The founding of the Pretoria congregation
The Pretoria Progressive congregation was founded in a private home in October 1950, at much the same time as the Durban and Port Elizabeth congregations. Initial services were held in a rented hall, but a synagogue was built in New Muckleneuk during 1956 and opened in August 1957, with the name Temple Menorah. Years later, as the community shrunk, they moved into smaller premises, now named Bet Menorah. The congregation was the first in South Africa to have a woman rabbi – in fact it had two woman rabbis, years before any other congregation appointed a woman. A history of the congregation by community leaders Rhona and Giddy Lief, is available here.
Ceremony to welcome Pretoria’s first rabbi, Moses Nathaniel Bension, held at the Wingate Park Country Club in 1951. Rabbi Bension is third from the right in the front row, seated alongside the mayoress. Others in the photograph include the mayor, Councillor JH Visser, seated alongside the congregation’s founder and president, Solly Liebman. Rabbi Moses Weiler is seated alongside Mr Liebman, and next to him is the recently arrived rabbi of Temple Shalom in Johannesburg, Rabbi David Arrow.
Entrance view of the original Temple Menorah building in Bronkhorst Street, New Muckleneuk.
The dramatic side view of the glassed main hall, which seated 400 congregants.
English-born Reverend Nathaniel Jacobs and his wife Rose were a much-loved couple, who served 16 years until Rev Jacobs retired in 1972 at age 77. Rose chaired the Sisterhood and played a key role in founding a nursery school
Holding the torahs in the newly-built Temple Menorah are community leaders Solly Liebman, Morrie Zinn and Mosie Greenberg
The successor to Reverend Jacobs (left) was South African born Rabbi Anthony Holz of Cape Town, seen right at his 1972 investiture. In the centre is the congregation president Chip Sive
7th February 1982: the investiture of Rabbi Dr Scott Saulson was attended by a number of other rabbis. From right to left are Rabbi Holz, Rabbi Ben Isaacson of Temple David in Sandton, Rabbi Walter Blumenthal of Temple Shalom in Orange Grove and Rabbi Herbert Richter of Temple Israel in Hillbrow. Second from left is Cantor Bernie Lowe of Temple Emanuel in Parktown, Johannesburg.
The new synagogue, designed by Ivan “Chip” Sive. The congregation moved to smaller premises at 511 Roper Street, Cnr Mackie in Bailey’s Mucklenuek, at the end of 1994. Services were held in an old house, with tents in the garden. A new sanctuary, capable of seating 300 people, was consecrated in 1997. The name of the congregation was changed to Bet Menorah.
The new sanctuary has been decorated with large embroidered tapestries and ceramic wall panels by local artist Laena Blum, a member of the congregation.
The Rose Kantor Memorial Garden, designed by Ivan “Chip” Sive, was intended as a memorial wall on which congregants could inscribe the names of their deceased relatives. It was funded by the Kantor family, long-standing members, in memory of their grandmother, and dedicated in 2002.