Celebration of Muizenberg shul centenary

Davening in a cave on Muizenberg mountain

By David Lazarus 

Following eight months of planning and preparation, members of the Muizenberg Hebrew Congregation launched 8 days of festivities with a cheese-and-wine and musical concert event at the Masque Theatre on Thursday 28 December. The show was attended by guest of honour and former Capetonian Sir Ephraim Mirvis, KBE, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and Lady Valerie Mirvis, who were specially invited to the Centenary opening.

This was followed by a formal Friday night Shabbat dinner, Saturday Shabbat lunch and a third meal which included a siyum on brachot. Amazingly, this was the same section of the Talmud discussed at the last siyum in Muizenberg Shul 63 years ago in 1961! The Shabbat events, which concluded with a Havdalah and music concert, were also attended by South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein and Rebbetzin Gina Goldstein. 

The architect of the centenary events was Muizenberg’s Rabbi Ryan Newfield who has revitalised and significantly expanded the community since his appointment in March 2020. Amongst other digitally savvy projects, he initiated a highly popular monthly Muizies Megillah which was circulated to all Muizenberg congregants past and present as well as to past visitors to Muizenberg, evoking nostalgic memories worldwide and keeping the congregation fully involved throughout the stressful Covid pandemic.

Managed by a team of enthusiastic volunteers, the Centenary comprised the launch concert; the Shabbat activities; a “Respecting our Roots” visit to the Muizenberg and Pinelands Jewish cemeteries, followed by a tour of Cape Town’s South African Jewish Museum;
a walk around Muizenberg’s historical old village led by Hedy Davis, historian and author of the iconic book MUIZENBERG the story of THE SHTETL BY THE SEA; surfing lessons with local Jewish surfers; laying tefillin and davening in a cave on Muizenberg mountain; and the Centenary closing ceremony comprising a high tea and cocktail dinner, together with a live streamed International Reunion. Entertainment was provided by Ivor Joffe, Chazzan at Sea Point’s Marais Road shul; short personal anecdotes by local Muizenberg luminaries Gerald Musikanth and Colin Shapiro; gift presentations to the shul by Shirley Rabin (a painting) and the Berman family of Sea Point (a kiddush wine set, on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary); the granting of Honorary Life Membership to Jean Tockar, Joan Sarembock and Cecile Buirski who comprise the Ladies Guild; and a video on the history of the shul and the congregation.

Commenting on the Centenary, President Gerald Seftel said, “Muizenberg Shul stands as a working memorial to the dreams of immigrants who arrived here with so little yet contributed so much to our development through grit and determination, keeping a light burning through some of the darkest periods in our history”.

100 years after its construction, the Muizenberg synagogue remains a historic heritage building, unaltered, but alive with activity as a place of holy worship for the Jewish community of Cape Town’s southern suburbs as well as for celebrations and social events.


• Published in the February 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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