South African Jews and supporters gather in support of Israel at a demonstration in Johannesburg.
(photo credit: ILAN OSSENDRYVER)
SOUTH AFRICA’S 70,000-strong Jewish community is a vibrant melting pot that is loved, and even envied, for its unity, diversity and contributions across the globe. While the first Jew is thought to have set foot in South Africa as early as 1669, during the early years of Dutch rule, it was only on the eve of Yom Kippur in 1841 that 17 Jewish citizens of Cape Town came together in a private home to form the country’s first ever communal prayer service. This small gathering marked the formal birth of South African Jewry as an organized community. In 2016, the community celebrated 175 years of Jewish life. It boasts its own radio station, ChaiFM, its own weekly newspaper, “The Jewish Report,” and numerous kosher establishments run by one of the world’s most respected religious courts.