Keeping memories alive for future generations

By Bonny Feldman, Managing Editor Cape Jewish Chronicle

Ella Blumenthal’s biography, I Am Ella, was originally commissioned as a family record not a book for the general public. But, writer Joanne Jowell soon recognised that the story should reach a wider audience.  

Joanne explains:“Ella’s remarkable life, her story of survival and hope, her deep love of people, her message of love and tolerance, her infectious personality and unbridled positivity… all this is extraordinary and deserves a universal stage. Every one of us can learn from her, and from so much more than her formative Holocaust years. It is her life beyond the war – to Paris, Palestine and South Africa – that shows us how to live life, create legacy, grieve losses and honour memory.”  

At the launch of the book recently, the story of its evolution from family memoir to published book got me thinking about our own experiences of events in our lives, and of the need to record the memories for family and future generations.

Only now that documentary films like Nancy Spielberg’s Above and Beyond and the South African film 804 are being made, do we learn about the contribution of South African Jews to the survival of the new Jewish State in the 1948 war. If I had a family member who went off to help, I would have wanted to know more.

How many of us have considered our parents’ lives in earlier times? Whether it’s about their experiences of apartheid; what they recall of the War years; how the local Jewish community felt about the Nationalist Party victory in 1948; or how they spent their free time — lives make interesting stories. And we get closer to family members when we share in their experiences and show interest in their past.

I challenge you — and myself — to sit down with family members or friends and ask some questions about bygone times. Get to know the person better — and, in the process, you’ll be keeping a record of what could be a fascinating life story.

As for Ella Blumenthal’s life story, you’ll see a glowing review of the book on page 24 of this issue of the Chronicle (and click here). 

Then, see the insights into how the needs of Olim have changed over the years. Read the Telfed article on page 9 (here).

Another interesting piece — on page 26 — explores the competing rights in law of our national law and religious law (here).

See also the information about the Chayela Rosenthal exhibition at the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre (here), as well as the story of Leyb Rozental, Chayela’s brother (here).

Temple Israel talks on page 16 about the lessons from our Biblical forebears that we can use to provide guidance on how to respond to corrupt leadership in South Africa (here).

Talking about leadership, Mensch focuses on the topic this month with its leadership programme (here) and Mandela Day project (here). Find out more on pages 20 and 21.

We hope you enjoy the read!

• Published in the July 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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