Legends & Legacies: A Story of a Community is an eight-part documentary television series that tells of the history and contribution of the South African Jewish community.
A Jewish presence in Southern Africa can be traced as far back as Fernao Martins, a converso (a Portuguese Jew who was forced to convert to Christianity) who was selected by Vasco da Gama to be his translator on his first voyage via southern Africa to India in 1497.
The first Jewish settlers to South Africa were Anglo-Germans at the beginning of the 19th century, followed by East European ‘Litvaks’ escaping the pogroms later that century. Most settled in rural areas, and not until the diamond, then gold rush of the late 19th century, did a greater assortment arrive; adventurers, explorers and refugees.
Jewish immigrants and their descendants have left their mark on South Africa in many ways. There have been doctors and lawyers and rabbis and parliamentarians, hawkers and diamond-diggers, industrialists and Randlords, renegade Boer War commandos and Nobel prize-winners, social workers, artists and activists. All these are part of the rich complexity of Jewish life at the southern tip of Africa.
The makers of this series crossed the country, from small villages to major cities and uncovered little-known stories, interviewing community members from all walks of life, finding both joy and sadness and remarkable achievement.
The series was created and produced by Mark Wade, written and presented by Alan Swerdlow, and funded with special thanks to the Kirsh Foundation.
Episode 1: Comings and Goings
How did the immigrant South African Jewish community arrive at the foot of Africa? Who were they, where did they come from, and where did they go?
Episode 2: Gib a Kook/Have a Look
From hawkers to captains of industry, the same road was trudged.
Episode 3: Something Tangible
The establishment of the communal institutions, from graveyards to schools.
Episode 4: It all Depends
The integration of the community into the civil society that surrounded them.
Episode 5: Longings and Belongings
The engagement of the community with the political realities of South Africa.
Episode 6: Wondering Jews
The thinkers, the philosophers, the writers, the people of science and medicine and the law — truly a ‘people of the book’.
Episode 7: My Child Could Do Better
South African Jewish involvement in theatre, the arts and creativity — and what it did for the community.
Episode 8: Considerations
An informal gathering of Jewish family and friends before the Sabbath. We contemplate the present and the future of South Africa’s Jewish community.
The series will launch on Sunday 11 July at 6pm as a world charity premiere in support of the Union of Jewish Women South Africa, and will include a brief discussion with Bev Goldman (UJW), Alan Swerdlow and Mark Wade.
Registered participants will be able to view the live webcast, and have access to a private YouTube channel to view the series at their leisure. Episodes will launch weekly, every Sunday at 6pm, from 11 July to 29 August. Late registrants will be given access to a private YouTube channel. Register here!
• Published in the PDF edition of the July 2021 issue.
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