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History of the Jews in South Africa

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Title: History of the Jews in South Africa  
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History of the Jews in South Africa

South African Jews
Regions with significant populations
 South Africa estimated 67,000[1]
 Johannesburg 50,000[1]
 Cape Town 17,000[1]
 Pretoria 3,000[1]
 Israel 20,000[2]
 Australia 15,000[3]
 United Kingdom 10,000
 United States 9,000
 Canada 4,000
First language
South African English (vast majority) and Afrikaans, of religious : Yiddish, Hebrew
Orthodox Judaism (80%)[1]
Reform Judaism (20%)[1]
Related ethnic groups
Lithuanian Jews, Russian Jews, Dutch Jews, German Jews, British Jews, Israeli Jews, Austrian Jews, Portuguese Jews

The history of the Jews in South Africa mainly begins with the European settlement in the 19th century. The early patterns of Jewish South African history are almost identical to the history of the Jews in the United States but on a much smaller scale, including the period of early discovery and settlement from the late 15th century to the early 19th century. The community grew tenfold between 1880 and 1914, from 4,000 to over 40,000. A number of Jews were prominent in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, while the majority of the community were indifferent. Meanwhile, Israel maintained deepening military and diplomatic ties with South Africa between 1967 and 1990.[4] 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,[5] the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. There is also a modest but growing community of South African Jews living in Israel.


  • History 1
    • Portuguese exploration 1.1
    • The Dutch Settlement 1.2
    • The 1820s through 1880s 1.3
    • Second Anglo-Boer War: 1899–1902 1.4
    • From Union through World War II 1.5
    • Post World War II 1.6
      • South African Jews and Israel 1.6.1
        • Settlement of South African Jews in Israel
      • South Africa and Israel 1.6.2
      • South African Jewish moderation and liberalism 1.6.3
      • Liberal activists 1.6.4
      • Focused on internal Jewish communal issues 1.6.5
  • Today 2
  • Lemba 3
  • Jewish education in South Africa 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8
    • General 8.1
    • Jewish education 8.2
    • Religious institutions 8.3


Portuguese exploration

The modern Jewish history of South Africa began, indirectly, some time before the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, by the participation of certain astronomers and cartographers in the Portuguese discovery of the sea-route to India. Jewish cartographers in Portugal, members of the wealthy and influential classes, assisted Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama who first sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and 1497. Portugal's baptised Jews were still free until the Portuguese Inquisition was promulgated in 1536.

The Dutch Settlement

In 1652, the Dutch began the first permanent European settlement of South Africa under Jan van Riebeeck as a representative of the Dutch East India Company. It has been noted that:

A number of non-professing Jews were among the first settlers of Cape Town in 1652, despite restrictions against the immigration of non-Christians. Religious freedom was granted by the Dutch colony in 1803.[6]

There were Jews among the directors of the Dutch East India Company, which for 150 years administered the colony at the Cape of Good Hope. During the seventeenth and the greater part of the 18th century the state religion alone was allowed to be publicly observed; but on 25 July 1804, the Dutch commissioner-general Jacob Abraham de Mist, by a proclamation whose provisions were annulled at the English occupation of 1806 and were not reestablished till 1820, instituted in the colony religious equality for all persons, irrespective of creed.

The 1820s through 1880s

Jews did not arrive in any numbers at Cape Town before the 1820s. The first congregation in South Africa, known as the Gardens Shul, was founded in Cape Town in November 1841, and the initial service was held in the house of one Benjamin Norden, at the corner of Weltevreden and Hof streets. Benjamin Norden, Simeon Markus, together with a score of others arriving in the early 1830s, were commercial pioneers, especially the Mosenthal brothers—Julius, Adolph (see Aliwal North), and James Mosenthal—who started a major wool industry. By their enterprise in going to Asia and returning with thirty Angora goats in 1856 they became the originators of the mohair industry. Aaron and Daniel de Pass were the first to open up Namaqualand, and from 1849 to 1886 they were the largest shipowners in Cape Town, and leaders of the sealing, whaling, and fishing industries. Jews were among the first to take to ostrich-farming and played a role in the early diamond industry. Jews also played some part in early South African politics. Captain Joshua Norden was shot at the head of his Mounted Burghers in the Xhosa War of 1846; Lieutenant Elias de Pass fought in the Xhosa War of 1849. Julius Mosenthal (1818–1880), brother of the poet S. Mosenthal of Vienna, was a member of the Cape Parliament in the 1850s. Simeon Jacobs, C.M.G. (1832–1883), who was a judge in the Supreme Court of the Cape of Good Hope, as the acting attorney-general of Cape Colony he introduced and carried in 1872 the Cape Colony Responsible Government Bill and the Voluntary Bill (abolishing state aid to the Anglican Church), for both of which bills Saul Solomon, the member for Cape Town, had fought for decades. Saul Solomon (b. St. Helena 25 May 1817; d. 16 October 1892), the leader of the Cape Colony Liberal Party, has been called the "Cape Disraeli." He was invited into the first Responsible government, formed by Sir John Molteno, and declined the premiership itself several times. Like Disraeli, too, he early left the ranks of Judaism. At the same time, the Jews faced substantial antisemitism. Though freedom of worship was granted to all residents in 1870, the revised Grondwet of 1894 still debarred Jews and Catholics from military posts, from the positions of president, state secretary, or magistrate, from membership in the First and Second Volksraad ("parliament"), and from superintendencies of natives and mines. These positions were restricted to persons above 30 years of age with permanent property and a longer history of settlement. As a consequence of the fact that Boer republics were only in existence from 1857 to 1902, unfortunately many residents of the Boer republics had limited access to positions in the upper echelons of government. All instruction was to be given in a Christian and Protestant spirit, and Jewish and Catholic teachers and children were to be excluded from state-subsidized schools. Before the Boer War (1899–1902), Jews were often considered uitlanders ("foreigners") and excluded from the mainstream of South African life.

However, a small number of Jews also settled among and identified with the rural white Afrikaans-speaking population; these persons became known as Boerejode (Boer Jews). A measure of intermarriage also occurred and was generally accepted.[7]

The South African gold rush began after 1886, attracting many Jews. In 1880, the Jewish population of South Africa numbered approximately 4,000; by 1914 it had grown to more than 40,000.[8] So many of them came from Lithuania that some referred to the population as a colony of Lithuania; Johannesburg was also occasionally called "Jewburg".[9]

Second Anglo-Boer War: 1899–1902

Jews fought on both sides during the Second Boer War (1899–1902). Some of the most notable fights during the three years' Boer War — such as the Gun Hill incident before the Siege of Ladysmith — involved Jewish soldiers like Major Karri Davies. Nearly 2,800 Jews fought on the British side and the London Spectator counted that 125 were killed. (Jewish Encyclopedia)

Around 300 Jews served among the Boers during the Second Boer War and were known as Boerjode: those who had citizenship rights were conscripted along with other burghers ("citizens"), but there were also a number of volunteers.[10] Jews fought under the Boers' Vierkleur ("four coloured") flag in many of the major battles and engagements and during the guerilla phase of the war, and a dozen are known to have died. Around 80 were captured and held in British concentration camps in South Africa. Some were sent as far afield as St. Helena, Bermuda, and Ceylon to where they had been exiled by the British. Some Jews were among the Bittereinders ("Bitter Enders") who fought on long after the Boer cause was clearly lost.[11]

From Union through World War II

Although the Jews were allowed equal rights after the Boer War, they again became subject to persecution in the days leading up to Louis Weichardt’s "Grayshirts" and the pro-Nazi Ossewabrandwag were openly anti-Semitic. During World War I, many Afrikaners, who had little respect for Britain, objected to the use of "Afrikaner women and children from the British concentration camps" in fighting the German territory of South West Africa on behalf of Britain. This had the effect of drumming up pro-German sentiment among a population of Afrikaners. The opposition National Party argued that the Aliens Act was too lenient and advocated a complete ban on Jewish immigration, a halt in the naturalization of Jewish permanent residents of South Africa and the banning of Jews from certain professions.[13] After the war, the situation began to improve, and a large number of South African Jews, generally a fairly Zionist community,[6] made aliyah to Israel. While it is understandable that many South African Jews would feel uncomfortable with formerly pro-Nazi Afrikaners rising to power in 1948, many leading apartheid-era Afrikaner politicians publicly apologized to the South African Jewish community for their earlier anti-semitic actions and assured it of its continued safety in South Africa.

During this time, there were also two waves of Jewish immigration to Africa from the island of Rhodes, first in the 1900s and then after 1960.[14][15]

Post World War II

South African Jews and Israel

South-African born, Abba Eban, became Foreign Minister of Israel (1966–1974).

When the Afrikaner-dominated National Party came to power in 1948 it did not adopt an anti-Jewish policy despite its earlier position. In 1953 South Africa's Prime Minister, D. F. Malan, became the first foreign head of government to visit Israel though the trip was a "private visit" rather than an official state visit.[16] This began a long history of cooperation between Israel and South Africa on many levels. The proudly Zionistic South African Jewish community, through such bodies as the South African Zionist Federation and a number of publications, maintained a cordial relationship with the South African government even though it objected to the policies of Apartheid being enacted. South Africa's Jews were permitted to collect huge sums of money to be sent on as official aid to Israel, in spite of strict exchange-control regulations. Per capita, South African Jews were reputedly the most financially supportive Zionists abroad.[17]

Settlement of South African Jews in Israel

A number of South African Jews settled in Israel, forming a South African community in Israel. Perhaps the most famous South African community founded in Israel is Savyon, which remains the wealthiest suburb in Israel. Large houses were built in the style that the community was accustomed to from their life in South Africa, each with a pool, and developed around a country club.[18]

South Africa and Israel

Most African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and Israel began to view the similarly isolated South Africa cordially.[19] Ethan A. Nadelmann claimed that the relationship developed due to the fact that many African countries broke diplomatic ties with Israel during the 1970s following the Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War, causing Israel to deepen relations with other isolated countries.[20]

By the mid-1970s, Israel's relations with South Africa were warm. In 1975, the Israel–South Africa Agreement was signed, and increasing economic cooperation between Israel and South Africa was reported, including the construction of a major new railway in Israel, and the building of a desalination plant in South Africa.[21] In April 1976 South African Prime Minister John Vorster was invited to make a state visit, meeting Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.[19][22] Later in 1976, the 5th Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, adopted a resolution calling for an oil embargo against France and Israel because of their arms sales to South Africa.[21] In 1977, South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha visited Israel to discuss South African issues with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan.

  • List of Synagogues
  • Chabad-Lubavitch Centers in South Africa; Chabad, Johannesburg
  • Ohr Somayach South Africa
  • Machon L'Hora'ah The Pretoria Yeshiva
  • South African Union for Progressive Judaism

Religious institutions

  • Full listing:
  • King David Schools
  • Herzlia Schools
  • Yeshiva College of South Africa
  • Torah Academy School
  • Theodor Herzl School
  • South African Union of Jewish Students

Jewish education

  • Jewish South Africa
  • Jewish Virtual History Tour of South Africa – Jewish Virtual Library
  • Jews in South Africa – Jay Sand
  • Lithuanian Jews make big impact in South Africa – Reuters
  • South Africa – Jewish Encyclopedia
  • "Jews on Commando", Saks, D.Y. (2005), Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy
  • Zimbabwe Jewish Community history web site A comprehensive overview of the history of the community, from early settlement in Northern and Southern Rhodesia to life today.
  • How the guard has changed since Rhodes stormed the SA economy, "Without the Jewish people, the country would have taken many more years to evolve", The Sunday Times (South Africa)
  • The Jewish Community of Johannesburg, 1886-1939. M.W. Rubin, University of pretoria
  • Southern African Jewish Rootsbank Database


External links

  • Adler, Franklin Hugh (2000), "South African Jews and Apartheid". Patterns of Prejudice, 34 (4), 23–36. – (abstract)
  • Shain, Milton; Mendelsohn, Richard (2008). The Jews in South Africa: An Illustrated History. Jeppestown: Jonathan Ball Publishers.  
  • Shimoni, Gideon (1980). Jews and Zionism: The South African Experience 1910-1967. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.  
  • Shimoni, Gideon (2003). Community and Conscience: The Jews and Apartheid South Africa. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England.  


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Rebecca Weiner, Rebecca Weiner, ed. (2010), South African Jewish History and Information (PDF),  
  2. ^ "MIO.ORG.IL". Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  3. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  4. ^ "P.W. Botha felt Israel had betrayed him".  
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b The Virtual Jewish History Tour - South Africa
  7. ^
  8. ^ Aubrey Newman, Nicholas J. Evans, J. Graham Smith & Saul W. Issroff, Jewish Migration to South Africa: The Records of the Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter, 1885-1914 (Cape Town: Jewish Publications-South Africa, 2006) ISBN 978-0-7992-2315-6.
  9. ^ Martin Gilbert, The Jews in the Twentieth Century, (New York: Schocken Books, 2001).
  10. ^ "Three South African "Boerejode' and the South African War". The South African Military History Society (Military History Journal – Vol 10 No 2). 21 November 2006. 
  11. ^ (Jewish Encyclopedia) & (Saks, 2005)
  12. ^ Cape Town Holocaust Centre
  13. ^ The Rise of the South African Reich – Chapter 4
  14. ^ Jews from Rhodes in Central and Southern Africa Renée Hirschon (Encyclopedia of Diasporas, Vol 2)
  15. ^ Saul Issroff. Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences, and Culture, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 493. 
  16. ^ The Israeli connection: who Israel ... - Google Books
  17. ^  
  18. ^ The Columbia Gazetteer of the World: P to Z - Page 3471, Saul Bernard Cohen - 2008
  19. ^ a b  
  20. ^ Israel and Black Africa: A Rapprochement? Ethan A. Nadelmann. Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Jun., 1981), pp. 183-219
  21. ^ a b "1970s". Chronology. South African History Online. Archived from the original on 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  22. ^ "Missile Chronology (South Africa)".  
  23. ^ Socrates, Solomon (Fall 2001). "Israel's Academic Extremists". Retrieved June 10, 2015. 
  24. ^ Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin (1988). The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms and Why. pp. 108-109.
  25. ^ Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin (1988). The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms and Why. p. 114.
  26. ^ The Jews of Africa
  27. ^ Goldstone, Richard (April 1, 2011). "Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 10, 2015. 
  28. ^ Rothenberg, David. "South African Jewish Involvement in the Anti-Apartheid Movement" (PDF). Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  29. ^ [3]
  30. ^ South African Jewish Report
  31. ^ Chai FM website
  32. ^ Parfitt, Tudor and Trevisan-Semi, E. (2002). Judaising Movements: Studies in the Margins of Judaism. London: Routledge Curzon.
  33. ^ Parfitt, Tudor (2000). Journey to the Vanished City: the Search for a Lost Tribe of Israel. New York: Random House.
  34. ^ Wuriga, Rabson (1999). "The Story of a Lemba Philosopher and His People". Kulanu 6(2):1, 11–12.
  35. ^ Umhlanga Jewish day school opens,
  36. ^ [4]
  37. ^ untitled
  38. ^ untitled
  39. ^ SA-SIG - Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy: Youth Movements
  40. ^
  41. ^ Pretoria Hebrew Congregation - Machon L'Hora'ah
  42. ^ untitled
  43. ^ Shalom Independent Congregation | Masorti Olami


See also

Limmud was introduced to the country in 2007. The Limmud South Africa conferences are held in August/September each year, with over 1000 attending. South Africa's Orthodox rabbis do not participate, taking their lead from the UK Orthodox Rabbinate; see Limmud: Relationships with Centrist Orthodoxy in Britain.

Conservative / Masorti's presence in South Africa is limited to one synagogue in Johannesburg.[43]

The Progressive Movement maintains a network of supplementary Hebrew and Religious classes at its temples. These schools are all affiliated to the SA Union for Progressive Judaism.

The 1980s saw the establishment of a Ohr Somayach and Aish HaTorah which established active branches in South Africa; Arachim also has an active presence. Ohr Somayach, South Africa operates a full-time Yeshiva in Johannesburg – with its Bet Midrash established in 1990, and its Kollel (Toras Chaim) in 1996 – as well as a Midrasha (Ma'ayan Bina); it also runs a Bet Midrash in Cape Town. There are several Haredi boy's schools in Johannesburg, each associated with one of the yeshivot, as well as a Beis Yaakov girls' school.

This era also saw the start of a large network of Chabad-Lubavitch activities and institutions. There is today a Lubavitch Yeshiva in Johannesburg (Lubavitch Yeshiva Gedolah of Johannesburg) serving the Chabad community, a Chabad Semicha programme in Pretoria (having ordained 98 Rabbis since its establishment in 2001[41][42]), and Lubavitch Day schools in Johannesburg (the Torah Academy school) and Cape Town. Johannesburg boasts ten Chabad Houses, Cape Town two and Kwazulu-Natal one, all of which offer a variety of Torah classes and adult education and informal children's education programmes.

In parallel to the establishment of Yeshiva College, and drawing on the same momentum,[39] several smaller yeshivot were opened, starting in the 1960s. The Yeshivah Gedolah of Johannesburg,[40] established in 1973, is the best known of these, having trained dozens of South African Rabbis, including Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein. The Yeshiva follows the "Telshe" educational model, although accommodates students from across the spectrum of Hashkafa (Hebrew: worldview, outlook, beliefs within orthodox Judaism).

The first religious day school, the Yeshiva College of South Africa, was established in the mid-1950s, drawing primarily on the popularity of the Bnei Akiva Religious Zionist youth movement. As an institution with hundreds of pupils, Yeshivah College is today the largest religious school in the country. Other educational institutions within this ideology include the Kollel (Bet Mordechai) and Midrasha (Emunah) of Mizrachi, Johannesburg, and the Yeshiva of Cape Town, a Torah MiTzion Kollel.

An important change took place in 1948, when King David School was established as the first full-time dual-curriculum (secular and Jewish) Jewish day school – the high school was established in 1955. Today, King David is amongst the largest Jewish day schools in the world, with thousands of students. King David's equivalent in Cape Town is "Herzlia" (United Herzlia Schools) with Carmel School in Pretoria and Durban (both subsequently renamed), and the Theodore Herzl School in Port Elizabeth (est. 1959). Umhlanga Jewish Day School, was opened in January 2012, to cater for Jewish children in the greater Durban area.[35] In total, nineteen Day Schools, affiliated to the South African Board of Jewish Education, have been established in the main centres.[36] The Jewish day schools regularly place amongst the top in the country in the national "Matric" examinations.[37][38]

Traditionally, Jewish education in South Africa was conducted by the Cheder or Talmud Torah, while children received secular education at government and private schools. There were, initially, no formal structures in place for Rabbinical education. (Note that although the majority of South Africa's Jews are descendants of Lithuanian Jews who venerated Talmudic scholarship, the community did not establish schools or yeshivot for several decades.)

Kosher meal approved by the Beth din of Johannesburg

Jewish education in South Africa

The Lemba or "wa-Remba" are a southern African ethnic group whose members are to be found in Zimbabwe and South Africa with some little known branches in Mozambique and Malawi. According to Tudor Parfitt they are thought to number 70,000.[32][33] Many of them claim a partial common descent from the Jewish people.[34]


The community has become more observant and in Johannesburg, the largest centre of Jewish life with 66,000 Jews, there is a high number and density of kosher restaurants and religious centres. In politics, the Jewish community continues to have influence, particularly in leadership roles. Currently, the sole national Jewish newspaper, with a readership of about 40,000, is the South African Jewish Report.[30] In 2008, a Jewish Radio Station, ChaiFM, commenced broadcasting in Johannesburg, and also broadcasting on the internet to the large South African "diaspora".[31] Despite a fall in number, since 2003 the number of South African Jews has stabilised.[1] Furthermore, they are growing increasingly religious with over 80% of South African Jews claiming to be Orthodox.[1]

Although the Jewish community peaked in the 1970s (at around 120,000[1]), about 70,000 mostly nominally Orthodox, remain in South Africa. A proportion are secular, or have converted to Christianity. Despite low intermarriage rates (around 7%),[1] approximately 1,800 Jews emigrate every year, mainly to Israel, Australia, Canada and the United States. The Jewish community in South Africa is currently the largest in Africa, and, although shrinking due to emigration, it remains one of the most nominally Orthodox communities in the world. The current Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein (2008), has been widely credited for initiating a "Bill of Responsibilities" which the government has incorporated in the national school curriculum. The Chief Rabbi has also pushed for community run projects to combat crime in the country.

De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer (right), the son of Harry Oppenheimer, and the grandson of Ernest Oppenheimer.


Despite the representation of Jews in the struggle against apartheid, the Jewish establishment and the majority of South African Jews remained focused on Jewish issues. South African Jews generally supported the anti-apartheid cause at the same time as communal institutions remained focused on the community. In 1980, 32 years after the creation of apartheid, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies passed a resolution urging "all concerned, in particular members of our own community, to cooperate in securing the immediate amelioration and ultimate removal of all unjust discriminatory laws and practices based on race, creed or colour" . A few rabbis spoke out against apartheid early, but they failed to gain support and it was not until 1985 that the rabbinate as a whole condemned apartheid. (Adler 2000)

Focused on internal Jewish communal issues

Rabbi Cyrus Weiler, Temple Israel Johannesburg, opened the first school in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg, in order to counteract the substandard Bantu education. Temple Israel, Johannesburg, is today a national heritage site in recognition of both it being the first Progressive synagogue in South Africa and in recognition of Rabbi Weiler's continued dedication to black education under apartheid.

Johannesburg's Oxford Synagogue and Cape Town's Temple Israel assisted the black townships by running nurseries, medical clinics and adult education programs, and by providing legal aid for victims of apartheid laws. (Adler 2000)

  • Harry Schwarz was one of the most prominent anti-apartheid leaders and politicians. An early advocate for non-violent resistance to apartheid, he co-founded the Torch Commando, an ex-soldiers' movement to protest against the disenfranchisement of the coloured people in South Africa.
  • Judge Richard Goldstone, who later became a controversial critic of Israel, authoring the Goldstone Report, but later stated that he was mistaken.[27]
  • Politician Helen Suzman, represented the Houghton constituency as the Progressive Party's sole member of parliament,[28] and the sole parliamentarian unequivocally opposed to apartheid, from 1961 to 1974. She visited Nelson Mandela on numerous occasions while he was in prison, and was present when he signed the new constitution in 1996.
  • Writer Nadine Gordimer helped edit Mandela's speech in his defence at the Rivonia Trial.
  • During the Rivonia Trial Dr. Percy Yutar, South Africa’s first Jewish attorney-general, who was said to be indifferent towards Apartheid,[29] prosecuted Nelson Mandela while Jewish attorney Arthur Chaskalson was part of Mandela's defense counsel. In that trial, Denis Goldberg, engineer and leader of the Congress of Democrats, was sentenced to life in prison along with Mandela and other ANC leaders.
  • In 1979, Chaskalson established the Legal Resources Center, an organization dedicated to the pursuit of justice and human rights in South Africa. When Mandela came to power he appointed Chaskalson as President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and later as Chief Justice of South Africa.
  • A number of anti-apartheid activists were the target of violence: Ruth First and Jeanette Curtis Schoon were assassinated; Albie Sachs lost an eye and an arm. Rowley Arenstein was exiled for thirty-three years. Abstract painter Arthur Goldreich was arrested as a political prisoner in July 1963 but eventually escaped. Joe Slovo, longtime leader of the South African Communist Party, served on the ANC's National Executive Committee, as did Ray Simons and Raymond Suttner. Ronnie Kasrils was an ANC politician.

Liberal activists

In 1980, after 77 years of neutrality, South Africa’s National Congress of the Jewish Board of Deputies passed a resolution urging "all concerned [people] and, in particular, members of our community to cooperate in securing the immediate amelioration and ultimate removal of all unjust discriminatory laws and practices based on race, creed, or colour". This inspired some Jews to intensify their anti-apartheid activism, but the bulk of the community either emigrated or avoided public conflict with the National Party government.[26]

South African Jews have a history of political moderation and the majority supported opposition parties such as first the United Party, then the Liberal Party, Progressive Party and its successors during the decades of National Party apartheid rule. (See Liberalism in South Africa). The community in general was not aligned with any particular Communist or revolutionary elements, or violent movements though there were prominent South African Jewish socialists and communists such as Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Denis Goldberg and Albie Sachs. The prime example of the more moderate approach is that of the highly assimilated Harry Oppenheimer (1908–2000) (born Jewish but converted to Anglicanism upon his marriage), the richest man in South Africa and the chairman of the De Beers and Anglo American corporations. He was a supporter of the liberal Progressive Party and its policies, believing that granting more freedom and economic growth to South Africa's Black African majority was good politics and sound economic policy. The banner for this cause was held high by Helen Suzman, as the lone Progressive Party member in South Africa's parliament, representing the voting district of Houghton, home to many wealthy Jewish families at the time.

South African Jewish moderation and liberalism

In 1987 Israel announced that it would be implementing sanctions against South Africa. By the beginning of the 1990s, military and economic ties between the two countries had been lost. [25]

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