By Gwynne Robins
Unlike the Gauteng branch of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, which transferred responsibility of their country communities to a separate body, the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies had maintained its involvement with its Western Cape country communities, most of which are now defunct. The professionals visit the towns, repair cemeteries – sometimes the damage is the result of antisemitic desecration – when necessary contact councils to remind them of their own commitments regarding the graveyards, provide access to Pesach food or kosher meat when requested.
When Stuart Diamond was the executive director, he asked me to write short articles about some of the towns for our monthly Cape Jewish Chronicle. The articles turned out to be a minefield of vereibbles, with frequent complaints because I had left out a great grandfather or a grandmother’s sister-in-law’s nephew’s shop. When I replied that most of the material had come from the invaluable and thoroughly researched volumes Jewish life in the South African country communities published by the South African Friends of Beth Hatefutsoth – which even listed names of Jewish families who had lived there – the complainant replied that they knew the volume was wrong but I should have known better and should insist that the volume be reprinted with the omission corrected. When I offered to publish an article in the Chronicle with information on the missing ancestor, the angry woman replied that she was not prepared to waste her time doing so.
Vereibbles aside, these articles resulted in much positive comments and interest and provided a potted history to people who had come from those towns. Much credit and gratitude must go to Eli Rabinowitz whose dedicated work with https://elirab.me/kehila/ has enabled many far flung descendants to keep in touch with their old friends and learn about their community and its history.
Desrae Saacks Acting Editor – Cape Jewish Chronicle
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With thanks to Desrae Saacks and the Cape Jewish Chronicle