A tribute to Rabbi Desmond Maizels z”l

Our community lost a great Rabbi and mensch on 15 January, when Rabbi Desmond Maizels passed away suddenly in Cape Town.

The tributes written on social media all spoke of his humanity, kindness and wisdom. He fulfilled so many important roles in the community that the face of Jewish Cape Town that he changed so much during his lifetime can’t help but be forever altered by his passing.

Below are excerpts from just a few of the moving posts expressing appreciation for Rabbi Maizels and all that he did for the Jewish community.

“…He gave to the community in so many ways — he was a dedicated congregational rabbi for decades and is the Rabbi Emeritus of Camps Bay Shul; he was a shochet, mohel, sofer, member of the Cape Beth Din and Head of the Cape Town Kashrut Department. Rabbi Maizels worked tirelessly for the improvement and enhancement of Kashrut in Cape Town and travelled the length and breadth of the country (and world) inspecting factories, farms and shops.” Union of Orthodox Synagogues, Cape Council

…”There are so many more stories that I can tell. So many voices of his that I hear in my head thinking of him. The extent that he respected his wife Esther was inspiring and so special to hear. He was so proud of his children living in Israel and being part of the national Jewish future. His naughty laugh and mischievous smile were part of his humanity and more so, were part of his connection to Hashem.” Rabbi Jonathan Altman

“…I recall when Zeesy and I were sitting with Rabbi Maizels the day before my son’s Bris… he spoke to us about the intricacies of the process as if we were nervous parents, gently putting us both at ease, as if we were hearing about it for the first time in our lives. This was a typical Rabbi Maizels moment — dropping everything else that he had on his mind and schedule (and it was a lot!), to be there for you — a truth of which thousands of people can, and please G-d will, attest to.” Rabbi Asher Deren

“…He was a rabbi and teacher and friend to his congregants – and to everyone. He epitomised the teaching of Pirkei Avot – of receiving everyone with a friendly face. He exuded warmth and kindness and happiness. He beamed love and cheerfulness to every human being he came into contact with. Rabbi Maizels was an eternal optimist — a person who saw problems as challenges and opportunities for innovation — cheerfully finding innovative ways of solving things when others gave up.  His contribution to our community was greater than words can adequately describe, and his absence is unthinkable. His decades of leadership have given him an eternal legacy — and us a towering example to emulate….” Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

Rabbi Maizels was buried in Israel on 20 January.

Many members of the Cape Town Jewish Community have their own ‘Rabbi Maizels stories’. You are invited to send yours to the family at rabbimaizelsmemorial@gmail.com.

Published in the print edition of the February 2021 issue. Download the February 2021 issue PDF here.

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  1. My name is Jennifer Herman ( nee Barris). My baby sister Audrey and Desmond were at school together and grew up together, all of us in Summerstrand , Port Elizabeth. We are very very sad to hear of Desmond’s passing. He was a lovely and wonderful human being. Our thoughts and love are with the family. Our fondest love to all the family, and thinking of you with all our hearts. With love, Jen xxx


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