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Lost chapters


Rabbi Weiler

Profile of Rabbi Moses Weiler, whose charisma and drive built a viable Reform movement in South Africa despite strong opposition. The text and pictures below were from a speech delivered to Limmud Johannesburg in August 2019.

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Jews by Choice

The Mavericks book included several interviews with ‘Jews by Choice’. Here are two more of interest which did not make it into print for space reasons. In both cases, people who arrived as outsiders, soon became insiders – and community leaders


Pretoria Progressive Jewish congregation

The Pretoria Progressive Jewish Congregation was founded in 1950. It was established at a meeting in a private residence on 13th October, 1950.

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The problem of slow postage

Aspects of the early years of the Reform movement read like a comedy of errors. One needs to understand communications in an era before instant global messaging.


The politics of teaching toddlers

The United Sisterhood’s biggest project was to run five nursery schools. This proved more complex than anyone expected.


Reform’s accidental founder

Professor AZ Idelsohn, founder of the Progressive movement in South Africa, was the world’s foremost authority on Jewish liturgical music. He was obsessive, cantankerous, a bad husband and father … and yet adored by many for his ground-breaking ideas. Among other achievements, he was the composer of Hava Nagila.

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Some life stories of the German Jews

They stuck together. They preferred their own music and food. They spoke German only to each other. They told their children nothing about their suffering.


The founding of a Port Elizabeth congregation

Groups of émigré German Jews were key to the establishment of a Reform congregation in Port Elizabeth, with the first rabbi arriving in March 1951.


Jewish political attitudes

Jewish voters tended to be more liberal than their white English peers, but the reasons may have had more to do with education and social class than religion.

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Temple Israel and Reeva Forman

Temple Israel should have died in 1994. That it continues, in defiance of pragmatics, can be attributed to the stubborn grit of its chairman.


Orthodoxy’s forgotten liberal wing

South Africa’s Reform movement did not start out of nowhere. Attempts to ‘modernise’ Orthodoxy can be traced back to the nineteenth century.


Forgotten founder: David Dainow

David Dainow, the only member of the original September 1929 committee to continue working for the cause, has been forgotten by the Reform movement.

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Herman Kallenbach, architect of Temple Israel

The man who planned and built Temple Israel in Hillbrow in 1936, Herman Kallenbach is today more famous for his companionship with Mahatma Ghandi than for any of his architectural work.

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