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[Pages 525-527]

Notes on the Landsmanschaft of Rakishok

by A. Eidelman

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

I was the secretary of the Rakishok Landsmanschaft [organization of people from the same town] during the years 1936-1948.

Although the shtetl Rakishok is little known to me, because I was there only a few times for a few hours, I write these notes of mine with great joy because the work of the Rakishok “Society” is well known to me and close to my heart.

The name “Rakishoker” is actually a nickname for all Lithuanian Jews who emigrated from Lithuania. The Rakishoker Society consisted not only of Jews from Rakishok and surrounding [towns] such as Abel [Obeliai], Kamei, Ponedel [Pandelys], Ezhereni [Ezeranai], Dusiat [Dusetos] and others, but even Latvian Jews were members of the Rakishok landsmanschaft.

Forty years ago, the founders of the Society foresaw the possibility of a foreign “invasion” and, therefore, installed a plank in the constitution that said as long as there were 10 Rakishokers in the Society, the name, “Rakishoker Society” should not be changed.

The first founders of the Society were very proud of the founding constitution and, to this day, the younger members have not brought in any great, substantial changes to the constitution.

* * *

Jews from Rakishok and its environs were among the first Lithuanian Jews who, 50 years ago, started “to go” to Africa. It was usually done not with the thought of remaining in the unknown land, far from God and from family, but they traveled to Africa only for a few years in order to “make” several hundred pounds and, coming home, to exchange them for several thousand rubles. It was thought that with the earned money, an unmarried older daughter could be married and a warehouse could be opened.

Many Jews did this. They returned to Lithuania and opened wholesale businesses and grain warehouses. But when the goods from the flour warehouses or other enterprises that were distributed through loans among the poor retailers and shops and the wholesale stores began to decrease, they bought a ship ticket with their last few rubles to travel again to far Africa.

The longing by the men for their families was very great. Therefore, in many cases, they returned to their families in Lithuania and then emigrated again to South Africa.

There were poor as well as rich among the Rakishok landsleit in South Africa, but at the same time, the wealth was not that great, so there was not much of a difference from the poor elements. However, there was a reciprocal connection and a readiness, and if someone lacked a few pounds to send home, to buy goods or was short of money, he was not ashamed to borrow from a landsman.

They would come together often and talk about matters from home. They maintained the religious Yiddishkeit [Jewish culture]: prayed three times a day and tried not to work on Shabbos [the Shabbat].

From coming together closely and often came the idea to found the Society. For a few shillings of membership dues a month, each member or “brother” had free medical help, received a “fiver” or a “tener” as a loan, and also had the opportunity to meet landsleit at meetings and gatherings, and hear news from home.

The older members, or “brothers,” remember well how the Rakishok Society was created. They remember the first founding meeting of the Society and remember to this day all the details. A skyscraper now stands on the spot of the house where they met for the first time.

The activities of the Rakishok Society in the first years of its existence were already written about in an earlier article. I will only report certain characteristic details in connection with secretarial activities.

I took over the office of secretary in 1936, when the Society was already known in South Africa as one of the first landsmanshaftn that exhibited great aid activity on behalf of its members both materially and spiritually.

The first chairman of the society was also one of the first Rakishok pioneers: Reb Khona Kohan, of blessed memory. He was a devoted brother. He carefully watched the Society's every penny just as his own coins and, despite his poor health, he took an active part in the work until his last day.

There was then a member of the committee, Mendl Yoselowitch, of blessed memory, who was very active in regard to acquiring new members. I think that he was the only brother who tried to have all of his children and sons-in-law become members of the Rakishok Society.

One of the original founders of the Society was Yakov Snieg. Although he was also a member of other societies, he did the work of the Rakishok Society with dedication. He knew how to lead general meetings, bringing himself respect and trust.

Dr. Max Yaffe was very popular among the Rakishokers. In addition to being the Society doctor, he, as a Rakishoker, came to all of the Rakishoker events and entertainments.

Kuperman, the previous secretary of the Society, from whom I took over my secretarial post, was very devoted to the Society and always gave me encouragement in my work.

An extremely devoted and interesting worker for the Society was Reb Chaim Dovid Jaffa, of blessed memory. He was the treasurer, and according to the rules, those who needed to take loans had to come to the treasurer for endorsement and to sign the needed formalities. But Reb Chaim Dovid, despite his age and poor health would personally go to the interested people taking loans – in all parts of the city – and get their signatures.

I believe that the volunteers from Rakishok were an exception compared to the communal workers from other institutions. A member of the Rakishok Society never felt any dejection when he took a loan, but he thought that he was coming to a brother and taking money from a brotherly fund in which he was a member.

It is worthwhile to emphasize that in the course of my years in office as secretary, not one penny was lost or wasted by the Society. All lenders paid their debts with great punctuality. In the first years the Society would lend “fivers” or “teners.” Recently, the Society has given loans as high as 150 pounds. Loans are given to landsleit to buy a [word is not fully visible in text], a house or even a motor-car. It is also a fact that there are landsleit who take a loan from the Society because they have the superstition that this money is “lucky.”

The committee, it should be understood, primarily gave to the needy landsleit, but no one was ever refused a loan. If the fund lacked money, the committee members “found a way.” The committee would turn to the gmiles khesed [interest-free loan] fund in such cases and help out its landsleit.

* * *

The Society also aided the landsleit in the area of medical help. It responded to various charity appeals and to the extent of its ability contributed to various funds. During the last World War, the Rakishok landsleit organized a special Aid Society.

The Society is represented on the Board of Deputies and in other central Jewish communal institutions.

[Page 528]

The Family Manne-Manelewitz

by S. Rubin

Translated by Michael (Jakubowics) Jackson and Ralph Weiner

Rakisher Jews have contributed a fair amount to the development of commerce and industry in South Africa. Among the Rakisher community, the Manne-Manelevich family occupies a prominent place.

The Manelevitch family originates from a very distinguished background. The Grandfather, Yitzchak Manelevitch, was known in Rakishok as Reb Yitzchak Manelevitch, a dignified and respectable businessman. He dealt with flax and items that had to be smoked. He was well known in the area.

Avraham Mendel was the son of Yitzchak Manelevitch. He received a traditional Jewish upbringing and inherited his father's noble character. He married into a fine family. His wife, Judith Blond, was the daughter of Yitzchak Blond from Kreitzburg, who had a prominent place in the business world. His family background was known throughout the area, and he was also a respected Talmudist.

Avraham Mendel and his wife Judith became the parents of six children. The parents, being modern, gave their children a modern upbringing in parochial and secular schools in Panevich and Vilna.

Avraham Mendel took charge of his father's businesses and handled it honorably.

Avraham Mendel's oldest son, Moishe, was the first pioneer to settle in South Africa in 1910. He went through all the stages of a newcomer in a strange country. In 1922, he brought his brother Sholem to South Africa. In 1925 he brought his brother Eliahu to South Africa. To date, they have a chain of shoe stores.

Their parents and sisters arrived in 1929. With modest steps the brothers Manne-Manelevitch started a little shoe store in a suburb named Jeppestown.

The brothers worked their way up and now have a large shoe company named ABC. The company consists of 11 stores and 300 employees.

Sholem Manne Manelevitch, now deceased, had great talent and energy, and was responsible for the growth of the business. He was a person imbued with great knowledge and culture.

Sholem Manne was also well versed in Hebrew culture and literature. He and his brothers were very active in all types of causes, especially Jewish ones.

Sholem Manne passed away very suddenly at age 50, leaving behind a name for himself as a modern cultured intellectual who loved his people and his culture.

The brothers' parents passed away in 1937. The children honored their parents by upholding their traditions with great love and respect.

The Rakisher family Manne-Manelewitz is well known in South African Jewish circles as having good hearts and are highly respected.

[Page 530]

The Thorny Path
of Jewish Immigration to South Africa

by J. M. Sherman

Translated by Rae Meltzer

It is truly a significant and important undertaking of the Jews of Rakishok to publish a Yizkor Book, which will be a memorial for the Jews of Rakishok whom the Nazi murderers annihilated. It will also be a memorial for the Jews who came here (South Africa) years and years ago. They struggled against harsh and severe conditions and obstacles that they found here. They persisted in their struggle and found a way to survive and preserve the Jewish way of life in South Africa. Their struggle and disappointments, their anguish and suffering, was that of new immigrants who come to a strange land and find a foreign language, with unfamiliar customs and economic conditions. Nevertheless, they persevered and cleared a path! All of their experiences from the very beginning are full of rich historical material and are of great significance and interest. They must be written down so that the children, grandchildren and future historians will learn how the Jews of South Africa, beginning as immigrants, achieved the status of citizenship in South Africa. It is good that the Jews of Rakishok are documenting all of their history. Let us hope their efforts will prove to be an example to others. The time is short. The generation of the first Jewish immigrants to South Africa is getting fewer in number and much important historical material is therefore being lost.

Taking the example of Rakishok, (although I am not a landsman) I would like to write about some of the details of the life of the Rakishok immigrants to South Africa, as I knew them first hand from the period of the Boer War. The Jewish immigrant, whether he came from Rakishok or from Poshvitin (my shtetl) experienced a very similar situation, with only minor differences. I am describing the immigrant situation in Johannesburg, but there was very little difference in the Jewish immigrant's situation in Cape Town or the other large cities. It was the same process, with similar occupations and similar living situations.

Immediately after the Boer War ended in May 1902, Jewish immigration to South Africa increased. When the Boer war broke out in 1899, many Jews returned home and many went to Cape Town. After the war they came back to Johannesburg and there was a new strata of fresh immigrants: young men who ran away from “priziv” (military conscription in Czarist Russia), heads of families (young and older) forced to immigrate for economic reasons, political refugees, and also some adventurers. The stopping-off place for most of the immigrants was the Johannesburg suburb named Berea. The gentiles, who were the first to come rushing to South Africa after the discovery of gold there in 1886, slowly left Berea, and the immigrant Jews replaced them, occupying almost all the vacant houses and opening various businesses. They built synagogues, “houses of learning,” and talmud torahs, supporting rabbis and "shokhtim" (ritual slaughterers), as well as quarreling about who would be warden of the synagogue, who would run community institutions, and other community issues. Generally they wanted, and they soon succeeded, in transforming Berea into a small Lithuanian or Polish shtetl.

A large number of both the new and the earlier immigrants were “single" individuals whose families remained in the old home. These "singles" lived:

In small rooms without air or light,
(There are two sleeping in that tiny room),
The walls are black; covered with growing
mosses, mushrooms and all kinds of grasses.
The windows are broken and covered with paper,
The door is full of holes and the floor is all cracked....
These little rooms were smaller than described in the above poem. They were all over Berea: in the sexton's yard, in Goldberg's yard, and in the small sexton's yard which was near the "green " house of learning (beth midrash)--two stories up a room for a nap with a green balcony above so the tenants in the top rooms should not fall down. Such rooms to rent were also found in Fordsburg, Everton, and in other existing suburbs of Johannesburg. (Doornfontein was then an upscale suburb). The rent for one of these little rooms was two to three pounds per month, but the first and early immigrants did not have it in their power to pay so much rent. They would double-up two to a room and, in the larger rooms, three to a room. The walls were black from the smoke of the “primus cooking stove” which everyone had for cooking food, and boiling water for tea, etc. The food was prepared on the run, and men who in the old home never even boiled water for tea had to learn to cook here. The food did not always come out tasting superb, and one ate hurriedly, not wanting to waste time eating instead of earning money. The result was that many had stomach ailments. There were also some who simply denied themselves food in order to save the money. This was called “kishke­ gelt” (intestine-money). There were very few of this kind, but they did exist, and if they survived, they paid dearly with their health.

What kind of occupation did the "greeners" (new immigrants) get? As I mentioned before, many Jews went to Cape Town at the outbreak of the Boer war and returned to Johannesburg immediately after the end of the war. Amongst them were storekeepers, dealers, merchants, and craftsmen. Due to the war, many of them were ruined financially, but knowing the conditions and situations of the country, they soon rehabilitated themselves. The new Jewish immigrants therefore found a more stable Jewish community and economy: butchers, tailors, shoemakers, restaurants, food-stores, etc. The "greener" who had a skill or trade made his way more quickly, but the majority were "luft-menschen" (air-people). What could they do? Their friends and landsleit advised them to try different things:

become a “tryer” (peddler) with “boser-kosher” (kosher meat), bread, and vegetables; buy old clothes, sacks, and bottles; go out with a basket of eggs, with a few chickens--and you have a business and you are a business man. There is no more available existence among local Jews; and if there is, it carries a different character and different “face.” Even "tachen" is already historic. But let us go in order."
How does one become a peddler with "boser-kosher"? This is not an item that one can save from one day to the next, or weeks even, as one can with household items like pots or cloth. Therefore, the first task is to get customers who will be ready to buy meat from the peddler. The peddler had to enlist his friends and landsleit to commit themselves to buy meat from him, and to recruit their acquaintances who had families and even those who were "singles" to become customers. The customer that the peddler got was usually at the expense of another or even the butcher who sold the meat to the peddler. However, since there was a continuous stream of new immigrants arriving every month, no one worried or objected to the process. The butcher also did not object to this arrangement--he had his steady customers and the more peddlers he had coming to him to buy meat, the happier he was. Thus, instead of having to deal with 20 or more women customers, he deals with one customer who buys large quantities at one time. Of course, he has to sell to the peddler for a somewhat lower price so the peddler can earn a percentage profit for his livelihood.

Now that he has several customers, the peddler comes to the butcher shop every evening. In those years, between 1902-1907, all businesses and stores remained open until late in the evening. The peddler gives a list of his customer's orders: ribs, flanken, breast, soup-meat, tongue. etc. Having bargained energetically with the butcher for an extra bone or fat (which his customers warned him not to forget) he separates the portions on a table or board, puts a piece of paper with the name and address of each customer on each portion, and goes home. The following day, he will come to the butcher shop very early to wrap every portion of meat in paper, write down the name and address on each wrapped portion, and put all the packages of meat in his sack. If he also has customers for bread, he goes to the bakery after the butcher shop and chooses some white and dark bread and bagels.

The following morning he will carry two bags over his shoulder on his back--one bag of meat and one bag of bread. Thus, whether it was cold or burning hot, in dust or in rain, with two sacks over his shoulders, one with meat and the other with bread, the peddler went from customer to customer (often quite a distance from one another). When he returned home he was exhausted, hungry, and beaten. "The customer is always right." The women customers who gave him their orders and took them away made his life bitter and shortened his years with their complaints. One complained that he was too late, and the other that he was too early; one objected that the meat was too fat, and the other that it was too lean; one was angry that he did not bring more bones for her soup and another that he forgot to bring the "calf-hoofs" for her “petsha,” etc. From these peddlers came some Jews who became rich. First of all, they bought a horse and wagon. This gave them the resources to enlarge their clientele by covering a larger area. Then they started taking orders for dry goods: handkerchiefs, tablecloths, bed linens, and blankets; pots, oil, herring, knives, graters, and anything that a customer required or requested. When they were tired of driving around and had already amassed quite a good sum of capital, they sold their business for a good price and opened a clothing store or iron business in the center of the city's business section. They brought their families from home to South Africa and established themselves in their new country.

The Jewish population grew, spread out over the city, and began to settle in new suburbs. Butcher shops opened up in these new suburbs and the housewives took the trouble to go themselves to shop at the butcher shop. The peddlers were no longer economically profitable or viable and they slowly disappeared from the Jewish street. The butchers, who had customers some distance out, delivered the customers’ orders by black messengers. Even today one can see blacks on bicycles with packages of meat and bread, rushing through the streets. The former peddlers went into other businesses. Some became butchers with their own shops. Others opened other types of shops and some transformed themselves in the province. Some traded in produce and other products, wool and leather, or even became "tachers."

The majority of the peddlers were married, and while some had their families with them, others had their families in the old homeland. These occupations did not appeal to the bachelors. They found occupations elsewhere, becoming waiters in restaurants, employees in taverns, bars ("soda-water stores"), and "kaferaiteh" (kafir-eating-houses restaurants for blacks), and the businesses around the gold and coal mines. The restaurants (kosher, of course) and the taverns and bars were clubs where friends met. The new arrivals (“greeners”) came there to search for jobs and often did find work there. When a special event occurred, like the closing of a partnership, or a marriage proposal, there was a gathering in the restaurant or the tavern to “water it down” with a glass of tea, a flask of lemonade which one brought, or the tavern-owner volunteered a flask of whiskey. In the tavern, Jews also practiced playing cards until late into the night, discussed politics, talked about race issues, raised or lowered reputations, and considered who were the worthy people.

“Kaferaiteh” existed at every shop that was close to a gold mine or coal mine, but they also existed in places where there were no mines. Wherever they existed they were illegal for hygienic reasons. In and around the “kaferaiteh" (restaurant) there was always an odor of bad meat and dead cats. The place had neither floor nor ceiling. The tables were black and shiny from spilled fat soup, melted candle-wax, and syrup. In the summer, a multitude of flies lay siege to the walls, the tables, the meat, and bread; they fell into the hot soup, the hot tea, and the dough for meat-biscuits. The work shift in the kaferaiteh was very long, perhaps as long as 18 hours per day and even more. The shift might last all day and night--as long as 24 hours. Because the pay was much greater in the kaferaiteh than in the shop, many went to work in a kaferaiteh. But many others did not because it was considered a low level of work, and to be called a “kaferaitenik” was to be insulted and reviled. Probably this stems from the fact that the place was always dirty and smelly and the people who frequented the place, including the white people, went about unclean. There was no supervision about cleanliness, as exists today. But this was only about “kaffers,” so who cares and what difference does it make?

In the gold and coal mining shops, the atmosphere was cleaner, but the working day was also very long--from six in the morning to seven or eight in the evening. (No unions of workers existed as yet). The pay for a "greener" was 10 pounds for three months, with free meals and lodging. It took quite a while to reach the pay of 10-15 pounds for three months. The boss of the concessions handled his workers according to his plan: they kept one or two experienced assistants, the rest were “half or all greener,” who were being trained by the assistants to be salesmen. If one of the "greeners" became dissatisfied with his pay and was bold enough to ask for a raise, he was told (8 out of 10 times) to look for another place. In his place they employed someone else for 10 pounds for three months. If the employee showed signs of becoming a good clerk, then they gave him a raise with a pound or two, because a good clerk could easily get a position in one of the concessions.

Being one of those who earned the “princely” salary of 10 pounds for three months, I later became interested in these workers in the "kaferaitehs" and in the shops around the gold and coal mines. I wondered about their eventual fate. What was the pattern of their lives? I followed it for a long time. The results I found were that most of them continued to work until their late 30's. Then, exhausted from their hard work and way of life, they let themselves be courted by a small dowry, opened a grocery, and worked together with their wives. Others took over a kosher restaurant from someone, or a "soda water store" and went with the Jewish "flow." They became a member of a congregation or joined the Zionist organization. Others joined prophetic factions, while some became chairmen of their landsmanshaften and active in charitable institutions and organizations. Very few of the multitudes of working men became owners of a concession, but the Jews became conspicuous.

One of the occupations that the newcomers (greeners) chose was trading in old clothes. They continued in this occupation even after they were no longer newcomers, and were only "half-green". Having received a loan from a charitable society or from friends who helped, the immigrant bought some old coats and went out on the street to find customers:

All day from early in the morning until late,
You'll find him always on the street,
On his back he carries a large sack,
Full of old clothes.
He goes from house to house
And knocks on every door
And as with all humility for charity:
“Can you help me with something?“
He knocked on the doors of poor homes, and not necessarily of Jewish homes. Perhaps he avoided Jewish homes because he was ashamed of running into landsleit who knew him from home as a good teacher, student, or merchant. He was ashamed to write home to his family and tell them what he was doing. “I am doing ‘business,’” he wrote home. He also went among the blacks, perhaps his best customers. They were dreadfully poor and old coats cost a lot less than new ones.

Later, some of the more experienced clothing-traders rented stores and conducted their business with more success; others went into businesses such as lumber, furniture, and glassware. Those who could not or did not want to deal in old clothes, constructed a wooden box to which they nailed leather straps, filled it with cigarettes, candles, matches and slung the straps over the neck and went out to earn a living. They went around to restaurants.

Some of them would push the wagon with vegetables and on their neck carry the box with merchandise over their heart, until their heart weakened and their feet gave out. Thus, exhausted and broken in health and spirit, they returned home. Those who were stronger and more energetic remained and struggled to find a way. From pushing a wagon with greens, one became a produce and fruit merchant, and from the chest with cigarettes, matches and candles, one became owner of a tobacco shop, or even owner of a candle factory. Or two Jews would meet in a restaurant or tavern, both looking for some kind of occupation or business. They began to talk and discovered that one of them was no longer a “greener.” He was here during Paul Kruger's regime. The Boer War had disturbed and unsettled him. He has some money, he understands the language of the land, but not well enough to undertake “tochen.” The other man is still “half-green.” He does not have much money, but he thinks his friends will help him. He also wants to begin “tochen.” He understands that it pays well. The result of this conversation is that they became partners.

They bought a covered wagon and stocked it with merchandise that they thought the Boers needed, and the Boers needed many things. After the war the Boers were ruined economically. With the several million pounds that the British government gave to the Transvaal, some of the Boers were helped to get back on their feet. The Boer needed everything, from a shirt to a needle. "Tocher" was a Yiddish transliteration of the Afrikaner word "toch," meaning to ride or travel, but the Boer called him “smous” (peddler), in Yiddish, "a village storekeeper.” Thus the two Jews who met and talked it over established their partnership and began their “tochen.” The “toch” often lasted several weeks. The province at that time was sparsely populated and farmers lived quite far apart from each other, so the “tocher” had to ride a good part of the day in order to reach a farm. If he did not reach a community before night fall, he had to sleep in the fields, either under his wagon or in "godly" rapture under the spacious, comfortable sky, looking with wonder at the huge stars hanging in great profusion in space. Perhaps he was lying in the open field in dread and fright, shaking with every clap of thunder and the fiery lightening that lit up the whole area. He was drenched from the storms and rainfall. After that he traveled more slowly.

The relationship between the “smous” (peddler) and the farmer was a friendly one. Of course, there were exceptions on both sides, but generally they lived peacefully and dealt honestly with each other. Their business with each other was based on giving one's word rather than on written contracts. The Boer's attitude and relations with the Jews was a friendly one--first, because the Jew believed in the Bible, like himself, and secondly, because the Jew was the "newspaper" and political source for the Boer farmer. The “smous” came loaded not only with merchandise but also with news from the city and the wide world. The farmer talked politics with him and the Jew naturally agreed with everything the farmer said. The Jew was the enabler between the farmer and the city market--he bought the farmer's products and delivered everything that the farmer needed and gave him long term credit. The “smous” brought with him a civilizing influence to the far-flung corners of the land. Sometimes it was in the form of a new type of knife with a corkscrew, sometimes a clock that chimed every quarter-hour, or a wristwatch. Perhaps another time it was a curious toy or plaything, etc.

When the “smous” arrived at the farm, even if it was his first visit, he was welcomed with friendship. His horses were cared for and a good bed was made ready for him. Food was prepared for him and the farmer did not let him leave until he bought something from the “smous.” They always made purchases. The housewife had already prepared a list of items and articles that she wanted to purchase. In the morning, immediately after breakfast, everyone gathered on the veranda of the house: the farmer, his wife, children, neighbors, in-laws, daughter-in-law, son-in-law (if there were any), and asked the peddler to display his merchandise. The black man who traveled with him carries in two sacks with merchandise, takes the merchandise out of the sacks, and displays it on the floor of the veranda. Then the choosing and bargaining begins and lasts a couple of hours. In the end they purchase hammers, stockings, pants, linen, canvas, fabric for dresses, knives, spoons, and toys for children and grandchildren. The favorite toy was a mouth harmonica and a knife with two blades. The life of the "tocher" was not an easy one. For weeks and months he traveled around the land, never spending his nights in the place where he spent his days, often finding himself in the open fields in all kinds of weather. In addition he had to worry about collecting on the credit he gave his customers, not because his customers did not want to pay--they simply could not pay on time or even late. The scale of the farmer's production was small and there was no export market at that time. Even the “rich” farmer was not really rich enough, but on average, the loss was not big. By the time "tochen" went out of style, the economic situation of the country was much improved, and the province was also helped thereby. ­

Why did “tochen” fade away as livelihood? Because railroads spread out over the land. This new network of railroads brought the farmers in the villages close to the cities. Before the railroads came, if a Boer farmer wanted to go to the city with his family to do some shopping, he would “waste” at a minimum several days. This was not practical. Therefore, he depended on the “smous” to bring the merchandise to his doorstep so he could shop on his own veranda. But when the railroad network brings the train almost to his doorway, he can board the train and in a few hours he is in the city, does his shopping and returns home by train, all in just a half-day. The “smous” could not compete with the great volume and variety of merchandise in the city stores, and so the farmer soon preferred to shop in the city stores and the custom of ''tocheri" became unprofitable and ceased to exist.

The majority of former "tochers" did not give up hope: they started businesses at the train station and at cross-roads that led to the farms. Now, instead of traveling to the farmer, the farmer came to a specific “smous.” Now the Jew carried a larger and more varied amount of merchandise, since he was in a stationary place and no longer had to transport heavy sacks of merchandise from farm to farm over long distances. In time a town developed around the train stations and many Jews settled in them.

I have only identified certain traits and features of Jewish immigrant life in South Africa in the beginning of this century. These are important because the daily life and people's employment pursuits of the past illuminate how their character has been transformed in the present. Jewish life as I knew it in Berea was varied and had many sides to it. It had two functioning Jewish theater groups, a weekly newspaper, and "cheders" where Yiddish was taught as the foundation language. It was populated with rabbis, "shoichtim" (ritual-slaughterers), cantors, schools, and small synagogues, "aptekers" (druggists), and doctors. There was no lack of tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, watch-makers, and “turners.” [The Yiddish word “tokers” means “turners.” The English dictionary definition is, (1) “fashions or shapes objects on a lathe”; (2) “tumbler or gymnast.” In the context used here it could be either one.] There were fierce arguments between Zionists and socialists, and Jewish book-sellers loaned out books on “prikot.” [”Prikot” is not found in English or Yiddish dictionaries. Perhaps it is Slavic and in context used here may mean “on credit.”] Even a Jewish missionary was not lacking. Several times a month on Sunday he appeared in Berea on a street-corner, and for the Jews who gathered around him, he would talk about the wonders of Jesus and the uplifting quality of the Christian religion. The Jews around him laughed and threw questions at him. Sometimes heated discussions developed, so heated that the missionary barely escaped from the group and vanished. But this did not deter him from coming back again.

The life of the Jewish immigrant was very hard because he did not find in South Africa any organization that was on his side and concerned with his situation, no organization to help him economically or spiritually. The immigrant Jew had to undertake everything on his own shoulders--shoulders that were not always strong or broad enough for that burden. Perhaps, therefore, the immigrant sometimes followed a crooked path and lost his way. In general though, the Jewish immigrants who came to South Africa have nothing to be ashamed of--not as Jews and not as citizens.

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