unlikely that South Africa will again produce a specialist able to conduct an exceptionally busy chamber practice, litigate regularly, write complex works on income tax, maintain a book on the administration of estates, and ensure — almost single-handedly — that a monthly journal is produced on time with content that is fresh, clear and of significant application to the tax community in this country.

That is the unique legacy of David Meyerowitz SC.”

Dave’s years of communal service started at the age of 16, when he became the minuting secretary of the Salt River and Woodstock Young Judeans.

He later served as secretary of the local branch of the Jewish National Fund and in 1938 as chair of the Zionist Youth Council, serving for four years. Dave joined the Western Province Zionist Council when it was formed in 1944. He took over from the venerable Jacob Gitlin as secretary of the Dorshei Zion when Gitlin became chairman of the WPZC, and he wrote regular editorials for the then Cape Jewish Chronicle, a weekly newspaper published under the auspices of the Dorshei Zion.

Dave served with great distinction as chairman of the WPZC for eight years, during the important and challenging period of 1966 to 1974. He also served as a vice-chairman of SAJBOD (Cape Council) for 13 years. In addition, he was a valued trustee and committee member of the Allocations Committee of the United Jewish Campaign.

A communal colleague of many years, Gerald Kleinman said, “Dave was a great community leader. His sage
advice and legal counsel were always freely available to the community. “ A much loved patriarch to his
immediate and extended family encompassing four generations, Dr. Dave Meyerowitz is survived by his
daughters Vivienne and Sandra who live in Israel, twelve grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. A legend in his lifetime, he will be long remembered and sadly missed.

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