By Craig Nudelman, Programme and Development Manager, Cape SAJBD
With Pesach fast approaching, the Cape SAJBD went to visit the country communities of the Garden Route to wish them a Chag Pesach Sameach.
Daniel Bloch (Executive Director) and Craig Nudelman (Programme and Development Manager) drove over 1300 km and a combined 22 hours over the course of four days, visiting cemeteries, synagogues and communities on roads less travelled. Dirt roads, punctures and a lack of cell phone signal did not dissuade them from their mission, which was enlightening and fascinating.
This trip, between 4 and 7 April, was undertaken as part of the Board’s mandate to show support to all of our Jewish communities around the Western Cape, and not just those in Cape Town.
While it has been difficult to engage in person since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board has maintained contact with these outskirt communities through their respective communal representatives, and visits to their Jewish sites and cemeteries.
The devotion shown by individual community members to the upkeep of Jewish life and heritage in the many towns we visited was both inspirational and humbling. The synagogues and cemeteries in George, Plettenberg Bay, Uniondale, and Oudtshoorn were all in immaculate condition. We also saw the outstanding maintenance of cemeteries in Riversdale, Uniondale, Montagu and Robertson. However, those in Beaufort West, Caledon, and Ladismith were problematic. It is important for all of us to acknowledge that the memories of our loved ones need attention, and a donation to keep up the maintenance would not go unnoticed.
The George, Plett, and Oudtshoorn communities have faced problems for the past few years, with the pandemic a contributing factor. Although these communities were once thriving, they are now faced with several issues: their members are ageing, with many no longer being able to maintain their once-active communal engagement; and those other Jews who do live in the area do not want to belong to formal communal structures.
We met with Myron Rabinowitz of George, Johnny Amoils of Plett and the whole Markus-Lipschitz-Wilck mishpocha of Oudtshoorn, who hosted a braai for us on the Wednesday night. All of them were welcoming and appreciative of the visits.
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, especially when holidaying in the popular destination of Plett.
Visit the Julian Gordon Africana Centre in Riversdale, where there is a display dedicated to the Jewish community, filled with old hagaddot, siddurim, and the curtain for the Ark of the old Riversdale synagogue. Go to the cemeteries, the beitot chayim, and see where your ancestors once lived and had fulfilling lives as smouses, hoteliers and owners of general stores.
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 May 2022 issue – Click here to read it.
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