Community History Online Conference

CHOL is an online gathering of people interested in chronicling the personal and communal Jewish history of South Africa.

The second conference opened on 30 March 2022 and ran over three weekly Zoom sessions. Each session featured several speakers from South Africa, UK, USA and Israel presenting their unique projects, which included websites, social media and digital archives. These project leaders and experts shared insights about their processes, lessons learnt and successes.

The first session began with the archivists from the SA Jewish Museum and the Kaplan Centre, Leila Bloch and Katie Garrun respectively, offering a guide on how to organise and add your family history to the SAJM’s digital archive. They were followed by the chairperson of the Union of Jewish Women in Cape Town, Karen Kallmann, who is currently writing the history of the Union of Jewish Women in South Africa. Karen spoke about her research and highlighted some forgotten leading lights of the UJW. The final presentation was by Gwynne Schrire who explored the shortcomings of online history websites when compared to hard copy books and magazines.

Unlike previous sessions, the next session on 6 April was held in the evening. This was to overcome the time difference and allow input from the USA. Bramie Lenhoff, formally of Upington but now living in Delaware, spoke about his approach to documenting the Jewish history of South Africa’s small towns. Viewers then heard from Roy Orgus from San Francisco who provided an overview of the Southern African Special Interest Group (SA-SIG), a specialist genealogical portal he maintains for Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, aka The Travelling Rabbi, then shared how he makes use of Facebook to publicise the work he does to maintain the small town Jewish cemeteries across the country. The final presentation of this session was given by filmmaker Sean O’Sullivan. Entitled Finding Signal in the Silence: Navigating South Africa’s Film & Audio Archives, O’Sullivan’s talk gave insight to the large amount of SA Jewish related film content he has discovered, sitting in film archives that are in urgent need of digitisation.

At the time of writing, the third and final session of this series of talks has not yet taken place. It will be held via Zoom on Wednesday 13 April. This session will include Geraldine Auerbach discussing a project compiling the biographies of several (mostly Jewish) Wits Medical Graduates of 1960. Gail Lustig will present on the role played by Jewish general practitioners and pharmacists in Cape Town’s northern suburbs between 1930 and 1980, a project she undertook under the auspices of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at UCT. The series will close with a presentation by Marc Latilla, author of the book Johannesburg Then and Now, in which he will discuss Ferreirastown and the other very early Jewish enclaves in Johannesburg.

These presentations, and those from the first iteration of the Community History Online conference held last year, can be viewed on the SA Jewish Museum’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

For more information please go to

Published in the PDF edition of the May 2022 issue – Click here to read it.

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