A Jewish South African 'mensch:' John Moshal - obituary

His departure from our lives is everyone’s loss. Au revoir John; you will be sorely missed by all those whose lives you have touched. 

 John Moshal (photo credit: SAJBD)
John Moshal
(photo credit: SAJBD)
Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

John Hillel Moshal, who died in London on October 26, was a great South African businessman and philanthropist, and a pillar of the Durban Jewish community. Born on March 30, 1940 in Durban, he was educated at Durban High School (DHS) and the University of Natal, where he graduated with a BSc in chemical engineering. 

He established Control Logic (Pty) Ltd and built it into the largest industrial electronic company in South Africa before selling it in 1984. He was involved with the Durban Jewish community since he was just 12 years old and moved up the ranks of communal service to become president and ultimately honorary life president of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry.

Among other positions held, he served as chairman of the United Communal Fund and president of the Durban Jewish Club. His business interests were many and varied, but did not prevent him from pursuing his generous philanthropic activities with his family. The family credo is to spend more on others than themselves, which has seen its philanthropy spreading to Israel and around the globe. 

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies issued a statement saying was saddened over the passing of long-serving SAJBD member and doyen of the Jewish community of KwaZulu-Natal. “The scion of one of Durban Jewry’s leading families, John was inspired by his uncle, the distinguished community leader and philanthropist Sol Moshal, to become involved in Jewish communal affairs,” it said, noting that he had for 30 years sat on the National Executive Council of the SAJBD. “We extend our sincerest condolences to (his wife) Anna, children Antony, Martin, Karyn and Richard, brother Brian and the whole Moshal family. May they be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Durbanite Alana Baranov, who worked on a book about the Moshal family, told The South African Jewish Report, “He would always refer to the Moshal family legacy, which started when his family first arrived in South Africa in the late 1800s. The book was called Setting a Quiet Example, and that’s such a great way to describe John,” she said. “He would always tell me that the word ‘Moshal’ translates to the word ‘example’, and that he was proud of the legacy of his uncle, Sol, who in his day was the doyen of the community. John really wanted to mirror his life, and walk in his and his ancestors’ footsteps.”

Alongside his involvement in Jewish communal affairs, John was renowned for his philanthropic record. Through the JAKAMaR Trust, the Moshal family humanitarian foundation that he and his wife Anna set up, he established a number of upliftment projects around the world. They included Chiva Africa, which provided HIV/Aids training to local health professionals, the Moshal Scholarship Program that has provided hundreds of full scholarships to needy students, the importing of refurbished computers and their distribution to disadvantaged KZN schools, DIVOTE, which rehabilitates victims of terrorism in Israel and the assisting of homeless, abandoned and abused Jewish children in the Ukraine through the Tikva project. The Moshals also donated millions of dollars to SpaceIL, which plans to embark on a second lunar expedition, Beresheet 2, after it failed to land on the Moon on April 11, 2019. 

In 2017, John Moshal was presented with the Eric Samson Mendel Kaplan Communal Service Award at the SAJBD national conference. 

John’s passing left a void in the lives of thousands of people, a void that will be impossible to completely fill. John was first and foremost a “mensch.”  He was also a man devoted to his family; husband, father, brother, grandfather, a shining example to all; a mentor; a wonderful friend to those who were privileged to know him. He was a community  leader of no mean repute. Besides being a pillar of society to the Durban  Jewish community, he was  a philanthropist who gave unstintingly to many, many worthwhile causes, both Jewish and non-Jewish throughout the world. He was a qualified chemical engineer, who became  a more than successful businessman. His list of attributes is never-ending. Yet with all these attributes, he was completely unpretentious, presenting himself as just an ordinary simple “guy in the street.”

His successes in the business world were phenomenal, a sort of “King Midas.” Everything he touched turned to gold! He may have left this Earth, but each and every one of his children will ensure that  his memory will live on forever. The wisdom and guidance with which he endowed his children will ensure they follow the path of success along which he guided them.

In all of this, John had a partner, his devoted wife, Anna. From the day they met she has stood by his side, loved him beyond description and backed him in every one of his undertakings. Her love, devotion and support went a long way to securing the foundation on which John  built his  life and success. Their four wonderful children, Karyn, Anthony, Martin, Richard, are carrying on the Moshal legacy.

His departure from our lives is everyone’s loss. Au revoir John; you will be sorely missed by all those whose lives you have touched.