A Letter From Natie – Beaufort West

A letter to Gail Lustig and Eli Rabinowitz

November 2022

Dear Gail & Eli,

Many thanks for your e-mail the contents of which were read with much interest.  I was made aware of your contribution and the website by Gavin Morris, Director of the Jewish Museum in Cape Town.  I visited him recently and took him some interesting artefacts that I wanted to donate to his museum, inter alia a Siddur translated into Afrikaans by  Rabbi Dr Romm.

I did grow up in the Karoo town of Beaufort West where I was born in 1939 and delivered by a Jewish doctor practising as the doctor for the S A Railways & Harbours in the town, the late Dr Harold Lee.  I was schooled there and matriculated in 1956 from the Central High School.  My late mother, Annie, (née Dubowitz) also matriculated from the precursor to that school, Beaufort West Boys High School, and was the Matric Dux in 1922.  She had to get special permission to do her Matric at a Boys’ school, as the Girls’ school only offered tuition to Junior Certificate level (Standard 8).

I was very excited to read that you were interested in Zelda Myburg, as her late father, Rev. Aaron Myburg, my Hebrew teacher and mentor, was her father.  My parents were married in the Beaufort West Synagogue in 1934 and Rev. Gulis was the spiritual leader of the Beaufort West Congregation then.  After he left the town, Mr father was instrumental in convincing Rev. Myburg to leave Middelburg Cape and come to Beaufort West, where he would do the ritual slaughtering, conduct services in the shul and teach children in cheder.

My parents were great friends of the Myburgs and on Sunday evenings would play cards with them and others (Moishe Horowitz and the Goldenbaums).  My mother was an ardent Zionist and worked tirelessly for WIZO and other Jewish charities. I knew Rev and Mrs Myburg had three daughters, who sometimes spent the High Holydays with their parents.  Hettie was the eldest and married a fellow from Johannesburg and if my addled memory does not leave me in the lurch, had the surname of Hurwitz.  The middle daughter, Golda, was an academic. obtained her BA degree at Pretoria University.  To the best of my knowledge, she never married during my sojourn in Beaufort West.  The youngest daughter, Zelda, the prettiest of the daughters, married a young brilliant academic Yaacov Newman, who later was known as Rabbi Dr Jacob Newman.  Rev. Myburg was so proud of his son-in-law and used to tell us with much enthusiasm of his many achievements.  When I first heard of him from my dear teacher, I think he was the resident Rabbi at the Oxford Synagogue in Johannesburg.

Rev. Myburg was a wonderful Hebrew teacher with amazing patience.  I attribute my Hebrew education to his tutelage, and I had my bar mitzvah in the synagogue in 1952.  On 7 May this year, I celebrated my second bar mitzvah in the Gardens shul.  I read the same portion in the Torah and did the Haftorah Kedoshim in the same trop as I was taught, including the old-fashioned Ashkenazi pronunciation.  That was a moving experience, but also quite intimidating, as the Garden shul is massive compared to the tiny shul of my youth.

Rev. Myburg also taught me to blow the shofar and when he became too frail in his older years, I blew the shofar for him.  That experience stood me in good stead, as I did the same ritual in the Grahamstown synagogue when I was a Senior Lecturer at Rhodes University. I left Beaufort West in 1957 to pursue my studies in Cape Town, but when I was visiting the old Transvaal in 1963, I went to see my former teacher, who was living his retirement in an aged home in Johannesburg.  Suffice it to say it was a moving reunion.  Thereafter I lost touch with Rev. Myburg and his family.  Without a spiritual head, Beaufort West’s Jewish community dwindled and not a single Jew is left in the town.

When I turned 70 years of age, I was made an Honorary Citizen of Beaufort West.  I visit the town regularly, as I still possess some property in the town (my inheritance).  During my youth we had a thriving community, and I am hoping to write an account of those unforgettable characters who made such a great contribution to the town.  The cornerstone of the synagogue was laid by Mr I Bakst, a great friend of my late grandfather, in March 1922; so this is the centenary year of the shul there.  The original building is a storeroom these days, but Rev. Myburg’s house next door is now occupied by the sister of the owner, Mr Botha, a son of the original purchaser, Mr Gert Botha.  The square pit in the back yard is still there where Rev. Myburg slaughtered the chickens, and we watched the ritual in awe as children.  The bimah landed up in the Milnerton synagogue and the torahs were donated to a young community, Moshav Manof, a South African formed Settlement in the Galilee in Israel.  I recall going to the old Schoonder Street Synagogue (since demolished) in Cape Town with my father to witness the handing over ceremony of the torahs.

When my wife and I attended a bar mitzvah at the Milnerton synagogue, I looked at the bimah and remarked to my wife that I recognise the bimah. She scoffed and thought I was losing it. Why would I remember a bimah?  Let me explain.  Each pillar of the bimah had a large wooden ball which was attached to the supporting pillar with a wooden dowel.  As mischievous kids, we pulled out the dowels and balanced the ball on their pillars.  When the gabbaim leaned against the pillar, the ball would come tumbling down with a thunderous bang on the wooden floor startling everyone at shul.  Perhaps it even woke up a few congregants who had nodded off.  What a childhood memory J!!  When I told my wife how I had remembered, she remained unconvinced, but a fellow pharmacist and member at that shul confirmed my identification and my wife, like Queen Victoria, was not amused by the pranks practised in our capricious youth.

Once I got writing, so many memories came flooding back.  I am pleased that I could add something to Eli’s query about Zelda Myburg.  I hope to start writing about the Jewish characters of Beaufort West and my own family.  The Finkelstein (my late Dad and I) and Dubowitz families (three uncles and six male cousins) could muster a minyan without the participation of any other congregants.  My grandparents and two uncles are buried in the Jewish cemetery in Beaufort West.

Warm greetings and best regards,

Sincerely

Natie

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Nathan (Natie) Finkelstein  Dip Pharm  DCC  Hons-BSc (Med Sci)  MSc  PhD  FPS(SA)  FRPharmS   FIPharmM  MSAChemI

FORMER VISITING PROFESSOR: FACULTY OF PHARMACY, RHODES UNIVERSITY, GRAHAMSTOWN/MAKHANDA

COMMISSIONER OF OATHS: REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

CONSTANTIA               

Cape Town, South Africa

Update from Natie

9 November

Hi Eli

You requested pictures and I decided to send you one which marked a significant milestone in my life, viz. my second barmitzvah.  The picture was taken by Rabbi Osher Feldman when I did a “dress rehearsal” at the Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town (now 181 years old) three days before the actual Shabbat “performance” on 7 May 2022.  This was rather a far cry from the original barmitzvah celebrated in 1952 in the small shul of Beaufort West.  It was a memorable occasion being surrounded by family, friends, and the Gardens community at a brocha after the service.

Warm regards

Sincerely

Natie


The visit of the Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, the Ponevezh’s Rav to Cape Town in 1953

Links:

Western Cape, BEAUFORT-WEST, Jewish cemetery

https://graves-at-eggsa.org/main.php?g2_itemId=925556

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_West

https://www.beaufortwest.net/

 

8 November 1922

Dr Christiaan Barnard Born

Christiaan Neethling Barnard, 1922 – 2001 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Christiaan Barnard was born in Beaufort West, Western Cape, on this day in 1922. Dr. Barnard studied medicine at the University of Cape Town. His first practice was at Ceres, also in the Western Cape. Dr. Barnard became famous in 1967 for leading a team that successfully performed the first heart transplant on a human being.

Eli Rabinowitz

SA Country Communities

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.

Kind regards

Gwynne

With Albie Sachs

Desrae Saacks Acting Editor – Cape Jewish Chronicle

We are very happy to share these articles in the Cape Jewish Chronicle written by Gwynne Robins

Click on links below to read the full article:

https://cjc.org.za/2021/02/01/caledons-springs-attracted-jewish-settlers-in-the-19th-century/

https://cjc.org.za/2021/10/01/the-chronicle-of-ceres-jews/

https://cjc.org.za/2021/11/01/the-history-of-durbanvilles-jewish-community/

https://cjc.org.za/2021/08/01/ladismiths-jewish-community/

https://cjc.org.za/2021/09/01/the-jews-of-laingsburg/

https://cjc.org.za/2020/12/01/a-history-of-the-malmesbury-jewish-community/

https://cjc.org.za/2021/06/01/the-jews-of-okiep/

https://cjc.org.za/2020/11/01/robertson-a-jewish-history/

https://cjc.org.za/2010/11/01/history-of-robertson/

https://cjc.org.za/2020/12/01/an-update-on-country-communities-uniondale/

https://cjc.org.za/2021/12/01/keepsakes-from-our-country-communities/

https://cjc.org.za/2021/09/01/where-are-our-synagogues/

A tribute to Gwynne Robins on her retirement from the Cape SAJBD

With thanks to Desrae Saacks and the Cape Jewish Chronicle

Western Cape Synagogues

Jewish Journeys in the Western Cape

https://wcapeshuls.wordpress.com/

By Steven Albert

Steven travelled through most of the Western Cape, researching, writing, and documenting the synagogues and Jewish communities in the small dorps and towns. He photographed the synagogues, cemeteries (i.e. headstones),  the sections of the town museums on the local Jewish communities, and gathered information from local sources.

This includes a new photo gallery:

Steven: The shuls around the Western Cape that I photographed; where possible, I photographed the interiors, the foundation stones, and the sections of the town museums detailing the Jewish community. I also found some old archival photos of some of the shuls.

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Steven managed to find some old photographs in the Cape Town library (Roeland str, Schoonders Str and an old leaflet of Marais Road). In the case of the Vredehoek shul, he was given some old photos by the then owner.

Here is the list of shuls in Cape Town that Steven photographed:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steven also photographed all the stones in Maitland/Gate 8 and 7th Street cemeteries.

For further information WC shuls, there is an earlier publication by Amy Bach, which I bought several years ago from the bookshop at Cafe Rieteve, Cape Town .

Eli Rabinowitz

Perth Australia

eli@elirab.com

 

The Northern Suburbs: Partners In Primary Care

by Gail Loon-Lustig

Powerpoint presentation  –  pdf

Gail - History group

Video of Gail’s Chol presentation: session #3 on 13 April 2022

at the 19 minute mark

For other CHOL sessions:

https://www.sajewishmuseum.co.za/copy-of-current-exhibitions

 

Cape Town KehilaLink

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/capetown/

 

For more information, contact:

Eli Rabinowitz

Perth Australia

eli@elirab.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I did in my school holidays in July 1968 – Lemmy

What I did in my school holidays in July 1968

By Lemmy Hadassin

‘Twas a cold and smokey highveld, before the winter dawn

A Cessna four-seater, parked neatly on the lawn

The pilot checks the fuel as we all climb on board

Uncertain what’s ahead, a silent prayer to the Lord

Final year at school, I’m just sweet sixteen

Flying to De Aar in the Cape, where I’ve never ever been

My Dad and Bill Moffett, a job there to review

With the pilot, Arthur Webster, and me make up the crew

“Fasten seatbelts rather tightly”, Captain Webster’s call is clear

Nothing to worry about, and not much for me to fear

The engine sounds so noisy as my heart begins to pound

Down the runway at high speed the plane lifts off the ground

We’re flying high, it’s daylight, so much never seen before

A highway here, a farm over there, a dam and so much more

A thermos flask of coffee, and egg sandwiches for us to share

Should be at home studying, but I don’t really care

Flying over mountains, we’re close to our destination

The engine stops, the propeller slows, a worrying situation

The captain tries a restart, unfortunately no such luck

Lets out a loud profanity, which may well rhyme with duck

We glide over the hilltops, and the town is not that far

Perhaps we’ll land on the road, but this is not a car

Arthur spots a sandy track, a good landing’s on today

Little does he know there’s a wall mound in the way

We hit the ground with a mighty bump, the plane does a total flip

Landing upside down and skidding on, as I bit hard on my lip

Held hanging by the seatbelt, I should have stayed in bed

Undo the buckle, and lo and behold I fall onto my head

The Captain fears a fire and kicks out the side door

We scramble along the roof which has now become the floor

We’re out, we’re safe, just a few cuts and bruises to show

The plane’s a wreck, will I fly again – the answer’s a definite no

A farmer saw our plane above, gliding slowly into trouble

Appears with shovels, thought we were buried deep in rubble

Transport to the town, by I know not whom

Should we check-in and get a room?

I offer to ride home on the evening train

A ride on rails sounds good to my brain

Arthur says no – it’s like riding a bike

after falling off, get up and go for a hike

He calls the aero club from a call-box phone

“Send out a bigger plane to take us all home”

A six-seater arrives as sunset is near

An engine up front and one in the rear

The town folk turn out at the aero strip

To watch us fly off in this strange looking ship

My palms are all sweaty, my nerves are a-jitter

I may be a coward but I’m surely no quitter

The new pilot is cool, so I am much calmer

Gets us back home without further drama

Arthur’s bought a new Cessna – is he quite insane?

Will I ever choose to fly with him again?

Hazel & Lemmy Hadassin
2nd Battalion Transvaal Scottish Circa 1972
Rev Sholem Moshe and Bertha (Bluma) Hadassin. Lemmy’s grandparents. Rev in Bloemfontein until 1950

 

JewishGen – The Home of Jewish Genealogy

Bloemfontein  Kehilalink

Perth Kehilalink

 

Rabbi Shalom Coleman In The News

9 December 2021

 

Perth’s Rabbi Dr Shalom Coleman celebrates his 103rd birthday

 

Rabbi Shalom Coleman – 103! – Mazeltov!

With long standing friends from the Bloemfontein days, Barney and Myra Wasserman, taken last week at the Perth Jewish Centre.

Here are photos and items reposted from my previous posts

The People’s Rabbi

Rabbi Shalom Coleman

Who Am I!

Watch Video:

Source: youtu.be/bD4pm_sQ1HE

Coleman

Source: elirab.com/Coleman.html

SHALOM COLEMAN – RABBINIC DYNAMO

by Raymond Apple, emeritus rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney

 Bio about 10 years ago

Small in size but a giant in stature – that describes Rabbi Shalom Coleman, who changed the face of Judaism in Western Australia. Thanks to his refusal to give up or give in, a sleepy, distant community was set on the path to becoming a lively centre of orthodoxy. Rabbi Coleman is now over 90, hopefully with three more decades of work ahead until the proverbial 120.

Born into an orthodox family in Liverpool on 5 December, 1918, he was both a student and a man of action from his youth. At the University of Liverpool he gained a BA degree with honours, plus a Bachelor of Letters in Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages and Egyptology. His education was interrupted by World War II when he served with the Royal Air Force as a wireless operator/air gunner on missions in France and Western Europe, and in 1944 he was recruiting officer in England for the Jewish Brigade Group. He returned to university in 1945 as tutor, review writer and librarian.   At Jews’ College, he gained rabbinic ordination in 1955.  He also undertook postgraduate studies in Semitic languages at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

In 1947, at the suggestion of the then Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Dr Louis Rabinowitz, he went to the Potchefstroom Hebrew Congregation in the Transvaal and then served the Bloemfontein Hebrew Congregation in the Orange Free State from 1949-1960.  Whilst in South Africa, he gained an MA at the University of Pretoria and a PhD at the University of the Orange Free State for a thesis entitled “Hosea Concepts in Midrash and Talmud”.

He was chairman of the Adult Education Council (English Section) of the Orange Free State and vice-president of the Victoria League, and introduced essay and oratory contests for schools. As a military chaplain he was active in the ex-service movement and was awarded the Certificate of Comradeship, the highest award of the MOTHS (Memorable Order of Tin Hats). He edited a Jewish community journal called “HaShomer” and an anniversary volume for the 150th anniversary of the Orange Free State.

In 1961 he came to Sydney as rabbi of the South Head Synagogue. He was a member of the Sydney Beth Din, vice-president of the NSW Board of Jewish Education and director of the David J. Benjamin Institute of Jewish Studies, for whom he edited three volumes of proceedings. He established a seminary for the training of Hebrew teachers. He lectured at the University of Sydney and wrote a thesis entitled “Malachi in Midrashic Analysis” for a DLitt.

In 1964 he received the Robert Waley Cohen Scholarship of the Jewish Memorial Council, using it for research into adult education in South-East Asia, Israel and the USA. In 1965 he became rabbi of the Perth Hebrew Congregation in Western Australia.  He held office until retirement in 1985.

He determined to turn Perth into a Makom Torah. He obtained land as a gift in trust from the State Government for a new synagogue, youth centre and minister’s residence in an area where the Jewish community lived in Mount Lawley, replacing the original downtown Shule.   At that time few members were Shom’rei Shabbat. Further initiatives led to a kosher food centre in the Synagogue grounds; a mikveh; a genizah  for the burial of outworn holy books and appurtenances; a Hebrew Academy where high school students met daily, and extra classes four days a week at a nearby state school.

He taught for the Department of Adult Education of the University of WA and served on the Senate of Murdoch University. He was an honorary professor at Maimonides College in Canada, led educational tours to Israel for non-Jewish clergy and teachers, lectured to religious groups, schools and service organisations, and wrote booklets so people of all faiths could understand Jews and Judaism. Talks with the Minister of Education led to a Committee of National Consciousness in Schools, which he chaired; the Minister called his work “invaluable”.

Known as “the rabbi who never stops”, he was a member of the Karrakatta and Pinarroo Valley Cemetery Boards and wrote two histories for them to mark the State’s 150th anniversary in 1979 and the Australian Bicentenary in 1988. He was a member of the Perth Dental Hospital Board and chaired the Senior Appointments Committee and then the Board. The North Perth Dental Clinic is now known as the Shalom Coleman Dental Clinic.

A Rotarian since 1962, first in Sydney and then in Perth, he was President 1985/86 and Governor 1993/9, representative of the World President in 1995, and representative of WA Rotary at the UN Presidential Conference in San Francisco in 1995. He was co-ordinator of the District Ethics and Community Service Committees and chaired the Bangladesh Cyclone Warning Project, which saved the lives of 40,000 residents of the chief fishing port of Bangladesh. He received a certificate of appreciation as District Secretary of Probus Centre, South Pacific. He has spoken at conferences all over the world and is a patron of the Family Association of WA. He has been a vice-president of Save the Children Fund since 1967.

He was a foundation member of the Perth Round Table and their first lecturer. He is still an honorary military chaplain and was on the executive of the Returned Services League and edited their “Listening Post” from 1989-91. He holds high rank in Freemasonry. He is honorary rabbi at the Maurice Zeffertt Centre for the Aged and was made a Governor of the Perth Aged Home Society in 2004. After several years as president of the Australian and New Zealand rabbinate his colleagues made him honorary life president. Several times he went to NZ as interim rabbi for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. He shines in the pulpit, and is a fine chazzan.  He has received awards from the Queen and the Australian Government. The University of WA gave him an honorary LLD in April 2000.  He is still, despite his age, a prolific speaker and writer; travels widely and his services are in constant demand.

In 1942 he married Bessie Anna Daviat, who died in 1982.   He has a son in Melbourne, a daughter in the USA, grandchildren and great- grandchildren. He married Elena Doktorovich in 1987; she died in 1997.

Small in stature, Rabbi Coleman is a giant in energy, enterprise and enthusiasm, and is one of Australia’s best known figures. Largely thanks to him, Judaism is strong in Perth, with five synagogues, a Chabad House, a Jewish school, a fine kashrut system, and many shi’urim; his own Talmud shi’ur is legendary. No longer is it a struggle to be Jewish in Western Australia.

The Community Rabbi
With Rabbi Dan Lieberman
With Rivka Majteles
With Rabbi Dovid Freilich and the Blitz Family
With Rabbi Marcus Solomon, Eli Rachamim & Eli Rabinowitz
With Eli Rabinowitz & Joanna Fox

Spiritual Treasure – Book Launch at the Perth Hebrew Congregation

Source: elirab.me/spiritual-treasure-book-launch-at-the-perth-hebrew-congregation/

Rabbi Coleman and The Bloemfontein Reunion

Rabbi Coleman and Bloemfontein Reunion

Rabbi Coleman reminisces about his time in Bloemfontein as Jewish Spiritual Leader – 1949 to 1959.  Perth, Australia 3 February 2016

Watch Video:

Source: youtu.be/GVUN1PtPD0g