Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG
The Contemporary Community
Editor: Dr Saul Issroff
Copyright © 1999 Saul Issroff, Mike Getz, SAfrica SIG
and Jewishgen Inc.
Revised: 22 December 1999
The distinctive characteristics of this community as compared to other new world
The predominance of Litvaks ( Jews of origin in the Pale of Settlement) hence the
unusually homogenous composition of the community. In recent decades this has changed with
a large emigration of Jews to the USA, Canada, Australia, Britain and Israel. Political
and economic change has led to an influx of Zimbabweans, Israelis and Russian Jews.
The very strong influence of Zionism in the SA community.
The amalgam of Anglo-Jewish form and Lithuanian spirit which characterises the
institutions, both lay and religious of the community. The Jewish day school movement is a
powerful educational presence and its pupils consistently get excellent scholastic
Jews had formed part of a privileged minority dominating a multiracial society. This
has also led to Jews becoming prominent in the anti-apartheid and liberation movements.
Attempts were made to limit the influx of Jews, e.g. in 1903 by placing them in the
same category as Asiatics on the grounds that Yiddish was not a European language. This
ruling was successfully challenged and reversed. About 15,000 Jews entered between
1925-1938. In 1930 the Quota Act, without specifically mentioning Jews, was introduced
with the effect of limiting the influx to a small number by making
"assimilability" a criterion for admission. The rise of Afrikaner nationalism
coupled with its overt Nazi sympathies of many in the pre-War government led to more
severe restrictions. Between 1933-1936 only 3,600 Jews were permitted to enter. Probably
fewer 500 Jews entered during the Second World War period.