Monday, March 7, 2016

The Jews of South Africa

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                         
Johannesburg, South Africa; only the flag tells me this is not a picture of the USA.
The flag of South Africa was adopted on 27 April 1994, at the beginning of South Africa's 1994 general election, to replace the flag that had been used since 1928. The new national flag  was chosen to represent the new democracy.
Jews went to South Africa during the early 19th century. By 1992 they had a population of 120,000 Jews in South Africa. By July 2014, the core Jewish population was 70,000.  The expanded population was from 80,000 to 92,000 Jews.   The first synagogue built there was organized in Capetown in 1841.  Many of the Jewish settlers were traders and peddlers, traveling among the Boer farmers.  Later, they tended to move to towns.  Many Jews emigrated  to South Africa, including a number from Eastern Europe after gold was discovered toward the end of the 19th century.
Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein at a Nelson Mandela Memorial Ceremony.
Despite vicious anti-Semitic rhetoric going on, he attended.  Mandela was very anti-Semitic.  
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. In September 1998, Mandela was appointed Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement, who held their annual conference in Durban. He used the event to criticise the "narrow, chauvinistic interests" of the Israeli government in stalling negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Notice, he put all the blame on Israel and not the Palestinians ruled by Arafat who would not make peace under any conditions offered.   Mandela faced  criticism from the West for his government's trade links to Syria, Cuba, and Libya,  and for his personal friendships with Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi.  Now we see why he was against Israel and for the Arabs.  
 Johannesburg became the main center of Jewish settlement.  In South Africa, Jews enjoyed political equality in Cape Colony and Natal.  They had it in the Transvaal only after the 2nd Boer War.  The rabbis of the principal congregations in both Johannesburg (Jewish population: 63,620) and Cape Town (Jewish population  of Cape Peninsula: 28,000) have Chief Rabbis and 65 synagogues are affiliated to the Orthodox Federation of Synagogues.

A Reform movement, started in 1933, has 14 affiliated congregations.  there is a wide network of Jewish education, with 69 nursery schools, 10 primary schools, and 8 high schools.
Stanley and Helen Goldfoot of Jerusalem
Family was from Telsiai, Lithuania, then Dublin, Ireland 
It was Stanley Goldfoot who left after graduating high school and emigrated to Israel in 1933. He boarded a ship alone at age 18, and when in the middle of the ocean, the ship hoisted a Nazi flag.   He was afraid that he would never get to Israel.  He was the very first Jew to immigrate to Israel from South Africa.
In younger days, Stanley with 1st wife, Rebecca "Rollo" and 2 daughters,
born in Capetown, SA. 
At the age of 18, he heard a speech about the Zionist vision by Ze'ev Jabotinsky, which 
appealed very strongly to him. It was all he needed to hear before packing 
a bag, leaving a shocked family and heading for Palestine. He joined a 
HaShomer HaTzair kibbutz, picking eggplants in the fields, and making floor 
tiles, "balatot". There, he became the Chief of Intelligence for the famous Stern Group (Lehi)  which was very active in the days before May 14, 1948 when Israel was born again.

"Israel maintained deepening military and diplomatic ties with South Africa between 1967 and 1990.  There is also a modest but growing community of South African Jews living in Israel."

A large immigration of Jews came to South Africa after World War I, when the Lithuanians came in.  Restrictions were put on them during the 1930s which limited the immigration, in which many did come that were German Jews, naturally. The 30s was the time of terrible anti-Semitism in Germany.  After 1939, when Germany closed the door to German Jews emigration, the Jewish immigration was negligible, although it has increased again starting in the 1980s.
Abba Eban b: 1915 Cape Town, South Africa-d: 2002 Tel Aviv, Israel, Israeli diplomat and politician, and a scholar of the Arabic and Hebrew languages.
He also served in the British Army in Egypt and Mandate Palestine
Another famous South African  who emigrated to Israel was Abba Eban, who was the Foreign Minister of Israel from 1966 to 1974.  "In his career he was Israeli Foreign Affairs MinisterEducation MinisterDeputy Prime Minister, and ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations. He was also Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly and President of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Any emigration early on  from South African Jews had gone to Israel, but now more people have emigrated to other English-speaking countries. "South African Jewry differ significantly from those in other developing countries in that the majority of South African Jews still remain in South Africa (62% of the original 120,000 still remain), and that a significant number of those that did move abroad went to countries popular among other South African émigrés such as Australia,] the United StatesCanada, and the United Kingdom.
Standing against anti-Semitism in South Africa 
The remaining Jews are well-organized and have a high degree of centralization with the Board of Deputies as its representative organization.  They also have a strong Zionist Federation.  This year they have the South African Friends of Israel Conference on their calendar, the SAZF Advocacy Group (South African Zionist Federation).
Capetown, South Africa
Many Jews that wound up in South Africa originally came from Lithuania.  First they had gone to England, and then Dublin, Ireland.  From there they made their way to South Africa.  A large number of the Irish immigrants were from the shtetl or small town of Akmiyan (Akmene), or townships like that in the province of Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania to where their ancestors had trekked from the Rhineland before Lithuania passed from Polish to Russian control in 1772.  They had been invited in by the Polish princes who wanted to colonize their lands.  The Jews had brought the added benefit of trading expertise to areas where such commercialism was closed to serfs and considered too menial for high-born Polish families.  But they did find a certain amount of anti-Semitism later on in Ireland, being it was mostly a Catholic country.  This is the route my Goldfus/Goldfoot family took, and I found today's Goldfoots in South Africa did come from Ireland first.

Resource: Book:  Jewish Ireland, a social history, by Ray Rivlin.  (I might add that he is a relative, no doubt, of today's President Rivlin of Israel.)p. 32.
The New Standard Jewish encyclopedia, page 19.

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