Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG
South African Jewish Communities
Editor: Dr Saul Issroff
Copyright © 2002 Saul Issroff, Mike Getz, SAfrica SIG
and Jewishgen Inc.
Revised: 24 December 2003
by Joyce Glazer © 2002
In 1818, Lord Charles Somerset, the Governor of the Cape Colony, decided to establish a new town in the Cape. The future town of Worcester was laid out and in 1820 the first plots were sold. This picturesque town is surrounded by the Brandwag Mountains and on one side by the Breede River.
The first Jews to have settled permanently in Worcester, arrived in 1848 - he was Dr. Diedrich Heinrich Frankel who practiced there as District Surgeon. The first Jewish dentist, in 1882, was Dr. A. Kopelowitz.
There were three hotels catering mainly for commercial travellers. The Commercial Hotel owned by Abraham and Rebecca Volks; the Alexandra Hotel owned by the Lipman family and the Masonic Hotel owned by Mr. Fogarty. The Commercial Hotel was bought by the Volks family in 1904 who made many alterations over the years.
The first Zionist Society was formed in 1904, the founders being M. Cohen, M. Windisch and J.L. Kavonik. The first Synagogue was opened in 1904 by Mr. Hyman Lieberman, Mayor of Cape Town, the consecration of the Synagogue being conducted by Rev. Bender, Minister to the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation.
By 1926 the congregants had outgrown the Synagogue and in the same year a new Shul was constructed on the site of the old one.
The Congregation Executive consisted of:
- S. Lange - Chairman
- I.J. Sennett - Vice-Chairman
- J. Rabinowitz - Hon. Treasurer
- H. Simon - Hon. Secretary
Marks and Ethel Windisch
Click on the image for a larger version
A Ladies Society was formed in 1912 under the Chairmanship of Mrs. E. Windisch. In 1944 the Jewish Ladies Society became the Worcester Branch of the Union of Jewish Women. There was also a Junior Zionist Society as well as an active Habonim Movement.
For several years the congregation discussed the necessity of engaging a Hebrew teacher. In 1934 Mr. L. Goodman was engaged as a teacher and a Talmud Torah was established. Not only was Mr. Goodman an excellent teacher, but he also produced plays in Hebrew, staged by the Cheder children. The Worcester Jewish boys and girls attended Cheder every day after school. As a result, they had progressed so well that they were able to take Hebrew as a subject for Matric.
Many Zionist lectures and activities took place regularly in the Zionist Hall. Adv. Morris Alexander was very fond of coming to lecture at Worcester. Internationally figures, such as Nahum Sokolov in 1934, Vladimir Jabotinsky in 1937, and many others, always included Worcester in their itinerary.
The outstanding event in the Zionist history of Worcester, was the visit of Dr. and Mrs. Chaim Weizman in 1932. They spent the week-end in Worcester so as to have an opportunity to relax, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Volks. A banquet was held at which, besides the Worcester people, visitors came from as far away as Oudtshoorn.
During the 2nd World War, 37 members of the Jewish Community volunteered for Active Service. Three made the supreme sacrifice - Cpl. J.B. Abromowitz, Gunner Mar Lange, Captain S. Levin. There was an Italian P.O.W. camp in the town during this period. The prisoners went out daily to work at the many farms in the Worcester district.
The Jewish community was involved in Commerce and Industry; Civic Affairs; Sport; Culture and had good relations with all other religions in the town.
In 1953 there were 130 Jewish families in Worcester. Over the years, due to many families moving to the cities, and in recent years, leaving South Africa, there are now, in 2001, only two families left. The Shul has been sold and the wonderful Jewish Community of Worcester has ceased to exist.