Stellenbosch Folks - A Directory
Here are the names and brief stories of some of the Jews who settled in the Stellenbosch area in the twentieth century.
If you would like to add any names and stories, please contact Gerald Potash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Armstrong, Chippy: He was very involved with the shul and is remembered in a plaque in the synagogue for his role in in the restoration of the Skuinshuis (1980): 'Their foresight is our inheritance'.
- Bender, Reverend: Minister at Cape Town who came to Stellenbosch on special occasions such as to consecrate the old, rented shul in 1903 and to lay the foundation for the new shul in 1923.
- Bloch, Zena: Congregant in the early 2000s; lived in Somerset West.
- Bowman, Lionel: Pianist and professor of music at Stellenbosch University. Offered his services, and the University provided the Conservatory, for a recital in 1973. All the proceeds were sent to the Yom Kippur war effort.
- Brown: The first services in the early 1900s were held in Mr Brown’s home in Herte Street.
- Daitsch, David: On 8 April 1900, 24 people assembled in his home for a Siyum HaTorah, after which they agreed to form a congregation to be called Agudas Achim (Band of Brothers).
- Friedman, Joel: Hotelier of the Grand Hotel (now Checkers marks the spot).
- Geffin, Pikkie: Well-known attorney.
- Gelb, Harry and family: The baker in the town.
- Ginsburg, Lazer (Lossy): An academic renowned for fruit research and chairman of the congregation for 25 years. On 1 December 1980, Lossy Ginsberg unveiled the National Monuments Commission's plaque declaring the restored Skuinshuis a historical monument! This was a great occasion and achievement, especially as the congregation had dwindled from 85 families in the 1950s to only 20 in 1980! It had taken from 1973 to 1980 to achieve this restoration. There is no doubt that the restoration of the Skuinshuis and all it means to Jewry, to Stellenbosch and to South Africa was the most significant achievement of this congregation during the past century!
- Ginsberg, Mrs Myrel: Wife of Lossy. Well-known Stellenbosch firebrand and organiser of the Jewish ladies, and also a writer.
- Gut, Felix: Born in Cologne in 1903, Felix, a businessman and a man of great intellectual strength and conviction, had escaped Nazi Germany in time and moved to Standerton in South Africa in 1937. He came to live in Stellenbosch in 1978 and died there in 1989. Having narrowly escaped the German concentration camps, he was dismayed to see the anti-semitism expressed at the time in South Africa. Felix thereafter dedicated himself to collecting and assembling as complete a collection of books, articles and stories on the Holocaust as he could. He contributed articles of his own to a number of local and overseas publications. He donated a collection of over 300 books on the Holocaust to Stellenbosch University which are now housed in the J S Gericke Library. The University was so impressed with and grateful for this donation that they honoured Felix Gut by the publication of a listing of these books. A bound volume of the many letters written by the University to Mr Gut thanking him for this great generosity and commenting on each book as it was received has also been published. Felix Gut is remembered looking up at the white painted ceiling of his beloved synagogue and sighing, 'Ja, we know at least that this will always be a cultural centre'.
- Jokl, Dr Ernst: An Olympic athlete; came from Germany to establish the Department of Physical Education at Stellenbosch University. His fame was such that students would enrol to study 'Jokl'.
- Lurie, Edward: Chairman of the community in 1923 when the foundation stone of the new synagogue was laid. In a brief speech, welcomed all those present and said that 24 years ago the community had been started in a very small way, and at last they were able to build their own synagogue. (Daniel Segall and Edward Lurie went into business together in Stellenbosch in 1902 and their families remained there for over a hundred years. Read their family stories by clicking the name.)
- Markus, Bokkie: A pharmacist, member in the early 2000s, lives in Somerset West.
- Meyer, Sam: One of the early congregants, a cabinetmaker of repute, Sam Meyer crafted the impressive woodwork of the cantor’s podium and the benches which gracefully adorned the synagogue and served the congregation for many decades.
- Osrin, David: Another early settler in Stellenbosch who arrived with his wife and son in 1901. A carpenter by trade, David soon branched into other businesses, including a shop in Die Vlakte, where he also became a landlord.
- Pakter, Rev Isaac: Held office from 1950 to 1972. He helped the community to grow, flourish and reach a membership of some 85 families. Under his leadership, inter-denominational services were held, bringing Jews and Christians together in a spirit of understanding and mutual respect. The late Prof W J van der Merwe and his theological students frequently attended synagogue services. The Dutch Reformed Moederkerk and the Jewish Community took turns annually to entertain each other. This 'toenadering' of Jew and gentile did much to build bridges and generate inestimable goodwill. This goodwill was never better demonstrated than during the Yom Kippur War in Israel in 1973. The day after war broke out, Rabbi David Lapin held a service in the synagogue which was also attended by many prominent non-Jews, who all expressed shock and support for Israel.
- Perel, Louis: Remembered in a plaque in the synagogue for his role in the restoration of the Skuinshuis: 'Their foresight is our inheritance'.
- Phillips, Hilton: At the turn of the 21st century Hilton Philips helps on the Zetlers' farm, Limberlost. He also helps to run the services at the synagogue.
- Potash, Gerald: Took over Stellenbosch Furnishers from his father after studying law and is now an affable and sought-after (retired) tour guide with a rich store of anecdotes. He has researched the Boerejode.
- Rose, Dr Sidney: A retired vascular surgeon from Manchester, England. He lives in Somerset West but worships in Stellenbosch. Dr Rose's back may hunch over a little, his eyes might not see things crystal clearly, but his humour is as sharp as the juice of a Jaffa orange. 'This is the synagogue. This is where the Jews hang out', he says with a dry chuckle.
- Rosendorff, Dr Gerald and his wife Bernice: Came to Stellenbosch in 1956 to join Bennie Spiro’s medical practice. Their rooms were in Dorp Street, diagonally opposite today's Checkers. In 2012 Gerry and Bernice were the only Jews still living in Stellenbosch. Gerry was the secretary/treasurer and general factotum of the synagogue and would open the doors regularly every Friday evening at 6.30 pm hoping for a minyan. Although this service cannot be held every week, congregants would come from miles around – from Franschhoek, Somerset West, and farms around the town.
- Sacks, Max
- Scheffer, Harry
- Schneider, Ruby: Attorney in Stellenbosch, later joined Oscar Roup from Paarl and established Roup, Schneider and Wacks in Cape Town.
- Segall, Daniel: Went into business with Edward Lurie in Stellenbosch in 1902 and their families remained there for over a hundred years. Read their family stories by clicking the name.
- Sendzul, Jonathan: Businessman, lives in Franschhoek. He attended the synagogue around the turn of the 21st century and his younger son, Adam, had his barmitzvah there. Jonathan is now the treasurer of the community – dealing with the rental income.
- Senitsky family: Connected to Foschini Lewis family from Cape Town.
- Tollman, Mossie: Hotelier at well-known Coetzenburg Hotel.
- Zetler, Mendel and his wife Deborah: Arrived in Stellenbosch in 1904 from the village of Lyakhovichi in Belarus. On acquiring a house in Bosman Street, Mendel immediately laid out a strawberry patch. Enthusiastically he rented more plots and so started the Zetler strawberry farms that his son Sam and his five grandsons, Michael, Herschel, Leonard, Jeffrey and Dennis, would develop into an international business. All were Paul Roos Gymnasium old boys, they conduct their business meetings in Afrikaans and have kept the original Afrikaans names of their farms, such as Mooiberge and Brakelsdal. The former is known for a special Stellenbosch attraction: its spectacular parade of scarecrows. Made by the farm workers, these cheerful, garishly coloured works of art strut among the rows of strawberries and are a magnet for tourists. When students were caught trying to steal some of the scarecrows, they were given the option of prosecution or working in the strawberry fields for a day in the relentless heat of a Stellenbosch summer. No one has attempted to steal a scarecrow again. The Zetlers were a vital part of the local Jewish community and of the synagogue.
- Zetler, Samuel: Son of Mendel, began strawberry farming in 1922. Developed strawberry growing in the area. His five sons, Michael (b 25/9/40, deceased), Herschel (b 22/3/44, deceased), Leonard (b 5/7/45), Dennis (b 6/11/51) and Jeffrey (b 27/8/55, deceased), continued and developed the business of growing and marketing strawberries and ran a number of shops and farms around Stellenbosch.
- Zetler, Boet and Freda: Also son of Mendel. Successful butcher and property developer. Freda was the powerhouse of the family.
- Zuckerman, Moses, and Rebecca Glazer: Married in 1902, the first Jewish couple to do so in Stellenbosch. Moses, an ardent Zionist, organised charities to support the Jews in Palestine. Their son Solly, born in 1904, moved to England, where he was to become Sir Solly Zuckerman. As a scientist during World War II, he played an active and critical role in researching the effects of bombing cities.
People page of the Stellenbosch community
Compiled by Gerald Potash, Somerset West, South Africa
Edited by Geraldine Auerbach MBE, London, UK
With thanks to Eli Rabinowitz, Perth, Australia and others for information
Formatted and uploaded by Bramie Lenhoff, Delaware, USA