By Craig Nudelman, newly appointed Programme and Development Manager, Cape SAJBD
On 1 and 2 September, I travelled with fellow Cape SAJBD members Tzvi Brivik (Chairman) and Daniel Bloch (Executive Director), visiting Jewish communities in the Western Cape.
This trip was undertaken as part of the Board’s mandate to show support to all Jewish communities in the Western Cape, and not just those in Cape Town. While it has been difficult to engage in person since the pandemic, the Board has maintained contact with these outskirt communities through their respective communal representatives and visits to their sites and cemeteries.
The devotion shown by individual community members to the upkeep of Jewish life and heritage in the six towns we visited was both inspirational and humbling. The synagogues in Hermanus, Somerset West, and Stellenbosch were all immaculate. We also went to see how the cemeteries were maintained in Strand, Wellington, and Ceres.
However, during the past 18 months, the pandemic has been devastating for these dwindling communities. Most of their synagogues have been closed for months and have not had services over the past two years’ High Holy Days. In Somerset West, for example, the Torah has become pasul due to it not being used for months on end.
Although these communities were once thriving, they are now faced with several issues: their members are ageing, with many no longer able to maintain their once active communal engagement; and those other Jews who live in the area do not want to belong to formal communal structures.
It is up to the larger Cape Town Jewish community to maintain these once thriving and vibrant Jewish centres. We ask that you and your friends, when holidaying in the surrounding areas, go to the shuls on a Shabbat to make up a minyan. Visit the Togreyers Museum in Ceres, which gives an incredible history of the Jews and their input in building the town in the early 1900s.
The history of these communities must not be forgotten — it is up to us to maintain our heritage that was so integral in the building of the Cape and Jewish life in Cape Town.
• Published in the PDF edition of the October 2021 issue – Click here to get it.
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