The Jewish people who settled in Ceres made notable contributions to the area’s civil, agricultural and economic development as entrepreneurs and agricultural innovators. Here are some of the people we know about. If you have a family story for Ceres, please send it to flesh out the footprint of the Jewish community of Ceres and surrounding areas.
Arnholz, Adolf and Mary: Were among the first Jews to settle in Ceres, arriving from Germany in 1865. Adolph founded the Inland Transport Company, which operated horse-drawn passenger coaches from Cape Town to the Kimberley diamond fields. He was appointed the first Ceres magistrate, and as a member of the Divisional Council, was responsible for the proclamation of Ceres as a magisterial district.
Arnholz, Bernhard: Adolf’s brother, settled in the 1860s. Bernhard Arnholz was the town’s first Justice of the Peace, and its Mayor in 1873.
Baumanns: Also from Germany, arrived in 1870. They had a shop there until 1923.
Cohen, David: Arrived at the Cape from Russia in 1890. He came to the Ceres district in 1919 after farming at Hottentotskloof. He bought Pollie Kirsch’s farm, Roggevlei, in the early 1920s and also owned farms near Prince Alfred Hamlet. David Cohen became known as the 'Seed Potato King' of the Western Province.
Cohen, Losky: David’s son, took over his father’s farms and inherited his 'title'. He also farmed in grain, fruit and lucerne, and specialised in crop rotation on his three farms, Roggevlei, Odessa and Cohenia. Losky Cohen served on the Ceres municipal council for a number of years. The Cohen family were still farming in the area in 2002.
Daneman, Herman and his wife: Settled there in 1898.
Fish, Mr and Mrs Frank
Fisch, Mr C: Settled around 1900.
Fisher: He and Smolensky were photographers at their Premier Art Studio by 1900.
Frank: Two brothers were living in the town around 1900.
Goldberg, Lazarus: Founded the Ceres Tikvah Zion Society with Abraham Hillel Miller, 1898.
Green, Morris: Had settled by 1900.
Katzen, Mr: Had settled by 1900.
Kirsch, Theo: Owned the farm Oustasie between Ceres and Wolseley; was known as the 'Plum King' and was a leading expert in this field. He produced more plums than any other individual farmer in South Africa and represented the Union of Plum Growers on the Deciduous Fruit Board. He was a founder of Ceres Fruit Growers. No member of the beloved and gifted Kirsch family remains in the Ceres district, but its roots are still there. The past lives on in their stories: about the first Model T Fords in Ceres, which could ascend Mitchell’s Pass only in reverse and one of which Leon Kirsch drove regularly from the age of twelve; about train journeys city children can only dream of: Prof Ralph Kirsch of Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town, one of Theo’s sons remembers how they used to get a lift in the steam engine from their friend, the enormous train driver Mr Hart. He would take them on board in Ceres or Wolseley whenever they wanted or needed to travel, allow them to drive the engine and dropped them in the mountain above Oustasie, where someone from the farm would meet them.
Metter, Wolf: Was a stalwart of the Jewish community. By 1964 he had been the chairman of the congregation for 20 years. When Rev Hirshel Natas passed on in 1955, Metter took over his all duties except for officiating at weddings and Brit Milah ceremonies.
Miller, Abraham Hillel: With Lazarus Goldberg founded the Ceres Tikvah Zion Society, 1898.
Natas, Rev Hirshel: Ceres was blessed to have a Rabbi that served the Ceres Jewish community as its minister from around 1927 until 1953. Rev Natas had studied at the famous Lithuanian seat of learning, the Mir Yeshiva. He came to South Africa at the turn of the 20th century and served as the minister in Stellenbosch in 1904 before returning to Lithuania in 1907. He came back to South Africa in 1925 with some members of his family and served as minister for a short time in Dordrecht, before settling in Ceres.
Natas, Moshe: The name of Moshe, son of Rev Hirshel Natas, is synonymous with Jewish education in South Africa. He studied at the first Diaspora Hebrew teachers' seminary in Lithuania and also at a yeshiva in Kovno. After returning to South Africa in 1929, he taught cheder in various places in the Cape. During the Second World War he served as an army chaplain in Egypt. After the war, he enrolled at the University of Cape Town where he obtained the degrees of BA and MA, and was also awarded a PhD by the Department of Hebrew. He taught at the Hebrew Teachers' Seminar in Johannesburg until 1951, when the South African Zionist Federation asked him to become their Cultural Officer. He is a recognised authority on the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and has lectured throughout South Africa to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He celebrated his 100th birthday in August 2002.
Raskin family: Sold mineral water; had settled by 1900.
Ring, Mr and Mrs: Moved to Ceres in 1889.
Sarembock, Joseph: Was a pioneer in the scientific growing of apples and other deciduous fruit in South Africa. After the Anglo-Boer War he and his brothers Louis and Jack imported fruit and fruit trees from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and California. He laid out his farm near Ceres around 1906. His brother also bought farms in the area. He had learned the art of deciduous storage and marketing methods that set an example to other fruit farmers. It is largely thanks to him that Ceres became the largest producer and exporter of South African deciduous fruit. He also owned citrus farms in the Beaufort West area and deciduous fruit farms around George.
Sebba, Adolph and Amelia: Arrived in 1895. He was the Zionist Society president in 1920. As such he expressed his thanks to the British government and General Smuts for their effort in restoring Palestine as a Jewish national home, holding a thanksgiving service and banquet in July at the home of Mr and Mrs Frank Fish.
Smolensky: He and Fisher were photographers at their Premier Art Studio by 1900.
For more Jewish history of Ceres and surrounds and to see a list of Jewish residents over the decades, go to the Ceres Museum.