A fascinating article on the history of The Strand...

Barnard and Leah Juter - (arrived in the Strand from Lithuania in 1920) behind them is thier Son Reuben Juter.

This article was written by Beryl Juter Baleson in memory of her grandparents Barnard and Leah Juter who settled in The Strand, Cape Province, in 1921 after their arrival from Pompian (Pumpenai) Lithuania.

Information contained in the first paragraph was acquired from a book on The Helderberg Towns at the Cape Town Municipal Library.

The list of early Settlers in the second paragraph was obtained from the records of the Jews Temporary Shelter in London where they stayed in transit between Eastern Europe and South Africa..

All further information was given by a family member.

This article is copyright and may not be used without the written permission of the author – balden@zahav.net.il

The Strand, which was originally known as Mosterd’s Bay, Hottentots Holland Strand, and then Somerset West Strand, nestles at the bottom of the Hottentots Holland Mountains in the Boland, Western Cape, about 30 miles northeast of Cape Town.

The first settler in the Hottentots Holland Strand area was a Huguenot, named David du Buisson who farmed in the area, on a farm named Vloobaai. There was an abundance of fish in this area, with the result that it became a fishing village at the end of the 17th century. The attraction of settlers to this area was the establishment of the de Beers Dynamite Factory in 1902, together with the prolific sea harvest all year round. This lead to the development of The Strand as a town as well as a seaside resort. It became a municipality in 1897.

The earliest Jewish settlers who arrived from Lithuania and Latvia were:

Morris Balonow arrived in May 1904 from Druja Vilna, Lithuania.
Harris Brodovsky arrived in 1899 from Kovno, Lithuania.
Morris Cheller arrived in 1902 from Kamay, Lithuania.
Joel Dorfan arrived in 1897 from Kovno, Lithuania.
Ephraim Epstein arrived in 1904 from Kovna.
Benjamin Friedman arrived from Lithuania in 1903.
Morris Geller arrived in 1905 from Kovno, Lithuania.
Rachmiel Jacobson arrived in 1902 fromPoniedel, Lithuania.
Max Meller arrived in 1902 from Kovno, Lithuania.
Meyer Millchian arrived in 1902 from Vilna, Lithuania.
Myer Miller arrived in 1899 from Malatt, Lithuania.
Nathan. Nochemowitz arrived in 1904 from Kovna, Lithuania..
Abe Schulman arrived in 1902 from Dvinsk, Latvia.

By comparison with other European groups of the Strand community, the Jewish Community have been more attached to The Strand than any others.

Jewish enterprise has done much to make The Strand one of the best shopping centres in the area.

There were varied occupations amongst the Strand residents such as general dealer stores; produce and timber dealers; farmers, merchants, managers, hoteliers, doctors and accountants.

Benjamin Friedman who started out as a general dealer in 1904, founded the Friedman and Cohen Department store. This was the largest Department store in the area.

A cinema was opened by Isaac and Rose Barenblatt in 1918 in the old town hall. In the 1930’s the Barenblatt’s opened the Empire Rialto Cinema.

The Somerset Strand (Strand) Hebrew Congregation was formed in 1902.
The first Synagogue was in Michau Street behind the Marine Hotel. Rent of 7s 6d. was paid monthly.

A permanent Synagogue was opened in 1930 in Wesley Street, its foundation stone laid by Mr Benjamin Friedman. In 1932 the Synagogue was Consecreated at which Reverend Hirshowitz of the Strand Hebrew Congregation together with Reverend Schlomow of the Somerset West Hebrew Congregation officiated. Afterwards a celebration was held in the Town Hall.

Payment by members at this time was 1 shilling a month.

The first Rabbi was Reverend Green, followed by Reverends Hirshowitz; Reverend Bordien; Reverend Gad and Rabbi Karwan.

Jewish Study classes for children were held at the Synagogue premises in the afternoons after attending school at Hottentots Holland School.

The Jewish congregation of The Strand grew from 60 people in 1904 to 40 families in 1918. In 1947 there were only 29 Jewish families.

In 1969 the Strand and Somerset West Hebrew Congregation combined to form the Somerset West-Strand Congregation.

The Synagogue remained empty until 1986 when it was sold to the Dutch Reformed Congregation for use as a Church.

In 1930 the Congregation requested the South African government to supply them with ground which would be suitable for a Cemetery. This permission was given and a Cemetery was built at the corner of Beach and Gordon’s Bay Roads in the Strand.

In 2003 the cemetery was vandalized and some Headstones were damaged, these have since been repaired and secruity improved. The cemetry it is still in use just two weeks ago Viv Perel one of the Somerset West members was burried there. (This insert was updated by Isaac Herring on the 1st June 2009 edited with permission of the author, thank you for your update)

The residents in the area were very active in the following Jewish societies i.e. Revisionist Society; Wizo; Ladies Benevolent Societies and the Union of Jewish Women

The beaches in the Strand attracted a large amount of Jewish people from all over the Western Cape in the summer, including the Young Israel Youth Movement who held their annual summer camp there. Unfortunately with the rise of the “Greyshirt” movement and anti-semitism becoming rife, the Jewish people of the Western Cape started using Muizenberg as a holiday resort. The Young Israel Camp moved its headquarters to Lakeside in the Muizenberg area.

By 1999 the Jewish Community had dwindled to five families.

These remaining members of the Jewish Community have now combined with the Somerset West Community and are known as The Strand – Somerset West Jewish Community.

I would like to add special word of thanks to Beryl Baleson for contributing this very interesting article to The Helderberg Basin Blog on this 15th Day of May 2009.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4/6/09

    As a matter of interest most of South African Jewry
    emigrated from Eastern Europe in the early 20th Century
    and settled in the Helderberg area plus Paarl, Elgin, Grabouw,
    and Hermanus. (I am not sure whether the last 4 towns
    mentioned by me fall under your category of the Heldeberg).

    As their children started growing up, finished school and wanted
    to develop their lives further, they moved onto Cape Town and its
    suburbs - in time the older generation also moved nearer their children
    in Cape Town. (Hence the lack of a Jewish generation in these towns
    to-day). Now I believe a younger generation of Jewish people from Cape
    Town are now living in Somerset West.

    Also, the younger generation as they got older, refurbished the new Synagogue
    in Hermanus and this area which until about 15 years ago had no Jews living in it,
    has to-day a big Jewish community who mainly bought holiday
    homes and come there for weekends and in general during the summer.

    with kind regards

    Beryl Baleson.


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