Why emigrate when you can semigrate?

UOS Executive Director Eric Berger (right) connecting with expo attendees

By Daniel Bloch

Over the past few years we’ve been increasingly aware of news items and articles relating to semigration (moving from one part of a country to another, as opposed to migrating to another country). 

There’s always been a steady trickle of Gautengers making the move to the Western Cape, but with numbers having risen steadily since the Covid pandemic, semigration has evolved from a trend to a phenomenon. 

Several Jewish families and individuals have indeed arrived in the Cape to join our community over the past few months. One of our Cape SAJBD objectives is to enhance the quality of Jewish life in the Western Cape, so it goes without saying that our semigration subcommittee (formed in January this year) has been working consistently towards the vision of strengthening Western Cape Jewry and creating a sustainable community for all. It’s not our intention to draw or poach community members from other major centres around South Africa, but rather to actively encourage those contemplating leaving the country altogether, to consider the Western Cape as a viable alternative. 

The Nik Rabinowitz Semigration reel had the audience in stitches.

Phase One of our long-term semigration strategy came to fruition on Sunday 23 October as we hosted our first Move Down to Cape Town Expo at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg. An event that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the David Sussman Community Foundation, and our amazing Cape SAJBD community affiliates, including The United Jewish Campaign (UJC), Community Security Organisation (CSO), United Herzlia Schools (UHS), Cape Town Torah High, Phyllis Jowell Jewish Day School, Sinai Academy, Union of Orthodox Synagogues (UOS), Marais Road Shul, Ohr Somayach, The Hermanus Hebrew Congregation, The Shul of Blouberg, The Cape Town Progressive Jewish Community, Temple Israel, Orhsom Student, Chabad on Campus, Moishe House, Habonim, Netzer, Bnei Akiva, Staffwise, Melton, and the Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute (EOLI).

It was heartwarming to see our communal organisations unite under one banner with one objective in mind. The primary purpose of this event may have been to showcase our community, but seeing more than 40 leaders from our community, young and old, and some of whom had never even met, connecting, putting on tefillin, sharing a drink and forming partnerships, was very special. We were also joined by local property and real estate experts Blok, Rawson Properties, Knight Frank and Firzt Realty who helped to create an amazing buzz and experience for the 100-plus families and individuals who attended.

Exhibitors were kept busy engaging one-on-one with attendees on hot topics like property, education, religious life and employment. Many brochures, pens and stress balls were distributed — while little visitors were kept busy with sweet treats and other distractions. Our school affiliates reported significant interest across different grades, while many attendees were parents of students already studying at tertiary institutions in and around Cape Town. Religiously observant visitors expressed concerns about safety and security — particularly regarding walking to and from shul on Shabbat — but representatives from CSO and the various shuls were on hand to allay their fears. 

Our workshop programme comprised three well-attended sessions. The first included an overview of the Jewish community from Cape SAJBD Executive Director Daniel Bloch, with CSO’s Dani Janks fielding questions related to antisemitism, safety and security. UJC Executive Director Barry Levitt also weighed in, providing insight into community numbers. 

The second workshop was an interactive property-focused session hosted by Daniel Bloch along with two representatives from Knight Frank who flew up from Cape Town to be part of the expo. There were many questions from the audience pertaining to lifestyle, property costs, safety, proximity to schools and synagogues, and loadshedding. United Herzlia Schools Executive Director Andries van Renssen (who happens to be a semigrant) shared many valuable tips and anecdotes despite not being part of the panel.

The main feature of the third (and most well-attended) workshop was an address by Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, and Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, who flew up on the day and spent time speaking to expo visitors before and after their presentation. The session kicked off with a (now viral) reel put together for us by comedian Nik Rabinowitz, followed by a moment of darkness (thank you loadshedding!). Tzvi Brivik, chair of our semigration subcommittee, welcomed everyone and explained the greater purpose of our project, before handing over to our Mayor, who shared a presentation outlining the City of Cape Town’s plans to address loadshedding, unemployment and homelessness, and establish Cape Town as the top travel destination in Africa. He didn’t shy away from discussing challenges that plague our city — instead he provided several long- and short-term plans to address the problems, and even mentioned the Jewish concept of aleinu (it is on us), which was well-received by all.

Cape SAJBD Chair Adrienne Jacobson further elaborated on the theme of the expo — to showcase the Western Cape Jewish community and the work of its communal organisations. Premier Alan Winde spoke about the strategy to grow and make the Western Cape a leading destination for business, residential development and tourism. He explained that our Provincial Government sees the Jewish community as a partner in the semigration project, and expressed delight at having been included in the expo. Some challenging questions were posed by the audience, but the answers were well-received by all, and attendee feedback has been incredibly positive.

The day concluded with a prize draw (with lucky attendees winning tickets to see Nik Rabinowitz’s Sandton show, and two weekend stays at both the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! by Marriott® Cape Town, and the Protea Hotel by Marriott® Sea Point) and networking/schmoozing over wine and canapes. 

The Cape SAJBD thanks the David Sussman Community Foundation for supporting this initiative wholeheartedly, as well as all the Jewish communal organisations that united to make the expo a reality. We also thank our travel partners — the Protea Hotel by Marriott®, Johannesburg Wanderers, and Lift Airlines — for their generous support. 

The Move Down to Cape Town Expo may be over but our semigration project has only just begun — and we invite our entire community to get involved in it.

To participate in future semigration events, and most importantly, if you know of anyone who has moved to the Cape in the past three years or if you personally have recently relocated — please reach out to us!

We’re here to help you make meaningful connections, to answer your questions, and most importantly, to welcome you to our incredible community.

For more information contact sajbd2@ctjc.co.za.

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies website: www.capesajbd.org, Instagram, and Facebook page.

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