Old Herzlians reconnect after 56 years

Dennis Davis pictured at centre with others from the Herzlia Matric Class of 1968. L-R: Raun Melmed, Charles Gurland, Howard Dubowitz, Sharon Chazan, Dennis Davis, David Richardson, Michael Hayden, Alan Richter, Leslie Koski, Darryl Isaacs.

Although the Covid pandemic came with many devastating effects, there were also some surprisingly positive ones, including the forming of new friendships and enhancing existing ones. That’s been the experience of Cape Town’s Judge Dennis Davis, who reconnected with 10 schoolmates as a result of the pandemic.

“With lockdown came isolation,” Dennis explains. “I had kept contact over the years with Alan Richter, who was in my class at Herzlia, and Alan set up a WhatsApp group for some of the members of the Herzlia Class of 1968 during the pandemic so that we could find out how everyone was doing.” The group became quite active, and numerous conversations flowed from it, continuing even when Covid was over. 

With the renewal of friendships and the creation of new ones through the group, a meet-up ensued in May this year. The members of the Class of ’68 have moved to countries across the globe: America, England, Canada, Israel, Australia – and just a few still in South Africa. Since the majority of this group were in North America, New York was selected for the get-together.  

It was serendipitous that the Metropolitan Opera (‘the Met’) was performing Bizet’s opera, Carmen, at the time: the group went to a performance, recalling their first exposure to the opera in 1967, when Herzlia arranged for the class to attend the opera at the Alhambra Theatre in Cape Town.

“It was a remarkable week,” Dennis comments. “I found it very moving. I hadn’t seen most of the people for decades, and some were classmates I hadn’t been friendly with at school. But now I experienced a sense of closeness that I found very meaningful. We found that we have so much in common, and so the discussions flowed. We chatted about growing old, about parenting adult children, about our careers – and, of course, about the Herzlia days!”

Returning home, Dennis says that he has been left with a deep sense of loss. Loss because of the friendships that could have blossomed years ago had more of the Class of ’68 remained in South Africa. “There’s also a strong sense of loss for the country,” Dennis explains. “When I look at this group of people and consider their achievements in a range of fields – medicine, architecture, workplace culture – I realise that, had they stayed in South Africa, we could have benefited hugely as a society and an economy through their contributions. This is the sort of scenario which highlights what the South African brain drain really means.”

Dennis wonders what it is that gives this sense of togetherness among a group of people who last saw one another over 50 years ago, and who have trodden very different paths. Is it because of their particular school experience? Is it the sense of family one may get from having grown up in the same city? He isn’t sure, but he does know that he gets a very warm feeling about the group.

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