Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG
South African Jewish Communities
Editor: Dr Saul Issroff
Copyright © 2010 Saul Issroff, Mike Getz, SAfrica SIG
and Jewishgen Inc.
Date: 8 August 2010
Welcome to Muizenberg
South Africa's premier holiday resort
INTRODUCTION, by Beryl Baleson.
Muizenberg is a well-known and well populated seaside resort on the Indian Ocean in the
False Bay area of the Cape Peninsula. It developed from a small cattle outpost operated by the Dutch East India Company but
assumed a more active role as a Military Post after 1743 when Simonstown became an
official Port. It is named after the soldier Muijs who guarded the cattle outpost at the
Recreation and leisure living is enjoyed in one of the world's most beautiful bays with
long white beaches and the warm Indian Ocean for safe bathing and surfing.
Over the past 100 years it became a very popular holiday resort for the Jewish population
Of Southern Africa.
Between March 9, 2010 and June 11, 2010 a "Memories of Muizenberg" Exhibition was
held at the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town where Dr. Mervyn Rosenberg,
gave the Opening Speech hereunder.
Welcome to Muizenberg
South Africa's premier holiday resort
by Dr. Mervyn Rosenberg © 2010
It is the turn of the century, it is summer - it is the holiday season, Muizenberg at its best.
The village of Muizenberg is inundated with visitors from the Transvaal – the wealthy –
the mining magnates – Cecil John Rhodes, Sammy Marks, Sir Abe Bailey, and the
Oppenheimers to name but a few. All of them have built holiday "cottages". Actually
they are mansions – some of which have been designed by Sir Herbert Baker who also
spends his summers in Muizenberg. Bathing boxes have also been built on the beach front.
The men stroll and discuss business and the women sit on the beach dressed in the high
fashions of the time. Children are playing at the waters edge, fishing and sailing toy boats
on the vlei.
Olive Shreiner is also a regular visitor as is Rudyard Kipling the poet, who wrote a poem
about Muizenberg ...
"White as the sand of Muizenberg|
Spun before the Gale"
The locals in the village are going about their business, they need to sustain themselves
for the off season, Frikkie Auret is selling fresh fish – which has just been trekked, his
wife runs the dairy, and on the Main Road near the railway station is John Brown's
General Dealer shop.
Many hotels have sprung up in the area - The Marine, The Park and Farmer Pecks is now
called The Grand Hotel. Farmer Pecks is a remnant of the past when Muizenberg was a
half-way house to Simons Town.
We move to the 1920's, it is summer – Muizenberg has changed, it is no longer a little
village but a growing town albeit a suburb. It is the swinging 20s, the people now wear
fashionable bathing costumes to the beach.
The old hotels are BUZZING and new hotels have sprung up. The big names – the
Oppenheimers, the Schlesingers, Sir J.B. Robinson, etc., are still coming to Muizenberg to
their holiday homes, other dignitaries are staying at the new and very posh and modern
There is a wooden pavilion. There is plenty to do in Muizenberg, - dances at night in the
hotels, a bandstand next to the pavilion. Surfing has taken off – long 6ft wooden
surfboards. Muizenberg was probably where surfing originated in South Africa.
Muizenberg in spite of this huge growth and influx of people has still retained its village
atmosphere and character; the local inhabitants are a very close knit community.
The wooden pavilion built in 1911 was demolished in 1929. At the same time the new
pavilion was completed (for a while both pavilions stood together, the wooden pavilion
was closer to the mountain) –the new pavilion was spectacular - an architectural
masterpiece designed by Grant – a grand reception hall with seating for 900 people,
restaurants, a milk bar, it had everything! A promenade that had been designed in such a
way that together with the pavilion and the bathing boxes a wind free beach was created –
We move to the late Thirties, Forty's and Fifties – we move to MY MUIZENBERG.
There has been a huge influx of Eastern European Jews, There are approximately 600
Jewish families. The local industry, schools and hotels are largely sustained by this
community. A magnificent synagogue had been built in 1924, the synagogue is not big
enough for the High festivals and summer holidays and an overflow is needed – The
Talmud Torah Hall, even then there is very often only standing room.
The services are led by Rabbi Weinberg, Cantor Goldwasser, and the Reverend Frank
(who can ever forget Reverend Frank striding down to the beach in his striped dressing
gown at 6 in the morning to swim, this he continued to do every day until he died, no
matter what the weather). The Shamash is Mr. Brooks.
There is a Choir that practises every Tuesday night; the choir master is Bennie Galansky.
For tea Mrs. Goldwasser gives us freshly baked sponge cake and Oros.
Our remuneration for singing in the Shul Choir is 1 Guinea per year.
The Cheder teachers are Mr and Mrs Smolensky and Miss Singer, there are 9 classes
every afternoon, i.e. 3x3.
It is the 50s –the snakepit. This is the beach for teenagers - parents are supposed to go to
the other beaches such as the Balmoral Beach.
It is in the Snakepit that we play touch rugby and bok bok, it is here that many romances
start. Many of those romances have ended in marriages. It is here that we meet the girls
and boys from all over the country, and everyone is friendly and having fun. Everybody
sits together no matter what the age.
The beach photographer is taking photographs for Movie Snaps – we are rubbing on
brylcream and olive oil for tanning – we are smoking Texan, Lucky Strike and State
Express 555 -- we are making dates for a night out – to the bop floor – to the milky bar
and the Vic Davis Show, to Normans Café and the Empire Bioscope – and a walk on the promenade – touching the end for good luck.
It is January and the wealthy holiday-makers are in Muizenberg. The butler (wearing his
white jacket and red sash) arrives at the beach followed by an entourage of staff bearing
platters filled with freshly fried fish or chicken – for the midday meal.
Leibke, the Yiddish speaking fruit vendor, is selling fruit –
Leibke – Leibke - (if you don't remember him, he will remember you and your family
and who your girl or boyfriend was at the time.) Leibke's mother was a domestic in a
Jewish household in Muizenberg, he grew up speaking Yiddish before he could speak
English or Afrikaans. He was as much a part of Jewish Muizenberg as the Rabbi. His
actual name is Sidney, but he was renamed Leibke due to his stature as an honorary Jew.
To this day he never fails to phone me on any of the Yom Tavim. His only regret he said
is that he was not put into the Jewish old age home at Highlands House.
The Empire bioscope,- the manager Mr. Philips always wore a tuxedo and black bow tie,
whether it was a matinee, Saturday morning double feature or Saturday evening show.
On Saturday nights we wore a jacket and a tie.
The Cafes -
The Muizenberg of my day did not have restaurants but honest unpretentious cafes. After
bioscope we would stop off at Norman's Café for a hotdog or hamburger. Between the
Empire and Norman's café was the Maccabi Café owned by Tex. The Maccabi café was
the first cinema and was renowned for its pinball machines. It was the hangout for the
local ducktails. The adults went to the Majestic Café.
Palmer Road was the business centre of Muizenberg, Mr Schneider was the kosher
butcher in Palmer Road, the floor was covered in fresh sawdust. He was able to "Treibe"
a hindquarter, i.e. he would remove the vein and the hindquarter would become kosher.
Mr Schneider deserved a medal for putting up with my mother and all the other wives.
All day long his delivery man rode up and down on his bicycle delivering meat,
returning to exchange it for some real or imaginary deficiency in the order. Both Mr
Schneider and the delivery man now occupy a very special place in heaven.
Then there were the Traplers and Mrs Schneider who made fresh bagels, the Zives sold
fish, the Levinsteins poultry and eggs, Mr Brint a deaf mute was the shoemaker and an
absolute whiz on the races, there were two dairies in Palmer Road, the Millers and Mr
Stoch. Mr Stoch delivered his own milk on a bicycle. There was also a 3rd dairy in York
We bought vegetables and fruit from Mr Raad on the Main Rd or Mr Gallias in York
Road. Just down the road was Kents where you could buy anything.
James Morom on the Main Rd. sold everything from a pencil to paint and school
uniforms were bought from Dankers.
Who can forget the beef on rye from Irene Sack's delicatessen?
There were three pharmacies in Muizenberg – Shagams, Reichlins and Max Rosenberg.
The Doctors in the area to name but a few were Henson, Gordon, Shapiro, Novis,
Blumenthal and Kriegler. The dentists Drs Henderson, Viljoen and Eisman
Before school we all used to go down to the beach to swim, take a cake of soap and
I can remember the trekking of fish early in the morning and my dad taking home fresh
harders which my mother grilled for breakfast.
In those days one could get fresh Galjoen, Hardes, Hottentot and many more varieties of
fish. I can remember the fish cart - the horn blowing announcing their fresh wares.
We had an unspoilt and uncomplicated childhood
I lived in Yarmouth Road. On the corner was the boathouse, it was there that the 2nd Muizenberg Jewish Scout
movement held its meetings.
If you walked down Yarmouth Road you would pass the homes of Embdin, Singer, Loon,
Marcus, Frank, Coleman, Chaits, Glazer, Kaye, Hope, the Luries, Michael Lockitch,
Lazarus, Kushner, Miller, Shapiro and Oblowitz. At the bottom of Yarmouth Road lived
Gus Levine one of the characters of Muizenberg, he taught us how to play Beach Bats.
Behind me lived the Kastans, Dermans, Silbersteins, Garbs, Blumenthals, Apters,
Musikanths and many more – we were all friends, we still are all friends and still see each
My memories of Muizenberg are of a very happy time of a very close community, a big
family - of relationships that last to this very day. It is difficult to describe this close
relationship to anyone who did not grow up in Muizenberg. Muizenberg was so not
because of Muizenberg, but because of the people that lived there and the holidaymakers,
the camaraderie and love that existed between us, the relationships that were built and
still last. It was not a wealthy community; our parents were generally first generation
South Africans but it was a rich community, rich with love and respect.
We felt blessed –
we were living 365 days a year in this special place, a place that existed because of a set
of circumstances that came together, and will never come together again. A holiday resort
built by the British Empire and a set of Eastern European immigrants who were arriving
in a new country and who adopted this holiday resort even as the colonials abandoned it
and remoulded it to their image. But these people are all gone, as are all the aspects that made my youth so wonderful.
"We have the berg
We have the lake
The surf and endless sand"
We have all those memories of a wonderful childhood, of a wonderful loving and caring
community and of bonds that have lasted forever.
Dr. Mervyn Rosenberg is a third generation "Muizenberger" and has two sets of great-grandparents buried in Cape Town. He is married to Jackie with two children and three
grandchildren. He went to school and cheder in Muizenberg and sang in the shul choir
as a teenager. He studied dentistry at Witwatersrand Dental School and has been in
dental practice in Cape Town for 40 years. During varsity holidays he was a beach
photographer for Movie Snaps on the Muizenberg beaches.