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Leslie Bergman (centre), major sponsor of this project, when he was president of the United Progressive Jewish Congregation of Johannesburg in 1983.The photograph was taken hours after a bomb wrecked Temple Israel in Hillbrow, on the evening of the movement’s 50th anniversary. Celebrations were speedily moved to Temple Emanuel in Parktown, where Bergman sits between Rabbi Walter Blumenthal (left), and an aged and weary Moses Weiler, the movement’s pioneering rabbi.

Who we are

Irwin Manoim is a researcher attached to the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town, where he investigates neglected aspects of South African Jewish history. Other areas of interest include the role of Jews in establishing the media in South Africa (from newspapers to advertising to film) and the role of Jewish immigrants in the growth of business and culture in early Johannesburg. Manoim was previously a journalist and author, and was joint founder and editor of the anti-apartheid newspaper the Weekly Mail (now called the Mail & Guardian). He has been a frequent speaker on Jewish themes around the country, and at Limmud in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and the UK.


Key supporters

This project would not have been possible without the support of a few key people:

Rabbi Greg Alexander of Cape Town first adopted the project as a cause, found supporters within his own community and abroad, and has been an invaluable source of information on contemporary practice.

Professor Adam Mendelsohn of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town agreed to take the project formally under his wing and has read the material closely, recommended additional reading and steered the project around multiple obstacles.

Leslie Bergman, former head of both the South African and European Progressive movements, who with his brother Stanley, generously sponsored the entire endeavour, from the book research to the website and exhibition. Leslie also shared his considerable knowledge of the movement here and abroad and opened doors to key people in the international Progressive movement.

The Lubner family based in London, descendants of Ethel Smith, an important early leader of the United Sisterhood, and Rhona Lubner, whose family were close to Rabbi Moses Weiler, for their generous co-sponsorship of the Jewish Museum exhibition.



Scores of people kindly helped contribute information to the overall project over a number of years, and they are listed in the book. This website, set up after the book’s completion, has relied in particular upon the archives of the United Sisterhood in Johannesburg; materials stored at the Temple Israels in Hillbrow, Greenpoint, Wynberg and Port Elizabeth; upon photographs and previous historical research by Darryl Egnal, and upon research in Cape Town by Ute Benyosef and Arthur Gammage in Durban. The film-maker Sean O’Sullivan, working on a related project to create a documentary of the movement, was also a source of invaluable material.


Rhona Lubner, who celebrated her batmitzvah in 1947 with Rabbi Moses Weiler, practices for her second batmitzvah in London in 2017.

Those who provided material for use on this website or the exhibition include:

Mandy Beckenstein, Ute Benyosef, Patricia Butterfield, Peter Dannheisser, Mervyn Dendy, Carol Engelman, Diane Fine, Reeva Forman, Romaine Goldsmith, Marian Gonsalves, Phina Hoberman, Belinda Katz, Ray Kibur, Adrienne Klipin, Michael Levy, Rhona and Giddy Lief, Paddy Meskin, Helga Sandak Lewin, Rabbi Julia Margolis, Rabbi Adrian Schell, Darrell Segal, Jessica Sherman, Shirley Shevel, Ian Melvyn Stoloff, Arthur Gammage , Hilary Wainer, Amelie Wiseglass.


Finally, a special word of thanks to Libby Young, who has patiently produced the website over many weeks, and loaded the large amounts of material included here.

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