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Large wall decorations at the Pretoria synagogue by local artist Laena Blum.

A history of the Pretoria Progressive Jewish congregation

By RHONA LIEF (Former president of Temple Menorah and Honorary Life President) and GIDDY LIEF (Lay leader of the congregation and National President of Women of Progressive Judaism)


he Pretoria Progressive Jewish Congregation was founded in 1950. It was established at a meeting in a private residence on 13th October, 1950. The first president elected was Mr Solly Liebman who was one of the most ardent workers for the formation of the new congregation.  Together with Mr Hymie Zinn, the Vice President and Mr M. Greenberg as Treasurer a committee was formed comprised of Messrs S. Leibman, H.I. Zinn, M Greenberg, D. Lubie, S. Cohen, R.J. Davis, K. Goldman, W. Trump, M. Rauff, J.D. Berman, H. Lezard, E. Fisher, M. Hirschowitz and Mesdames I. Davis, R. Donen, R. Zinn, M. Horwitz and J. Liebman.

This initial meeting was addressed by the Rev. I Richards, and Mr Victor Brasch, the Vice-President of the S.A.U.P.J. at the time.

Shortly after the formation of the congregation the Sisterhood was inaugurated at a well-attended meeting at which Miriam Horwitz was elected as the first chairperson.

As the congregation had no spiritual home, the S.O.E. Hall in South Street, Hatfield, Pretoria was hired to hold weekly Shabbat Eve Services and on the evening of December 10th 1951, which co-incided with Channukah, the inaugural service conducted by Rev. Isaac Richards was held in the Freemason’s Hall. This was attended by over 300 people.

At this service a Sefer Torah donated by Mr S. Liebman and Mr M. Greenberg was dedicated. Rabbi Dr M.C. Weiler, President of the S.A.U.P.J, delivered the address in which he stated that “he felt sure that the new congregation would be of great benefit, not only to the Jewish community in Pretoria, but to Jewry as a whole.” He appealed for goodwill between all sections of the community. “S.A has a multi-racial society where there are fundamental differences on a religious plane...difference of nationality...and the great difference of colour.  In order to make goodwill in S.A a genuine movement, we must work and fight for a broad and all- inclusive South Africanism, in politics and education.  We must learn to know one another but can only expect goodwill if we satisfy the needs of all sections of the community.”

Rabbi Moses Nathaniel Bension was the first Rabbi to lead the congregation from 1951 – 1956. Rabbi Bension, who arrived from Israel on the 9th September 1951, was born in Cleveland Oho and came of a family rich in the Jewish tradition.  His great-grandfather, a Jerusalem Rabbi, led a group of brethren from Jerusalem to found the settlement which is known today as Petach Tikvah.  Rabbi and Mrs Bension were welcomed officially to Pretoria by the Mayor, Councillor J.H. Visser, at a reception held at Wingate Park Country Club. In his address His Worship the Mayor said “It is not necessary to enumerate the important part performed by our Jewish Community in the development of Pretoria, but I can give you the assurance that we highly appreciate what has been done and is still being done. Rabbi Bension arrived in the country less than a month ago and he has already made enquiries where he can study Afrikaans. To the Afrikaans section of the community this means a hand of goodwill...”

On Friday, 20th April 1952, a Pesach service was held, led by Mr B. Stalson and accompanied by a choir and was followed by a communal Seder catered for by the Sisterhood. The Nichles Hall was transformed into a “veritable bower of beauty” with giant baskets of flowers on the stage and around the hall.  Some 130 people attended.  Members of the congregation brought their household treasures, candles in “heirloom” silver candlesticks, gleaming white napery and silver Kiddush Cups and Seder plates all contributed to make “this night different from all other nights”. Two members of the Temple Israel choir led the singing assisted by Mesdames B. Price and E. Rostowsky.  The Four Questions were asked by some of the younger pupils of the newly formed Hebrew School.  Singing went on until 11pm.

On Saturday, May 31st 1952, the first Bat Mitzvah Service was held. The Bnot Mitzvah were Misses Pamela Price, Lucille Freedman, Marion Davis, Adrienne Goldman and Sandra Zinn. The Sisterhood catered for the Oneg Shabbat after the service.

At a service on Shabbat Eve, Friday 14th November, 1952, attended by a large congregation amongst whom were representatives of the Jewish Community Council and the Pretoria Zionist Council, Rabbi Bension spoke these stirring words in tribute to the life and work of Chaim Weizmann, the late President of the State of Israel, whose passing was mourned by Jewish people throughout the world:  “Chaim Weizmann’s greatness rose from his early quaffing of the springs of Judaism and when he went out into the world he achieved the subtle alchemy of ancient faith with modern works to create a Jewry today which is the same to all who look upon it”.

On March 30th, 1953, the third communal Seder took place at Wingate Park County Club, catered for by the Sisterhood.

On Shabbat Shuva, Mr J.F. Swanepoel presented the congregation of an Afrikaans Old Testament. At the service that evening a number of ministers from the Dutch Reformed Church and members of the Theological Faculty of the Universty of Pretoria were present.

At the second annual Mayoral Service, on October 24th, the Mayor, Councillor Visser read the “Scriptural portion” of the week from the Afrikaans Bible Presented by Mr J.F. Swanepoel. At an Oneg Shabbat after the service, “His Worship the Mayor facilitated the congregation on the marked advances which had been made during the year since his last visit, under the leadership of Rabbi Bension.”

In August 1956 at an emergency Council Meeting, plans for a proposed Temple were discussed.  Mr Liebman advised that the original scheme for the building had been somewhat revised and it was now proposed to build a block consisting of (a) Temple with a seating capacity of ± 400 (b) Rabbi’s Office, (c) Administration Office, (d) Robing Room, (e) Foyer, (f) small hall suitable for functions and meetings etc, (g) Kitchen, (h) Native quarters and (i) cloakrooms.  The plans were open for inspection.

Some 13 people had tendered for the building, tenders ranging from £24,280 to £32,532. The Building Fund Technical sub-committee had gone very carefully into those tenders, together with the Architects, Quantity Surveyors and it was proposed, subject to the Council’s approval, to accept the tender of Messers Kilian & Neuman for £24,280. After certain amounts had been deducted for contingencies, the total cost of the building was £21,600.

At the Council meeting in September 1956, Mr Barney Price advised that the building had now commenced and the foundations had already been excavated.

The official opening and consecration of Temple Menorah co-incided with the induction service for the newly appointed Minister, the Reverend Nathaniel Jacobs, on the 11th August, 1957, when his Excellency, the Minister Plenipotentiary for Israel, Mr I Bavly, and His Honour the Administrator of the Transvaal, Dr William Nichol, unveiled the commemorative tablets.

Rev. Jacobs, born in Manchester and studied at Universities of London and Glasgow, was at Garnet Hill Synagogue, premier synagogue of Scotland for many years, travelled widely in Europe and the Caribbean Sea. He also ministered to the United Congregation of Israelites in Jamaica and served on Lord Nathan’s staff in London at the height of the blitz.

Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs was inducted by Rabbi Dr M.C. Weiler.  In his message Rev. Jacobs stated:- “The fact that we are to consecrate our Temple only a few days after Tisha B’Av, coupled with the fact that its designation is Menorah – suggests fruitful trains of thought, revolving round the twin themes of Reconstruction and Light.  Indeed I have no doubt that these two powerful motives: the building of a fitting shrine to the glory of the God of Israel and spreading the immortal truths of Judaism – influenced and stimulated the stalwarts of Progressive Judaism in Pretoria who may now take pride in the realisation of the first stage in their earnest aspirations and devoted efforts.  May the Almighty establish the work of their hands, so that the Temple Menorah may become a true beacon of light for the promulgation of Judaism throughout Pretoria and indeed throughout the Union, to the glory of God and in the service of humanity”.

Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs who came from England with his wife, Mrs Rose Jacobs, held the position of Spiritual Leader of the congregation until his retirement in 1972. He continued to serve in his capacity as Minister Emeritus, this honour being conferred on him at a special function acknowledging his outstanding services to the Congregation.

Rose Jacobs, a true example of a Minister’s wife, threw herself wholeheartedly into not only all the Temple activities, serving as the Sisterhood chairperson and starting a Happy Day Club for the Blind, but also participated in many communal activities as well. When she expressed aloud the wish to build a Nursery School, to cater not only for the children of the Temple, but for the Jewish and general community as a whole, her enthusiasm and vision proved to be infectious and a planning committee was formed, and the ground at the rear of the Temple, facing Lange Street was purchased with the permission of the Temple Council.

In 1961, a Breastplate and Rimonim were presented to Temple Menorah by Rhona and Stanley Lief in memory of Joseph Zalkind Lief. The set was imported from Hungary and was airmailed from Copenhagen.

On December 14th 1963, a banquet was held at the Culemborg Hotel to celebrate the Barmitzvah of Temple Menorah. The Guest Speaker was Rabbi Dr. Ahron Opher.  The cost was R175.00 per head inclusive of table wines.

In November 1968 there was a visit from Dr W. Gunther Plaut a noted author, lecturer and orator, one of the leading personalities of the Reform movement in America and Canada.

In 1970, at a meeting of the Pretoria Jewish Community Council, Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs was presented with a tree certificate to commemorate his 75th birthday and retirement.  Mr M. Merwitz, Vice-chairperson spoke of the devoted services which Rev. and Mrs Jacobs had rendered to the Jewish Community since their arrival in Pretoria.


 At a special service the position of Minister Emeritus of Temple Menorah was conferred on him by Rabbi David Sherman followed by a dinner at Wingate Park Country Club.

“The Kibbitzer” writing in the S.A. Jewish Times said of Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs ...”It was the first time that I had the privilege of personally meeting this worthy spiritual leader and his gracious lady and they both made a deep impression on me.  His mental agility and youthful enthusiasm certainly belied his years.  His warm-hearted manner, his sincerity and zeal have won him friends and admirers beyond the confines of his own congregation, as the presence of quite a number of leading Orthodox personalities amply showed.”

On Sunday 13th August, 1972, an impressive service, attended by a large gathering was held at Temple Menorah to induct Rabbi Anthony Holz as the new Minister of Bet Menorah.  The service was conducted by Rabbis Holz, Cassel, Blumenthal, Lampert, Shapiro and Super. In a moving ceremony the Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs handed over the pulpit as he personally installed his successor.  In addressing Rabbi Holz he made mention of his brilliant academic achievements and expressed the fervent hope that Rabbi Holz would enjoy a long and rewarding life as Spiritual head of the Pretoria Progressive Jewish Congregation.  Rabbi Holz thanked Rev. Jacobs for his kind words and expressed the appreciation of both himself and his wife for the kindness received from Rev and Mrs Jacobs since their arrival.  He also acknowledged the assistance he had received from the Reform Movement in general, the S.A Jewish Board of Deputies, as well as the encouragement from the many individuals who had contributed to the attainment of this occasion.  He indicated his hopes for continued good relations within the Jewish Community of Pretoria.

 The service was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Pretoria, Mr and Mrs C.J. Malherbe, the Chaplain General of the S.A. Defence Forces, Brigadier (DS) van Zyl and Mrs van Zyl, representatives of the Jewish institutions of Pretoria, the S.A.U.P.J., congregants and visitors.

In June 1975 the family of the late Mrs Cecilia Hofman presented a Sefer Torah to the congregation at a special ceremony.

Pretoria Progressive Jewish Congregation celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a Service & Dinner at Temple Menorah on Friday Eve, December 5th, 1975.  The Guest Speaker was Rabbi Isaac Richards, Rabbi of Temple David, Durban and Chair of Central Executive Board of SAUPJ.  (25 years ago he attended the inaugural service of the Pretoria Jewish Reform Congregation.)

In 1976 a Judaica Department was established at Unisa.  Rabbi Holz lectured there and prepared the lecture notes for the Judaica II course.

On 6th August 1976, the symbolic act was performed of a S.A. youngster called up to read from the Torah in place of a Russian boy who was not permitted to celebrate his Judaism. Martin Weiss, son of Dr and Mrs G. Weiss performed this Mitzvah in the name of Sacha Roitburd.

At a Council Meeting in September 1976, Rabbi Holz reported that, after discussions with Laena Blum, a professional artist and member of the congregation, had come forward with the suggestion of embroidering 12 panels, using cottons and wool on hessian.  She designed and executed these works of art which depicted the days of Creation and the Festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Succot, Chanukah, Pesach and Shavuot. The total for the materials was under R100 (later increased to R200).  These magnificent tapestries hang in Bet Menorah Sanctuary and have captured the interest of visitors, both in S.A and from overseas.

In 1978 at a special Dedication Ceremony, these tapestries were presented to Temple Menorah.  The service was attended by among others, the Mayor and Mayoress of Pretoria and the Ambassador for Israel and Mrs I.D. Unna.  A Plaque commemorating this significant and laborious work was unveiled by Martine and Alison Blum, daughters of Dr and Mrs Blum in January 1979.

In July 1977,  2 6ft (2Metre) tall Menorahs were donated to the Congregation by Mr and Mrs Sam Hyde in memory of their late parents Mr and Mrs Jack Suskin and Mr and Mrs Herman Hyde.  The Menorahs were designed by Laena Blum who also created the ceramic tiles symbolising the 12 Tribes of Israel.  They would stand out from the wood panelling on either side of the Ark in the Temple.

There was a farewell to Rabbi Holz on the 4th August 1977 as he was to return to the H.U.C. to complete his doctoral studies (begin in 1970-1972)

Rabbi Liner assumed Spiritual Leadership of the Pretoria Progressive Jewish Congregation from 1st October, 1977.

On Sunday, 6th December, 1977, Rabbi Dr. Paul Liner was inducted into office at a special service at Temple Menorah.  The service was attended by a representative gathering of Jewish and non-Jewish leaders of the community as well as Mr N. Meron, the 1st Secretary of the Israeli Embassy and Mr Nelson, Minister-Councellor of the United States Embassy. The service conducted by Rabbis W. Blumenthal, R.G. Lambert and R. Zimmerman, commenced with the spiritual reading rendered by Dr I. Ben-Josef and Rabbi Liner was inducted by Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs, Minister Emeritus. The service was followed by an afternoon tea in the Temple Hall catered by the Temple Menorah Sisterhood.

The Garden of Remembrance in the grounds of the Pretoria Crematorium was dedicated at a special ceremony by Rabbi Liner. Rabbi Liner and Rev. Jacobs conducted the ritual for the unveiling of 11 memorial plaques.

In 1977, Rabbi Weiler visited Pretoria. He had become one of the most prominent Jewish Reform figures in Israel.  He had suffered great personal loss in the deaths of his eldest 2 sons, Adam and Gideon , during Israeli wars.

In August 1981, Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs died.  In the Obituary in the Pretoria Jewish Chronicle it stated that “during the 13 years of his Ministry he endeared himself to young and old alike.  As a spiritual leader he made Religion into a living and fulfilling part of everyday life, and the humility and compassion he displayed as part of his character was an inspiration to his congregants.”

Developed by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, a new Machzor for the High Holy Days was developed in 1982 to replace the Union Prayer Book – part II which was last revised in 1945.  The Machzor, like its liturgical predecessors, reflects the principles which govern the creation of a liturgy for Reform Judaism.   In sum, “they are our sense of continuing with Jewish tradition, our desire to combine the old with the new, our appreciation of the diversity of thought and feeling within  the Jewish people in general and the Reform movement in particular, and our need to confront the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  We have once again responded to the Holocaust and the rebirth of Israel, the modern crisis of faith and the longing for a tradition in which we can feel at home, the new consciousness of women and the need for straightforward and elegant expression”. It included many new prayers and meditations because faith and aspiration live on in the House of Israel.

Rabbi Scott Saulson was inducted as Spiritual Leader of Temple Menorah at a service conducted by Rabbi Walter Blumenthal on the 7th February 1982.

On 15th April, 1983          Temple Menorah sponsored a concert held at Pretoria State Opera Theatre – “This side of the Rainbow” – starred Juluka, Pretoria Adult Choirs and Roy Bulkin. This was organized by Rabbi Saulson and the  proceeds were distributed among Pretoria based Welfare Organizations – African Association of University Women, Union of Jewish Women, Toy Library for Handicapped , Ikagong Literary Association, Pretoria Society for Care of Coloured Aged, Eersterus Caring and Training Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau, Mamelodi Training Centre, Zodwa Training Centre in Atterigeville, Temple Menorah Sisterhood Welfare Programmes and Quadruplegic Association of N. Tvl, Parktown Home.

In May 1984, Rabbi Julia Neuberger visited. She was the Rabbi of South London Liberal Synagogue, Lecturer in Bible Studies at Leo Baeck College and strong activist in cause of human rights and social justice.

On Friday, 15th March 1985 a Ceremony to honour the memory of our late Minister Emeritus was held in Temple Hall where a portrait photograph and plaque were unveiled.

15 -19 May 1985, Temple Menorah hosted the 33rd National Biennial Gathering of delegates representing over 15 Synagogues with memberships ranging from 15 – 11 000 family units and our service, youth and  educational affiliates throughout Southern Africa.

The keynote address was delivered by Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, senior Rabbi of Fairmont Temple, Cleveland, Ohio, and past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Responses were given by Dr Stephen Cohen, Deputy Executive Director of S.A.J.B.O.D, and Advocate Mockie Friedman, Chairman of S.A. Zionist Federation.

The Conference Theme and its involvement of Islamic, Christian, Hindu, and Orthodox and Progressive Jewish personalities, lecturers and workshop presenters, truly reflected the dynamism and pioneering contributions of the Progressive movement in Southern Africa.

On 13th May, 1986, Rabbi Saulson obtained D. Lit et Phil in Semitics from Unisa.  A copy of his thesis “Eliezer Ben Yehudah’s Hamavo Hagadol – Introduction, Translation, Annotation” was presented to the S.A. Zionest Federation Library.  Documenting an important contribution to the field of Hebrew linguistics, translating and annotating this important introduction to Ben-Yehuda’s historical dictionary of the Hebrew Language, makes it accessible to the scholarly world.  Ben-Yehuda  is regarded as the father of modern Hebrew.

In May 1987, there was a farewell to Rabbi and Mrs Saulson at the home of Len and Audrey Klein.

In May 1987 Student Rabbi Sharon Sobel joined us and stayed until after Yom Kippur.

In April 1988, Rabbi Nissim Wernick arrived in S.A. for a 3 month visit at the invitation of Temple Israel, Hillbrow.  On 1st June 1988 he began his duties at Temple Menorah after having been appointed as Spiritual Head of the congregation.

Rabbi Wernick was inducted on Sunday, 31st July.  Greetings were brought by Councillor Nic Vlok, Deputy Mayor of Pretoria, Prof Johan Heyns, Moderator of N.G. Kerk, S.A, Archbishop George Daniel, Archdiocese Pretoria, Mr Ivan Sive, Administrative Counsellor U.S. Embassy, Mr Andrew Winter, Mr Lionel Conifer, Chairman S.A.U.P.J, Mrs Dot Falkenstein, President SAUTS, Mr Selwyn Zwick, Chairman, Pta Branch of Jewish Board of Deputies and Dr Sid Ossip, Vice Chairman , S.A. Zionist Council.

Emphasis on all greetings brought was for close harmony and co-operation between our religious communities.

In his reply Rabbi Wernick appealed for one community, irrespective of our religious affiliations.  He emphasized the need for tolerance and human consideration for one another.  

This was followed by a dinner at Wingate Park Country Club.

During the 1990’s, Bet Menorah did not have a full time Rabbi, but managed to obtain the services of different Rabbis over the High Holy Days.

In January 1991 – Rabbi Scott Saulson returned to assist for a few months beyond Rosh Hashanah 5751.

In 1991 Rabbi Rachel Montague form London was with the congregation. Rabbi Montague was ordained in 1984 in Jerusalem and for the 4 years prior to coming to Pretoria, was the Assistant Rabbi of N.W. Reform Synagogue, Alyth Gardens, London.

 In that year, with arrangement with Temple David, Bet Menorah engaged the services of Rabbi Hillel Avidan for one Shabbat a month and one day a week.  This continued until mid 1994 when the workload made it impossible for Rabbi Avidan to continue to fulfil his obligations to Bet Menorah.

In 1992 Rabbi Nemitoff visited for the High Holy Days.

In 1993 Rabbi Wolff assisted with the High Holy Days.  He was born in Berlin and after 5 years at school in Amsterdam, he was brought up in London.  After 25 years career as a journalist,, reporter, columnist, departmental editor on the Daily Mirror and London Evening News, he decided to change careers to the one he had hankered after since the age of 16 – to become a Rabbi.  He studied at Leo Baeck College, London from 1979 – 1984 when he received Smichah. He was the Assistant Rabbi at West London Synagogue from 1986 – 1990 and at Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue from 1990 – 1992.  He was the Consultant to the Thames Valley Jewish Community and Department of Education and columnist for Manna, the quarterly journal of Reform and Liberal movements in the U.K.

In 1994 Rabbi Jacobi came for the High Holy Days.  He was born in in 1925, escaped to Holland in 1939 and England in 1940.  From 1945 – 1955. He was with the Jewish Brigade and British Army and West-Central London Jewish Club and was the Lay Minister for Aberdeen Hebrew Congregation for many years.               


In 1961 he obtained a BA degree at London University and ordained as Rev. and inducted as Minister of the Southgate and District Liberal Synogogue.   


In 1964 he was awarded a BA Honours and obtained Schmichah from Leo Baeck College in London in 1971.

In 1975 he was the Rabbi of Wembly Liberal Synagogue. From 1982 until his retirement in 1990 he returned to Europe and served as Rabbi of Liberal Congregation in Zurich, Switzerland.  He was succeeded by Rabbi Israel Ben Yoseph formerly at Temple Emet, Springs and Unisa and U.C.T. Judaica Departments.

When Rabbi Jacobi left, Malcolm Matitiani, a student Rabbi, assumed responsibility for teaching and taking services until 1995.  

At the end of 1993 discussions were entered into for the sale of the property in Bronkhorst Street, New Muckleneuk. The sale was concluded in 1994 and new premises were purchased in Mackie Street, Baileys Muckleneuk. Part of the house was to be used for services, storage and offices until the new sanctuary was built. It was decided to move the Torahs to the new premises for the 1st Night of Channukah in 1994 and on Friday 2nd December, it would be an appropriate date for a “suitable re-dedication of the Temple”

At the closing of Temple Menorah in Bronkhorst Street, a dinner was held on 27th November at the Manhattan Hotel.

The last service at Temple Menorah was on the 16th December, 1994.  There was great sadness when we moved out of our beautiful Temple Menorah.

The new premises was at 511 Roper Street – corner Mackie.  Services commenced on Friday, 25th December. The temporary sanctuary seated ± 30 people. Plans for the new sanctuary were being drawn and when completed would seat 120.

At a meeting of the Pretoria City Council on Wednesday, 3rd May,  Bet Menorah was given consent to use the property for Religious services.

In 1995 the Biennial Conference of the S.A.U.P.J. was hosted by Bet Menorah on the weekend of 27 April – 1May. The most memorable part of the Conference for many of the delegates was the wonderful Shabbat services held in the new premises.  The atmosphere of our temporary sanctuary makes for a spiritually uplifting service and Bet Menorah was warmly thanked and congratulated.

The Honoured guest was Rabbi M.C. Weiler.  He was brought out by the Sisterhood in order to officiate at a ceremony marking the 50th Anniversary of the Moses C. Weiler School which he established in Alexandria Township. He was the main speaker at the Gala Dinner held at Wingate Country Club on the Saturday night. 

In January 1995 the first Council meeting was held at 511 Roper Street.

In March 1995, application was made to a change in the constitution and in future Temple Menorah would be known as Bet Menorah.

In 1995, as the building of the new synagogue was behind schedule and not ready for the High Holy Day services it was decided to erect a tent in the garden of the premises in Roper Street. In an article which appeared in the Pretoria Jewish Chronicle Rhona Lief wrote “From the beginning of the Ten Days of Penitence when the oldest member of our Congregation, Mrs Rose Jacobs kindled the Yom Tov candles, until the beautiful and moving Havdalah service at the culmination of these solemn days when the youngest members participated, the High Holy Days provided us with a unique experience which will be indelibly inprinted in our memories.”

Student Rabbi Don Levy from the U.S.A. led the services.  His resounding voice ably assisted by the melodious choir, together with his thought-provoking sermons interspersed with delightful anecdotes held the congregation’s interest throughout. The informal atmosphere in the tent brought a strong feeling of unity, proving that elaborate buildings and stained glass windows are not necessary in order to contemplate “Repentance, Prayer and Charity”.

At the A.G.M. in 1996, there was a discussion and involvement in the planning of the new Shul building as the City Council had passed the new plans and the quantity surveyors were now busy so that tenders for building could be called for shortly after Pesach. Coloured renditions of plans and elevations were shown and samples of paint colours and carpeting were presented, as well as samples of the proposed chairs.

The Solly Liebman Stone was to be used outside and the Menorah Nursery School foundation stone used inside the vestibule.

Mr Stanley Lief was awarded with an Honorary Life Membership of the Congregation nominated by the Council for the sterling dedicated work he had performed for Bet Menorah over many years.  He thus joined Natie Bernard, Willie Grusiner and Ivan Sive who had received this award.

In September-October 1996 – Rabbi Bonnie Leavy was appointed on a permanent basis from mid-January 1997.

In October 1996, it was proposed that Brian Cohen be awarded Honorary Life President.  A letter was sent to the secretary of Bet Menorah and signed by Dr W. Grusiner, Mr I. Sive and Mr S.W. Lief, Trustees and Honorary Life Members, requesting the following resolution to be placed before the next Council Meeting for consideration by the Council.  “We are deeply conscious and extremely grateful to Mr Brian Cohen for the decade of unstinting service he has always devoted, both in his capacity as Vice president and President to Bet Menorah.  He has almost single-handedly kept the congregation alive during the most difficult period of the past five years.   


 In recognition of his outstanding services we hereby nominate him for the position of Honorary Life President of Bet Menorah.  It is our sincere hope that he will continue to serve the congregation in his present capacity as President for some time to come.  In submitting the above resolution we also wish to thank Yvonne for the wonderful support she has always given Brian and the Congregation.”

In March 1997 the new Synagogue was consecrated and Rabbi Leavey was inducted as spiritual leader of Bet Menorah by Rabbi Hillel Avidan.

In May 1999 Rabbi Leavey asked to be relieved of her duties due to ill health.  Consequently the Executive and Council of Bet Menorah terminated the contract with Rabbi Leavey by mutual consent.

From December 1999 to June 2000, Rabbi Datz who was on Sabbatical, served the Community.

In April 2000 Rhona Lief was the first woman to be elected President of Bet Menorah having been Vice-President for the previous 2 years.

A most impressive Ma-Ariv service conducted jointly by Rabbi Michael Stanfield of Temple Emanuel, Parktown, Johannesburg and Rabbi Hillel Avidan of Bet menorah and Bet David in Sandton, was held at Bet Menorah on the 18th September 2000 which included the induction ceremony of Rabbi Charles Wallach as the new Spiritual Leader. In welcoming Rabbi Wallach, the President of Bet Menorah, Chips Sive, said he was the first South African to occupy this post in 25 years.

The induction ceremony was performed by Rabbi Dow Marmur, the interim Executive  Director of the W.U.P.J.  He referred to the prophesy that  all Jewish people are bound to each other.  “The Rabbi is the link between Torah and Jewish life.  Today this gap is large and the Rabbi must stretch himself to reach on both sides, but the opportunities and rewards are endless”.  He concluded by saying “You have created a beautiful and sacred space for yourselves here in Pretoria and it is a privilege to be with you to celebrate the Rabbi of this Congregation.”

In November 2000, Bet Menorah celebrated its 50th Jubilee year.

It was thus no coincidence that, Shabbat Behar was the date chosen to celebrate this occasion.  “You shall count off seven years – so that the period of seven weeks of years gives you a total of forty nine years.  Then you shall sound the horn loud;  in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month –The Day of Atonement – you shall have the horn sounded throughout your land and you shall hallow the fiftieth year.  You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for You.  (Lev 25:8-10). In a solemn and moving ceremony this small but vibrant congregation dedicated itself anew to upholding the tenets of Progressive Judaism as it had been doing since its inception in 1950.  Attended by members of the congregation and sister congregations from Johannesburg, representatives of various S.A. Jewish organizations, the State of Israel and other Religious bodies, the service was led by Rabbi Michael Datz who was spending his sabbatical at Bet Menorah.   Rabbi Datz reflected on the meaning of the Jubilee year and its relevance to life in the 21st Century.  He suggested that the Jubilee year was intended to give us pause to reflect on ideals and to “liberate us from structures, which, if remaining unquestioned for too long, might become so ingrained that we would be inclined to think that because some things had always been done in a certain way, they must always be done in such a way.”


Furthermore the Jubilee year was “intended to periodically re-arrange the social order and reassess and reassign priorities – that no single group of individuals, no intellectual elite, no political or social ruling class is forever entitled to maintain its grip on the people, the land, social customs or political beliefs. To God alone does that right belong.”

His wish for the congregation was that it would continue to be a house of lights, a “cherished ideal embodied in the very name “Bet Menorah” – a house of enlightenment, a beacon of light and truth; proclaiming liberty in the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

To commemorate the occasion, the President, Ivan Sive, on behalf of the Council presented Bet menorah with a framed Golden Mezuzah and a collage entitled “Doors of Jerusalem”.

Congratulatory messages of good wishes was delivered by Ze’ev Luria, Political Councillor of the Embassy of Israel, Lawrence Nowosenitz, Chairman of Pretoria Council of SAJBOD and Stan Abrahams, Chairman of S.A.U.P.J.

A special Shehecheyanu commissioned and composed by Avi Kanar was beautifully sung by David Cohen and Lyzette Lourens.

After Kiddush and Hamotzi, the congregation enjoyed a celebratory brocha lunch prepared by the women of the congregation and Bet menorah Sisterhood.

In November 2000 at the S.A.U.P.J.’s Biennial Conference Dinner delegates to the conference were welcomed.

After Havdalah in the Sanctuary where several of the young members formed a Menorah of Candles, the dinner was held in a marquee.  The highlight of the evening was the bestowing of the honour of Honorary Life President of Bet Menorah on Chips Sive.

Commemorative certificates were presented to the two organizations which had been the recipients of moneys collected during the Jubilee year – namely the Domestic Violence Response Unit at the Sunnyside Police Station and Jaffa, Pretoria’s home for the aged.

In March 2002, Temple Emanuel were without a Rabbi and they requested Rabbi Wallach to assist.  The contract with Rabbi Wallach was terminated in 30/6/2003, but he continued to help Bet Menorah on a regular basis.

On Friday, 5th April 2002, The Rose Kantor Memorial Garden was dedicated in the grounds of Bet Menorah – the brainchild of Chips Sive and with the active support of his wife Giki.

This was a gift from Sol, Ian, Bernard and David Kantor and their families in a tribute to the devotion and dedication of their wife, mother and grandmother, Rose, who passed away in late 1999.  Prior to the formal dedication, Chips Sive outlined the concept of the memorial with its feature of fountain and space for members to inscribe the names of deceased relatives.  Bernard Kantor spoke both of his mother and her family links to the Pretoria congregation, going back to the time of Rev. Jacobs. Rabbi Wallach then dedicated the memorial as Bernard and David did the unveiling.  A Shabbat service followed with various members of the Kantor family participating.  In his address Rabbi Wallach noted that the memorial, with its fountain of living water, was immediately behind the Aron Kodesh, this bringing to mind the simile of “living waters” by which the Torah is often referred. After the service a celebratory Kiddush was held in the Shul Hall.

In  2003, Student Rabbi Galia Sadan from Israel was with us over Pesach and returned in 2004 for4 months, including  the High Holy Days as a qualified Rabbi.

In 2005, Student Rabbi Stacey Nolish took the services over the High Holy Days.

For the 2005 High Holy Days, Rabbi Reuben Ben-Ephraim occupied the pulpit.  He was schooled in Amsterdam, obtained a B.A. in Jewish History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and then an M.A. in Biblical Science from the same university. He received an M.A. in Jewish Science from the H.U.C. in Jerusalem.

In March 2006, the Tu B’Shvat Seder was very well attended.  Bet Menorah was fortunate to have Rabbi Fred Reiner and his wife Sherry from Temple Sinai in Washington who conducted the Seder and tree planting ceremony.  The symbolic fruit and nuts was thoroughly enjoyed, and was a reminder that we need to care for our world and certainly replenish it instead of merely taking from it.

In October 2007, Bet Menorah appointed its first Spiritual Leader in 6 years. Rabbi Folb, who was born and schooled in Chicago U.S.A. had been a Rebettzen for 30 years, during which time she worked as a social worker and it was only after the death of her husband that she returned to study for the Rabbinate. She was inducted by Rabbi Hillel Avidan – outgoing chairman of the South African Association of Progressive Rabbis who emphasized the importance of the pastoral aspects of a Rabbi’s responsibilities, and Rabbi Folb’s  30 years as a social worker.

In 2008, there was a unique simcha at Bet Menorah.  Chips Sive celebrated his 2nd Bar Mitzvah together with his granddaughter, Isabella who came from New Zealand to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah with him. Family and friends from throughout South Africa and from New Zealand, Australia and the U.S.A attended. These included his 3 sons, and 6 of his 7 grandchildren. The service was conducted by Rabbi Ann Folb, and the sermon was given by Prof. Stephen Finn who emphasized the importance of “Le Dor Va Dor” in Jewish communal and religious life.

The luncheon afterwards was catered by the inimitable Cynthia Duchen and the speeches by his sons and grandchildren and Chips himself were warm and emotional and fitting tribute to Chips and his family.

In June 2008, Bet Menorah was honoured by a visit from Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice-President for Foreign Development of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.  He presented Bet Menorah with a Mezuzah that was made by women in the FSU (Former Soviet Union) and was assembled in Israel.  This was affixed to the Sanctuary entrance before services on Erev Rosh Hashanah.

During the latter part of 2008, the congregation tried out services from several new Siddurim. The Southern Hemisphere” Siddur was finally accepted and was launched in December 2010.

In 2010, Bet Menorah celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in style with a formal reception held on the premises.  To accommodate the large gathering, a marquee was attached to the building. Attendees included members of the congregation, dignitaries from government and the diplomatic corps as well as many other guests for an evening of good food, lively entertainment and fundraising. Organised by the Bet Menorah Vibrancy Committee under the leadership of Ivor Tucker and Chips Sive, the evening was an unqualified success. Prof. Stephen Finn was the M.C. for the evening. Rabbi Ann Folb began with a Havdallah blessing and a brief address by Rhona Lief who introduced the guest speaker, Gill Marcus, Governor of the S.A. Reserve Bank.

Ms Marcus focused her speech on the S.A. economic situation within the context of the recent global and financial crisis and shared some humerous insights into her representation of both S.A. and Africa on the international stage where she was often the only woman present.

Following a vote of thanks by Chips Sive and a message from Steve Lurie, Chairman of the South African Union of Progressive Judaism, a conventional and an American-style auction was held for a series of items contributed by Bet Menorah congregants ranging from artistic prints to bottles of wine, holiday vouchers and luxury resorts, to hampers of chocolate, television sets,  wrist watches and assorted jewellery.


Interspersed with the formal items on the agenda, a delicious assortment of fish and vegetable based dishes followed by a pastry dessert and high-quality beverages kindly donated by a local franchise rounded out the corporate participation of a number of businesses by which the event was generously sponsored. The event ended with a colourful rendition of the Birkat Hamamzon. The evening was indeed a worthy commemoration of 60 years of Bet Menorah as the home of Progressive Judaism in Pretoria.

In December 2010, on the third night of Channukah, Bet Menorah bade a fond farewell to Rabbi Folb who had been their spiritual leader for the past 3 years. Following a service featuring Menorah lighting by a number of congregants who had brought their own chanukiyot for the occasion, an informal Israeli buffet dinner was held at the Shul .  This consisted of a range of Middle Eastern dishes particularly beloved by the Rabbi, including schwarmas and the obligatory humus in abundance. Very much a family affair, the  event was most informal, and there were only a number of short speeches.  A number of special invitees attended, and Rabbi Folb was presented with a sculpture created by a local artist which symbolised an African rendition of an angel in flight. 

From that time, apart from visiting Rabbis over the High Holy Days, Bet Menorah has been fortunate to continue offering regular Shabbat and Festival services as well as Life Cycle events all ably conducted by a team of capable and willing lay persons.


At the inaugural meeting of the Menorah Nursery School on the 16th March, 1960, it was decided that the fees would be £6-6-0 per child per term.  In the case of 2 children the fees would be £10=10=00 per term and an entrance fee of £3-3-0 per child.  Where two children joined at the same time only one entrance fee would be payable.

Menorah Nursery School officially opened its door in 1960, when 32 children were enrolled.  The opening ceremony was performed by His Excellency Col K.P. Salmon, the Minister Plenipotenciary and Envoy Extraordinary for Israel, on Sunday afternoon, 5th June 1960.                             


However, as the schools popularity grew, so did the waiting list for vacancies and in 1963, after the necessary alterations were made to the existing premises, the intake increased from 83 to 100 pupils.

Mrs Rose Jacobs assumed the Chairmanship of the Management Board in October 1960, a position she held until April 1981.  On her retirement, Eileen Grusiner  assumed the chairmanship.

An active PTA is an integral part of any school and Menorah Nursery School was very fortunate in always having had an enthusiastic body of parents whose fundraising efforts helped to purchase educational playground equipment.

The school was actually the baby of Temple Menorah and as such each Rabbi who served as the congregation’s spiritual leader became a familiar figure to the small pupils, arriving each Friday morning to conduct the Shabbat ceremony, celebrating all the Jewish festivals with them and explaining the symbolic meaning of each one in a manner in which the children could easily understand.

The first Principal of the School was Mrs Pam Reilly with Mrs Liane Woolfson as Vice-Principal.

By the end of the second term of 1964 the enrolment has reached 100 – a limit set by the T.E.D. for the school.  By then the teaching staff comprised five teachers and a principal.

In 1962 Dolly Brittan was appointed teacher and vice principal.  She became principal in 1963 and was replaced by Liane Wolfson in 1964, a position she held until the school closed in 1994.

Menorah Nursery School opened 1st term in 1971 with a full quota of qualified teachers, Mrs Liane Woolfson returned as School Principal after a years leave of absence, and Mrs Joyce Eliasov accepted the position of senior teacher. School filled to capacity with 100 pupils, 68 of whom are Jewish.  A cosmopolitan air about the school this year as the enrolment includes Japanese, Greek, Italian, Israeli, English and Afrikaans children.

In April 1973, Menorah Nursery School celebrated its “Barmitzvah” when a silver Kiddush Cup was presented to the school by the Congregation and a plaque unveiled to mark the dedication and devotion of Mrs Rose Jacobs.  A tree was planted in honour of “Our Green Heritage”.

In April 1985 Menorah Nursery School celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a Shavuot Service followed by a tea in the Temple garden.

With the sale of the property in Bronkhorst Street and with  the rising costs and fewer children enrolling in the school, it was decided to close the school at the end of 1994.  Liane Woolfson had served the school as Principal for 30 years, Joyce Eliasov for 25 years.  Tribute was paid to them and both Rachel Kopanye and Josephine Legodi for over 30 years “loyal service”.



The Sisterhood was established shortly after the formation of the Congregation and the 1st Chairperson was Miriam Horwitz. Within a short space of time, the ladies of the Sisterhood organised a Sewing Circle for WIZO Parcels, participated in street collections  and the IUA Tea Room.  An article in the Pretoria Jewish Review of April 1951 invited members to join where “They would benefit by the expert tuition of Mrs Florrie Kaplan”.

They started a novel campaign for raising funds for their social outreach programmes.  Each member was sent a shiny new 5/- piece with the following message:- “We are sending you this coin as an investment.  Use it to the best advantage by buying materials, wool, ingredients for cakes or sweets. Sell your product and let us have what this has earned for you by June 30th!”

Catering was a very important part of their activities and they catered for the communal Seder and ran a Tuck Shop for the Youth who were holding an Easter holiday camp at Mr Leibman’s farm.

They co-operated with the Bikkur Cholim and visited the sick.

Monthly outings were organised for Meerhof children. In the Pretoria Jewish Review, May 1951, it was reported that 8 cars conveyed some 40 children to the Haartebeesport Dam.  Each child, able to participate in this outing enjoyed the lavish spread, while books, cakes, comics and sweets were taken to the Home for those children unfortunately unable to leave their beds.

During the month they manned a corner for a Street Collection organised by U.J.W. in aid of “NON EUROPEAN WELFARE”.  Representatives attended the Inaugural Meeting of the Appeal Committee of the National Health Foundation and service was rendered at the Place of Shelter at Atteridgeville.

In order to collect funds for these and other projects, they established a “shop” where orders were to be taken and various handmade articles “such as embroidered tray cloths, baby booties, knitwear etc” would be on sale.

In November 1951 they fetched Meerhof children to the Crowning of the Jacaranda Queen at the City Hall.  They also announced the publication of the Sisterhood Cookery Book and appealed to members and friends to submit recipes timeously.

In November 1951, Sisterhood held their first AGM.  Mrs M. Horwitz mentioned the gratifying amount of work that had been accomplished in the year under review when, apart from Congregational social activities, so much had been achieved in the field of social service.  Among the organizations to whom the Sisterhood had rendered service were Meerhof, the Spastic School, the African Feeding Scheme, the Health Foundation, the T.B. Wards (non-European) and others who had received indirect assistance through the medium of street collections etc.

The new Committee elected were: Chairman Mrs D. Hirschowitz, Vice- Chairmen Mesdames J Liebman and B. Jacobs, Hon Vice- Chairman Mrs M Horwitz, Hon Secretaries Ruth Zinn and S. Lubie, Hon Treasurer Mrs I Davis, Committee Mesdames B. Rostowsky,P. Press, F. Price, B. Kooper, C. Trump, N. Berman, E Hassall, B Matthews, R. Davis, Rose Zinn, S. Taback and P. Goldberg.

On Dec 12th 1951, Rabbi Bension and members of sisterhood visited Meerhof and distributed gifts and handed over a large Xmas Cake donated by Mr George Boestra of Boerstra Bakery. The toys were donated by Louis Zinn Charitable Organization and Windsor Pharmacy.

The Sisterhood celebrated its 1st Birthday with a Social and Dance at S.O.E. Hall on 24th Nov where refreshments were served. Tickets were 5/= for a single person.

In June 1952 Delegates from 5 centres met in Pretoria to attend a Conference of Progressive Judaism.  Some 50 Sisterhood representatives were entertained to lunch at Wingate on June 26th after which “we pursued deliberations of the afternoon to a fruitful and amicable conclusion.”

The cup awarded for the first place in the competition for the best stall at the IUA International Fete on November 12th 1952 was won by the Sisterhood.  In June 1956 a Morning Market and Pruning.


Demonstration was held,  part of the proceeds of which went to the Pretoria News Blanket Fund. In 1957 a successful mannequin parade was held at the Culemborg Hotel and the money raised was donated to the Pretoria News Blanket Fund.  Among the recent efforts of the Sisterhood  was the Ice Cream Stall at the Santa Fete held in the Governor-General’s home and credit was due to Eileen Grusiner and others who decorated the stall.

In 1962, Mrs Rose Jacobs was elected President of SAUTS. Under the guidance of Mrs Rose Jacobs, wife of our Spiritual Leader, Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs, the Happy Day Club was formed.  Regular parcels were sent to the Eersterus Coloured Old Age Home and monthly luncheons were held in the Temple Hall for people from Civilian Blind.

At the A.G.M. of Sisterhood of Temple Menorah in March 1974 the signal honour of Hon. Life President  of Sisterhood of Temple Menorah was bestowed on Mrs Rose Jacobs, in appreciation of her hard work.

In October 1975, an appeal for donations of canned foods for Meals on Wheels was issued.

In June 1977 Sisterhood “adopted” the children’s wards at Kalefong Hospital as their welfare project and contributed to the incidental expenses of one of their paraplegic athletes attending the Parolympics at Stoke-Mandeville in England..  One of the Kalafong paraplegic athletes is attending Parolympics at Stoke-Mandevile in England and Sisterhood have contributed to his incidental expenses.

In March 1977 – A special service to mark “Women’s World Day of Prayer” and Sisterhood Sabbath.  Prayers especially composed for the occasion by Rev. Nathaniel Jacobs were recited by women of the Sisterhood and the address given by Mrs Rose Jacobs.

In July 1985 – Mrs Rhona Sochett was elected new National President of S.A.U.T.S.

In July 1986 Sisterhood decided to support a soup kitchen being organised by Mrs Marie Meiring in Attridgeville and started a self-help project in the Township where workshops offered classes in sewing, knitting and patchwork.

In 2001, Chairperson Rebbetzin Marilyn Wallach launched the “Golden Age Club”. There was afternoon tea and entertainment by Shirley Firth.  Apart from our own members (not only seniors) , a party of 40 residents from Jaffa, including some from the Frail Care Unit who came in wheelchairs with their nurses, as well as visitors from the wider Jewish Community and beyond, attended.  Over 100 people were seated in the sanctuary which was packed to capacity. A donation of R1000 from the proceeds was made to the Mamelodi Creche.

April 2002 proved to be a very busy month with almost a function a week. There was the Sisterhood Sabbath where Monica Solomon, vice-chair of United Sisterhood, the umbrella body of the Gauteng women’s group of the Progressive movement, was the guest speaker.

 The American International Women’s Club, hosted by Bet Menorah Sisterhood organized a morning function to hear Daniel Pinhasi, the 1st Secretary of the Israeli Embassy speak to a packed audience. There was a Spanish Dancing display by Hillaine Sachs and her group for the Golden Age Club.

In October 2002, a special event on Women’s Day was held.  Focussing mainly on a cookery demonstration by Cooksusters Chef-extrodinaire Cynthis Duchen there was an additional feature – wares were  on sale from WIZO, JAFFA, D Designs, Landis Coutourier and Noodles Klobber. Sisterhood participated in the purchase and lighting of pairs of Shabbat Candles of the Co-ordinating Council of Jewish Women’s organizations, proceeds of which went to the Selwyn Segal Home.  This was followed by a scrumptious tea.

On the 26th January, 2003, a special tea was hosted by Bet Menorah’s Sisterhood on behalf of the Gauteng region of SAUTS. The speaker was Leslie Landy who was the training manager of “Edutak” a programme whereby women are trained to head their own child-minding creches. Bet Menorah helped sponsor one of the trainees.

In 2003, the theme for the Sisterhood Sabbath was from Hillel “IM EIN ANI LI MI LI”. The service was attended by a large group from Johannesburg as well as the Ambassador for Germany, Mrs Peters who said she wanted to attend in solidarity with the Jews and Israel at this time.

In May 2003, the Bet Menorah Tzedakkah and Sisterhood Committees delivered donated blankets to a Creche in Mamelodi.

The discovery of the Vula Mehro Creche in Mamelodi prompted us to help not only with the end of year party, but also equipped them with a chemical toilet. Through Edutak we came into contact with 2 further creches in Mamelodi.  We were made aware of further needs of these establishments including fencing, tables, chairs etc.

The Sisterhood and Tzedakkah committees rounded off 2003 with holding end of year parties at three creches in Mamelodi.  Bet Menorah, through its Sisterhood, commenced assisting its second student on the Edutak Programme.

In 2004, with Yvonne Cohen as Chairperson, and through SAUTS, a need had been identified with the Reform Congregation in Beunos Aires.  Over 33.000 Jews receive community assistance with an estimated 35 new families turning to welfare organizations for daily assistance.  Terrorist bombings in Beunos Aires in the 1990’s killed over 100 Jews and wounded hundreds more, leaving the Jewish community deeply traumatised.  In addition, two Jewish owned banks declared bankruptcy and their closure wiped out the savings of many individual Jews. The Jewish leadership in Argentina is working towards a new age in thinking and planning to create a new community and the South African Union of Temple Sisterhoods (SAUTS) wanted to be part of a burgeoning process. Social programmes were in place, amongst which was the community dining programme.  Every Friday, the Synagogue in Beunos Aires sponsored a Shabbat Meal “The Rabbi’s Shabbat Tisch” for hundreds in the Jewish community who could not afford a Shabbat meal. SAUTS planned to make a difference and intended to sponsor meals for 1 month. The Sisterhood and Council of Bet Menorah responded to this appeal by holding a Shabbat meal with an Argentinian “Flavour” on the 27th August, 2004.

In September 2007, a most unsusual fundraiser organized by the Sisterhood – Amazing Race – was held at the Zway’s plot in Kameeldrift.  Teams of 4 had to hunt for clues (which were placed along the route) of certain items needed to be found before specified tasks could be completed.  A detour allowed a choice between 2 tasks, a roadblock was a task only one team member could perform and the fast forward allowed speedy teams to skip the next designated requirement. At the end of the race the teams gathered to enjoy cooling refreshments and a picnic lunch. Funds raised went towards the refurbishment of the Netzer Camp Kitchen.

In August 2006, A Winter Wonderland Dinner was held.

In Winter 2008 and 2009, scarves and oranges were donated to the Waterfall Creche in Mamelodi. In 2010 – 2015, this was extended to donating beanies as  well and in 2014 and 2015 each child present was fitted with a pair of trainers.

In 2009, at the annual Shavuot Cheesecake Competition, Sisterhood launched “Sponsor a Senior Citizen Tea”  Every year the residents of Jaffa, our Senior Citizen facility is treated to a scrumptious tea and entertained by a music group, dancers or singers and each resident receives a gift.

In November 2009, a mini market was held at the home of Giki and Chips Sive to launch the “Sisterhood Recipe Book”, sponsored by the Lief and Fish families in memory of Stanley Lief. This recipe collection was not in a book but a square tin. The lid and cards were designed by Gabriele Jacobs, already at the age of 12, an accomplished artist.

 The cards were divided into categories with fun titles like “A Feast of Fish Fare”, “Delectable Desserts” and “Teatime Temptations”. All the recipes were tried and tested.  A supply of spare cards were also provided so that recipes could be added, collected and kept.

 Inside the lid is a story: “No one who cooks alone Even at their most solitary A Cook in the Kitchen is surrounded  by generations of cooks past, Advice and menus of cooks present and the wisdom of cookbook writers. This Bet Menorah Sisterhood outreach project is dedicated to the memory of Stanley Lief”

In 2010, the Sisterhood undertook to donate 100kg of maize meal to Itumeleng Boy’s shelter in Sunnyside. On Mitzvah Day a group of Sisterhood members painted and shelved a room at the Shelter for the boys to have a reading room.

Every year on Mitzvah Day, Sisterhood had joined activities with other groups, eg, one year they painted and shelved a room at the Boys shelter in Sunnyside, another when we joined with Bet David for a Senior Citizen tea and activity, another where we have taken clothing and blankets to a collection point and another when we have cooked a wholesome meal for the Itumeleng Boys Shelter.

In 2012, Giddy Lief became the National President of Sisterhood and at that Conference the name was changed to Women of Progressive Judaism-South Africa, WPJ-SA.

We continue with outreach programmes and have recently worked together with the U.J.W., Pretoria Branch in providing knitted beanies and blankets and toiletries for impoverished settlements they have identified for assistance.




The Tzedakkah Committee was formed in 1991 under Alison Hyman.

The initial projects involved supporting trainee teachers at Edutak, an N.G.O. which runs a pre-school training and development centre; sponsoring creches in the informal settlement at Mamelodi and the building of a cage at “Wings in Need”, a bird sanctuary and hospital.

In December 2000 Allison Hyman, Lulu Ginsberg, Marlene Lautenberg, Len Klein and Rhona Lief, all members of the Tzedakkah Committee, laden with party fare and brightly wrapped gifts for children and staff, travelled to Mamelodi for the annual end of year party at which they were able to introduce Rabbi and Mrs Wallach to this very important outreach programme which they sponsored.

Mrs Wallach used her years of teaching experience and affinity to children to endear herself to all.  Besides the individual gifts, some of the bigger items such as large balls and a dolls house would remain at the crèche for use during school hours.

Tracey and Ivor Douglas, Len and Audrey Klein’s children, donated a blackboard and chalks which was much appreciated by the crèche personnel.

From the crèche the group went on to the Edutak office to deliver car loads of waste material collected by the Bet Menorah congregants which is distributed to schools as part of a recycling programme.

On Wednesday, 20th October 2004, we visited visited 3 regular nursery schools, Vula Mehlo, Mma Sechaba and Waterfall.  We also visited the Mamelodi Society for Care of the Aged.

The Tzedakkah Committee launched a fundraiser in order to provide these creches with the equipment needed.  An event called “Out to Lunch – Picnic Perfect” took place on Sunday, 28th March 2004 at the home of Chips and Giki Sive.                                 


R40 000 was raised which will enable us to improve the conditions in the 3 Mamelodi creches supported by our congregation.

A large crowd of adults and children enjoyed a day out in the sun on the lawns of the Sive’s garden at this inaugural function to raise funds.  Entertainment was provided by a variety of musicians and singers and a very tasty luncheon and bar service was provided.

Shade netting was erected by the committee at one of the creches, using part of the proceeds of the Picnic Perfect function.

On the 3rd April 2005 a second “Picnic Perfect” function was held at the home of Chips and Giki Sive to raise further funds for Tzedakkah.  Money raised was for the outreach programme going towards computers for Edutak Training Centre for Teachers. Money raised also went towards training teachers at Edutak.

From the money raised we continued supporting the three creches.

Ster Kinekor donated a computer which went to Edutak.

The Israeli Government, through the Acting Ambassador, Mr Ilan Fluss, sponsored 1 Edutak teacher on a 3 week training course in Israel for Early Childhood Learning and Development.

In July 2005, 3 new computers were delivered to Edutak and funds to sponsor 3 promising candidates of their choice who would otherwise be unable to pay for the necessary teachers training.

On Friday, 12th January 2006, the Tzedakkah Committee visited 2 Primary Schools in Mamelodi to issue new Grade 1’s with a starter pack - material carrier bag containing 12 wax crayons, pencil, sharpener and colouring book. Meetse A Bophelo Primary School had 405 children and Masama Primary School had 200 children.

In May 2006, the Tzedakkah Committee painted one classroom at Meetse A Bophela, put large posters on the walls and donated desks for 50 pupils. Books were donated for use in the Library at Meetse A Bophela School.

In May 2006, scarves and sweets were donated to the children of Waterfall Creche.

In June 2007, a very successful Chocolate Tasting Fundraiser was held.  

In September 2008, a Beer Tasting Fundraiser was held, which was equally successful.

In 2009 the Grade0’s and Grade 1’s at Meetse A Bophela were presented with their first schoolbag containg all stationary requirements as well as packets of sweets.

On many occasions this committee worked together with the Sisterhood and their joint endeavours fulfilled the Mitzvah of Tzedakkah on behalf of Bet Menorah.



President of Bet Menorah from 2001 – 2004

President of Bet Menorah from 2008 – 2009

In 2010 – Made Honourary Life President of Bet menorah

From 2013 – Vice President



2000       -              Joined the Bet Menorah Council – still a member

2002       -              Started teaching at the Hebrew School

2005       -              Head of the Hebrew School

2005       -              Convenor of Membership and Social Activities (ongoing)

2009       -              Joined the Sisterhood

2010       -              Became National Vice – President of SAUTS

2011       -              Chair of Sisterhood (still)

2012       -              National President of Women of Progressive Judaism – South Africa  (WPJ-SA)                               -              relinquishing title at conference this year, but will still be active on the Executive.

2003       -              Conduct Shabbat Evening services

                                Conduct Shabbat Morning services

                                Conduct Festival Evening Services

                                Conduct Festival Morning Services

2011       -              Conduct Bnei Mitzvah services

2016       -              Teach the Conversion Candidates

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