THE HARRIS FAMILY
by Sidney Mirvish, Ph.D. http://kaimowitzkatzkaye.weebly.com/the-harris-family-history.html
664, North 59th Street,
Omaha, Nebraska 68132, U.S.A.
Email: email@example.com. Tel: 402-551-1317.
For details about Dr Mirvish please see the very bottom of this page.
3 Polish origins: The Ospezin family in the 1870s and earlier
4 The Katz family
7 The stay in England
6 Early days in South Africa: Solomon and Celia Harris
10 The London Jewish Chronicle article
12 Later accounts of Swartmodder
14 Cape Town and the establishment of the S.A. Woollen Mills
16 Solomon and Celia Harris change numbers
16 Myrtle Lodge
20 Harry and Miriam Harris
23 Louis and Hilda Mirvish
33 Sidney and Lynda Mirvish
35 Miriam Mirvish
• 37 Julian Mirvish numbers to here
27 Doreen and Simcha Bahiri
27 Morris and Beccy Fram
28 Moshe and Isa0bel Erlanger
29 Woolf and Rose Harris
31 Joe and Hetty Harte
32 Izzie and Edie Harris
32 Isador and Connie Isaacson
35 Henry and Margaret Harris
37 Maurice and Meta Harris
38 Fate of the S.A. Woollen Mills
39 Jack and Bella Gesundheit
41 Izak and Hilda Rokach
42 Rita and Elchon Hinden
42 Jubby and Rachel Gesundheit
44 Jacky and Cecily Hachmi-Shvili
45 The Ospezin family in Israel
46 The Kaimowitz family
48 The Ritchkin family
49 The Katovsky family
51 The Gesundheit family in Cape Town
52 End of main story
A1 Appendix 1: Account of wedding of Maurice and Meta Harris, 1909 or1910
A3 Appendix 3: Correspondence between Jack Gesundheit and Woolf Harris in 1918
A15 End of Appendix
The story of the Harris family begins with the Ospezin and related families in the early 1800s near Lodz in Poland, involves a migration from Poland to South Africa in the 1880s starting 125 years ago, and migrations from South Africa and Poland to Israel, and later to England, France, Switzerland, Spain, the U.S.A., and Australia. The family began as orthodox chassidic Jews and most of the family are still Jewish. We certainly fulfil the image of the Wandering Jew (yehudi noded). Initially, the Harris family in South Africa all worked together in the same businesses of sheep and ostrich farming, running a trading store and then establishing the South African Woollen Mills (SAWM). Today, a few members of the family remain in the textile industry, but most are scattered among different occupations.
Perhaps a lesson to be learned is to see how much the family in its early days in South Africa assisted each other by setting up family businesses, establishing individual family members in business and helping each other financially. Just because the family is so scattered, members will, I hope, be interested in this account to inform or remind them of their roots. I ask forgiveness if I have offended anyone. I tried not to, but the story was less interesting if it was presented too blandly. If anyone can add details, especially about the early days, I will be very grateful.
As the principal author of this account, I at least have the advantage that I have known members of the family while growing up and later on in South Africa, while I was a student in England, while living in Israel and even here in the U.S.A. Please excuse the emphasis on my immediate family. Most of this account deals with the Harris family down to my generation and has relatively little about more recent family members, many of whom, I am sure, have interesting stories to relate. .
This account will describe the early history of the Ospezin-Harris family, their adventures in the north-western part of the Cape Province of South Africa, their move to Cape Town, the role of the “family seat” of Myrtle Lodge” and the founding of SAWM. I will then outline stories about individual family members, starting with my grandparents Harry and Miriam Harris and their descendants, and then moving to Woolf and Rose Harris, Henry and Margie Harris, Morris and Meta Harris (who all lived most of their lives in Cape Town) and Jack and Bella Gesundheit, who spent the latter half of their lives in Tel-Aviv. In each case, I will describe the lineage and tell stories about these people and their descendants. Then I will describe four families related to the Harris family, namely, the Ospezin family in Israel and the Kaimowitz, Ritchkin and Katovsky families in Cape Town. Finally, three documents are attached as Appendices 1-3. The lineage is given in a standard format, in which each generation is indented by 7-8 spaces, and siblings are listed in order of age.
My spell check program dictated that American rather than English spelling is used, except for direct quotes. Apart from English, the story includes many words in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Afrikaans, as well as a smattering of words in African languages, German, French and even Arabic. Where necessary, these words are generally followed by a translation into English. In Hebrew words, I have usually but not always omitted the final ‘h’ (heh). In the text and genealogical tables, “b” stands for “born,” “d” for “died” and “m” for “married.” In the genealogical tables, each successive generation is indented about ten spaces to the right.
I am extremely grateful to Michael Chen of Herzlia-Pituach, Israel, who supplied many details from his genealogic research, including his family tree, details about the early history of the Harris family, the account of the Katz family that he obtained from the USA, the study by him and his wife Nava of the grave of Celia Harris in England and recent information about the Gesundheit family. He also sent me by email copies of several pictures in the Hilda Rokach diary, that he kindlyasllowed me to reproduce. Some material was sent to Michael from official records by Paul Cheifitz in Cape Town, a member of the Cape Town Genealogical Society.
When I visited Israel in 1997, Jubby Gesundheit supplied many memories of his childhood in Cape Town.
During my visit to Cape Town in February, 1999, Richard Newman, at that time curator of the Jewish Museum there, and my brother Julian, who was then the chairman of the Jewish museum committee, supplied several important documents from the museum and from Julian’s collection about the Harris family. Richard Newman had begun his own account of the Harris family, including his findings about the earaly history of Sweartmodder, and I am especially grateful that he gave me all his material. During the same trip to Cape Town, Julian gave me copies of papers from a large file that he had kept for 40 years containing old Harris documents, including Appendix 3.
More recently, Gwynne Robins helped considerably by reading musch of the manuscript and seniding me additional material, including the account of the Mohel (ritual salghterer), Mr. Matz, and about the history of Lodz. Gwynne works at the Jewish Board of Deputies in Cape Town and has written extensively on the history of Cape Town Jewry and Cape Town in general, incuding a recent article on my Dad, Louis Mirvish, in xxx.
Celie Raphaely, Roma Gottlieb, Monica Richkin, Myer Katovsky, Solly Kaye and Benny Kaye supplied much additional material during and just after my visit to Cape Town in 1999. .
I am especially grateful to my wife Luynda, who has followed my labored writing with great interest, listened to endless accounts of this labor, offered me considerable support during the writing, and has read and critiqued the whole document.
The Harris family in Poland was Ospezin (pronounced Os-PITZ-en) in Poland; the Polish spelling is Oszpicyn. According to Tamara Hazlewood (who lived in Oxford), the name is Aramaic and means "guests". However, A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames in the Kingdom of Poland, publiahed in 1999,states that Oszpicyn derives from the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz). Confirming this, Michael Chen said that Jubby Gesundheit said that his mother Bella told him that Ospezin was the name of a place. The Ospezin family lived in a shtetl (village) 45 km southwest of Lodz called Zdunska-Wola, according to Tamara. The Ospezin family worked in the textile industry there. In the late nineteenth century Lodz was the industrial capital of the Russian empire, of which Poland was a part.
The foloowing describes some of the history of Lodz: “Jews played a large part in all branches of the textile industry, which caused the rapid development of the city in the nineteenth century. They gave a concert in the courtyard of the textile factory of Israel Posnansky. The factory was enormous, taking up the equivalent of many city blocks. There were plans to convert the whole area into a large shopping mall with restaurants, a theatre, and an arts and crafts centre. Among the show places in Lodz are the textile factory and the palaces where Posnansky and his sons lived, which are now museums and government buldings.
During the Holocaust, the Nazis set up a ghetto in Lodz, where they concentrated the Jews before sending them to the extermination camps. The ghetto was liquidated in 1944 along, presumably, with those members of the Ospezin family who had not had the foresight or luck to leave Poland“.1
Woolf Harris told his daughter, Celie Raphaely, that his family had a loom in their house and worked all week on the loom. On Fridays they took the cloth they had woven to the boss and got paid for it. Her cousin Jubby thought that the family may have worked in the spinning or weaving parts of a textile factory, since this would have given them the background and expertise to open the S.A. Woolen Mills. However, Woolf learned the business much later in Europe - see below.
Like most Polish Jews, the Ospezins were Chassidim aand functioned as a tight family clan, as was usual among Polish Chassidim. It was ssaid that the Chassidim were imaginative and more interested in new ideas and feelings than the other Jews (the Mitnagdim), who predominated in Lithuania, where most South African Jews came from. My father, who came from Lithuania, said that this Chassidic background gave the Harris family both the family solidarity and the imagination to start the SAWM. The Mitnagdim, my father said, were stronger on intellectual reasoning, but not as good at taking leaps of action and having faith in the results of their action.
THE OSPEZIN FAMILY FROM 1800
Chaim and Rivka Ospezin, b. about 1800
Tsvi Hirsch Ospezin (b 1826) m. Hinda Lenchitski (b 1828, father, Hanoch Zeev)
Solomon (Shlomo Zalman) m. Celia (Zisel) Katz
Harry (Chanoch Zeev) m. Miriam (his niece)
Menachem Mendel m. Sarah Gittel Makover
Tsvi Hirsch Ospezin m. Hinda (second wife)
According to the birth certificates of Solomon and Harry Ospezin2, their father was Tsvi Hirsch. The Hebrew (Tsvi) and Yiddish (Hirsch) names both mean a deer. Tzvi-Hirsch Ospezin was born in 1826 and was a merchant. His parents were Chaim and Rivka Ospezin, presumably born about 1800. The mother of Solomon and Harry was Hinda, whose maiden name was Lenchitski (Leczycki in Polish). Her father was Hanoch Zeev Lenchitski. The name Lenchitski comes from the town of Lenchitska, district center of Kalisz gubernia (district), 38 km north-west of Lodz. Tsvi Hirsch and Hinda Ospezin lived in Lask, which is a village 32 km southwest of Lodz.
Hinda and Tzvi Hirsch Ospezin had three sons. Their oldest son was Solomon (Shlomo Zalman, b. Lask, 1853; d. Cape Town, 1918). Their second son was Harry (Chanoch Zeev, b. Lask in 1862, d. Cape Town in 1938), who was probably named after his maternal grandfather. The death certificate of Harry Harris said that he was born in Lask, Poland, and that his parents were Hirsch and "Hilda" Harris. (Hilda was an English rendition of the Yiddish name Hinda.)
The third son was Menachem Mendel. I remember mention of him when I was a child. Attached is a photo of Harry and Miriam on a visit from Cape Town back to Poland with Harry's father Tsvi, Tsvi's second wife called (like his first wife) Hinda, Tsvi's son Menachem Mendel, and Menachem Mendel's wife Sarah Gittel Makover. I also have a photo of Harry, Miriam and Mendel, taken in Bad Kadowa in Poland or Czechoslovakia by the photographer Arthur Gimbel.
THE KATZ FAMILY
Solomon and Celia (Yiddish name Zisel, nee Katz, b. 1853, d. 1911) Ospezin were married in 1868. The father of Celia was Yaakov Yeshaia Hacohen Katz. We do not know the name of Celia's mother. Celia's mother and Yaakov Hacohen Katz also had two sons, Moshe Nechemia and maybe Meir. 3 Rabbi Nehemia Kohen, a famous rabbi
Moizeh Leib Katz, a broker or agent in Lodz
Fiszel Katz of Piotrkov
Sara, wife of Ezra Lichtenstein, a dayan (judge) in Lodz
Jente, married in Piotrikov
Jakob Yeshaya Katz, a middleman in Lodz
Zysla Celia, m. Zalman Ozpecin
At the time when surnames were given (after Napoleon conquered Poland), Nehemia chose the name Kohen and Wolf chose the name Katz (cohen tsedek) as both were Cohanim (Cohens). After Wolf got married, he settled in Piotrkov and then moved to Lodz. This is the origin of his nickname “Wolf Piotrkover”. This account form Poland says Zalmam and Celia emigrated to South Africa, lived in Cape Town and “made a fortune of millions in diamonds and gold.“ ”His relatives in Lask were not forgotten and he supported them generously.”
A Rabbi Yoel Fryd drew up the following genealogy, or Yichus Letter, in the year 5691 (1931) in the city of Lodz.4 There seem to be too many rabbis or other people of considerable stature or wealth in the list and we have no idea about its sources. At any rate, the following is part of the Yichus Letter.
“There was a man here in Prague that was great in Torah, wealth and Yicjhus that came to Prague from those that were exiles from the holy congregation of Uban (Nbudapest) because of a libel that was fabricated there. This man was called Rabbi Akiva from Uban. He was called to the Yeshiva above (i.e., died) in the year 5256 (1496). He was known as an expert in Royal Court customs and, because of jealousy, the nobles of Hungary in Uban fabricated a libel. He came here (to Prague) and built a great, respected house and spread Torah in the generation of Rabbi Yaakov Falk, who was the Av Bais Din (head of the rabbinical court) here at this time. This is the language of the book “Mogflas Yuchsin” that was arranged by our master Rabbi Meir Perelis in the year 5493 in Prague.
Our Rabbi Akiva the Kohen had 12 sons and 13 daughters. He married 12 of his daughters to Cohanim to bless [Ko Sivorchu - so shall you bless. KO (caf-vav) is the equivalent of 25. Rabbi Akiva interpreted this verse to mean that the optimal blessing is when 25 Cohanim which, when counting his 12 sons, his 12 son-in-laws who were Cohanim, as well as himself, equaled 25 Cohanim who participated in the blessing.
One of Rabbi Akiva’s sons was Reb Gershon the Kohen whose descendants all sign thermselves as being from the family Gershoni. Reb Gershon had a son who was the great leader Rabbi Yitschak the son of Rabbi Shimshon, who was the son-in-law of the great and holy Maharaj from Prague (the famous rabbi who controlled the Golem robot - S.M.). Rabbi Yitschak had sons who were famous Geonim (gifted geniuses - S.M.): The great Gaon Rabbi Naftali Katz, the Av Beis Din (head of the rabbinical court) of Posen, the author of Semichus Chachomim, Rabbi Yeshiya the Kohen, the Av Beis Din of the holy congregation of Pzemuslo, and Rabbi Yehuda Leib, the Av Beis Din of the holy congregation of Plaatsk, which is in the country of Preisin.
Rabbi Yeshaya had three sons, the great Mekubal (expert in Kabalah) Rabbi Moshe, the Av Beis Din of Pzemuslov; Rabbi Bezalel, Av Bais Din of the holy congregation of Yasi; and the honored Gvir (wealthy man) Reb Nisan the Kohen. A wondrous story is told about Reb Nisan concerning his miraculous escape from two rabid dogs on his way to the holy and pure Rabbi Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement) from the city Mezbez. This story is well known to the entire family. Reb Nisan had one son and two daughters. One of the daughters was Esther, the wife of the great leader Rabbi Zeev Wolf. They had a son Reb Fishel the Kohen, who had a son Reb Beinish the Kohen. Reb Beinish had a son, the righteous Rabbi Moshe Nechemiah, Av Bais Din of the holy congregation of Warta (d.1835)”.5
The following is a summary of this genealogy in chronological order.6 Each number indicates a different generation. People who are listed in sections 12a to 14 are also listed in earlier tables of the present account.
1. Akiba Katz from Uban, Hungary
2. Gershon Hacohen
4. Rabbi Itzhak Katz, m. Leah, daughter of Ha-Maharal. After her death, probably in childbirth, he married her sister Feigele.
5. Naftali Katz from Lublin (d. 1648). Author of “Peirot Ginossar”
6. Itzhak Katz II (b. 1608; d, 1695). Author of “Simchat Chachamim”.
7. Yeshaya Hacohen.
9. Esther, m. Zeev Wolf.
10. Ephraim Fshel Hacohen.
11. Benjamin Beinish Katz the Cohen of Warsaw
12 Wolf Katz (Petrakover)
13. Jacob Yeshahu Katz
14. Cecilia Zisel Katz (b. 1852, d. 1911), m. Solomon (Shlomo Zalman) Oszpecin
Rabbi Fryd’s account also includes a biography and family history of Rabbi Moshe Nehemiah, a son of Benjamin Beinish Katz (no. 11). This states that Reb Fishel was called Efram Fishel Hacohen, that Beinish was a rich lumber merchant, who also owned a beer brewery, and that Beimish was a scholar and a pupil of Rabbi Akiva Eigen of Poznan..
The account also gives the biography of Wolf Katz (no. 12), which read as follows: “Wolf Katz was the son of Beinsh Katz from Warsaw and the brother of the famous Rabbi Nehemiah Cohen. At the time when surnames were given, Nehemiah chose the name Kohen and Wolf took the name Katz, meaning Cohen Tzedem (righteous Cohen). After Wolf got married he settled down in Piotrkov and then moved to Lodz. This is the origin of his nickname “Wolf Petrokover”. He had five children: (1) Mojzesh Lajb Katz, a middleman (or broker or agent) in Lodz. (2) Fiszel Katz of Piotrokov. (3) Jakob Yeshaya Katz, a middleman in Lodz. Jacob Yehaya married his daughter to Zalman Ozpecin from Lask, who immigrated South Africa and lived in Cape Town and made a fortune of millions in mines of diamond and gold 7
THE STAY IN ENGLAND
My father told me that "several men of the family," presumably Harry and his older brother Solomon, went tfrom Polando to Manchester in England, where they had an uncle, whose name (according to Celile Raphaely) was something like Hanson. Celie also thought that a member of the Hanson family preceded Solomon and Harry to South Africa, but we have no evidence for this view. The stay in England would have been from about 1877 to 1882 if they came to South Africa in 1882 (see below) and is mentioned in Harry's obituary in the Cape Times newspaper. If Solomon and Harry left Poland in 1877, they were then 15 and 24 years old. Solomon must have returned to Poland at intervals, probably at Yomtovim (Jewish holidays), because his children were born in Poland between 1875 and 1882. From Manchester, Harry and Solomon went peddling [were peddlers or did "shmose" with a hard second s (Yiddish)]. The uncle sent them wandering by foot through the farms around Manchester bearing trays of cheap jewelry and watches supported by straps around their necks, and told them to return by each Friday afternoon. If they did not come back by the beginning of Shabbat and spend a proper Shabbat with him, the uncle said, he did not want to see them again! (from my father)
Probably in England, Harry and Solomon changed their surnames from Ospezin to Harris, possibly because Ospezin sounded too foreign and ‘Harry Harris’ sounded nice. After perhaps 18 months of shmosing (peddling) and, presumably, learning English, Solomon and Harry Harris left for South Africa in about 1885. Diamonds were discovered on a bank of the Orangae River in 1867 and soon after that the ‘chimneys’ of blue diamond-bearing rock (the solidified material in the vents of extinct volcanos) were discoered in Kimberley. The early leaders of the diamond industry in Kimberley wre Cecil Rhodes, who first went from England to South Africa in 1870, and Barney Barnato, a Cockney Jew who emigrated to South Africa in 1873. A desire to emulate these pioneers was presumably the reason why the Harris brothers chose to go to Kimberley in South Africa.
When the S.A. Woollen Mills was finally closed, Neville Gottlieb found an old safe there. This contained a document signed by the British governor of the Cape Colony and Bechuanaland, Sir George Robert Robinson, granting Harry Harris citizenship in his territory of Bechuanaland. The document was dated 1895. Swartmodder was close to Bechuanaland (now Botswana). Robinson is mentioned in the Cecil Rhodes biography that aired on U.S. Public Television in 1998 as a toady of Rhodes.
In later years, the family kept in close touch with the Polish relatives who remained behind. There were old pictures and postcards of frequent return visits to Europe by Harry Harris and others of the family to see their family, among whom Mendel Ospezin was often mentioned. During these visits, they several times visited Carlsbad, the watering place in Czechoslovakia just south of Poland, and we still have souvenir deep blue and deep red glasses, ashtrays and sweet-dishes inscribed "Carlsbad" from that period. I read in one of Isaac Bashevis Singer's books that the Chassidic families from Poland who could afford it used to go to Carlsbad for holidays, so it was natural for the wealthy South African relatives to go there. Gwynne Robins told me that on a quite recent visit to Carlsbad, some of her family (the Shrire family of Cape Town) found that they still sold exactly the same types of porcelain souvenirs that her and our families had bought 100 years earlier.
EARLY DAYS IN SOUTH AFRICA: KIMBERLEY
Solomon and Harry Harris went initially to Kimberley and nearby Griqualand West in the Northern Cape Province. My father thought the date was 1880 and he mentions this date in his obituary of Harry Harris pyublished in the Cape Times, but we have no independent evidence for this date and it was probably several years later because Solomon’s daugahter Bella was born around 1882 – see above – and it seems unlikely that Solomon would wait ten years for his family to emigrate, which happened in and just after 1890.
Griqualand West was the family center from 1990 for at least 10 years. When I was a small boy, my grandfather Harry told me an illicit diamond buying (IDB) story while I was swinging on one of the two very large green iron gates at the bottom of the driveway of Myrtle Lodge.8 De Beers owned the principal diamond mines in Kimberley and of course watched the miners very carefully when they left the mine each day, in case the workers stole any of the diamonds that they had dug up. All people leaving Kimberley apparently were searched to ensure that they did not take anyy illicit diamonds. It was and still is illegal in South Africa to possess uncut diamonds that do not have documents to prove where they came from. At any rate, if one wanted to smuggle diamonds out of Kimberley, my grandfather told me, one could put them in dug-out holes in the outside edges of the wooden rims of ox-wagon wheels. These wheels were made by knocking together the wooden rim around the radial spokes. An iron rim was then heated in a furnace to expand it and was placed around the wooden rim. When the iron rim cooled, it contracted and held the wheel together. If the diamonds in the wooden rim were protected from the heat, they would be safe and never be detected when the owner left Kimberley. Later, they could be safely recovered!9
In 1890 Miriam, a daughter of Solomon, won some money in a lottery in Poland. She gave the money to her brother Woolfie (then 17 years old), who used the money to go to Kimberley. He traveled steerage class, but a kind ship’s doctor let him stay part of the time in a hospital room. He arrived in Cape Town with sixpence in his pocket (an orange then cost one penny). Within a year, Solomon sent money to bring the rest of his family to Kimberley (from Celie Raphaely). Julian had a photo of Solomon and his wife Celia Harris dated 18/1/09. I have a small framed photo of Solomon and Woolfie taken about 1890 at the Kimberley Photographic Studio, with Solomon seated and Woolfie standing behind him, both dressed in suits buttoned high up the front, above which are striped ties and a wing-tipped shirt collar. Both men are wearing small bowler hats. Solomon has a beard and Woolfie is clean-shaven or is too young to shave. I have other family pictures, mostly taken in Kimberley, one of which shows Solomon and Celia and their five children, with the men and boys wearing bowler hats and the women wearing dresses reaching up to the neck and down to the ankles and wrists, with very narrow waists. Other photos include one of Celia Harris seated at a fancy desk, taken by B. Harvey of Du Toit's Pan Road, Kimberley; one of Miriam Harris as a teenager taken by J.E. Middlebrook of Kimberley; one of Miriam as an adolescent taken by L. Zoner of Lodz, our only picture from before the family left Poland; and a cute picture of Miriam and her sister Bella as teenagers wearing long dresses (Miriam's reaches the ground), with each girl carrying a parasol. It appears that Celia Harris and her children stayed in Kimberley for about five years and then those members of the family who were not working at Swartmodder moved to Cape Town,. We know this because they bought Myrtle Lodge in 1895.
The Harris men did not stay too long in Kimberley. Instead, they trekked 500 km (300 miles) northwest. They went to the farm Swartmodder (which means “black mud”), which lies on the edge of the Kalahari desert, 150 km due north of Upington and close to the borders of Botswana (Bechuanaland) and Namibia (then German South West Africa). Upington is on the Orange River. The Harris brothers bought or went into a partnership to buy Swartmodder. In contradiction to this view, Appendix 3 states that, when Woolf Harris arrived in Kimberley in 1890, his father Solomon was established as a merchant in the diamond fields. Possibly the Harris brothers had two businesses at that time, one in Kimberley and one at Swartmodder. Appendix 3 checkalso mentions that the presence of the Harris brothers at Swartmodder was largely responsible for the annexation of the Gordonia district by the British as part of the Cape Colony and later of South Africa, presumably rather than it becoming a part of Namibia or Botswana.
My brother Julian had a photo of 17 men with walking sticks, all from Swartmodder. He also had photos of the buildings at Swartmodder, a phot of Jackalvlei (Jackal’s lake) dater 8 July, 1906, and recent photos sent by Mr. Engelbrecht, the owner in 1999 of the same farm, called by him Zwartmodder. One of these photos shows quite a large dam or pan (temporary lake), which, according to Isabel Rosenzweig, was then fed by a spring and is now fed by boreholes. Julian also had a map showing when the railways reached each town of South Africa - they reached Upington in 1915, when they presumably were very useful for the South Africans and British armies in their battle with the Germans in South West Africa during World War 1.
Why did the Harris brother choose the northwest Cape to move to? Julian thought it possible that the Harris brothers went there because previous members of their family had gone to that part of Southern Africa before them. Julian remembered that our Dad, Louis Mirvish, said that cousins of the Harris's had come out before them. In the 1880s a man called Harris was killed by Bushmen in Southwest Africa. This is mentioned in a book by G.A. Farini entitled “Through the Kalahari Desert: A narrative of a journey with gun, camera and note-book to Lake N’gami and back”, which describes a trip made in, apparently, 1886.10 On p. 169 Farini writes that Harris’s murder occurred at Kang Pan. The same book has a map showing Farini’s travels, including through Zwartmodder, listed as situated in Great Namaqualand, north of the Cape Colony. The route to it from the Orange River initially followed the Comsaab river and then passed through Hodap, Sorap Klip, Undas, Kheis, Leo River and Warmbakis. The source of the Black River is near Zwartmodder. On p. 383, Farini writes: “Following the banks of the river, from which the sand-waves to the north were plainly visible, and passing through Zwart Modder, a place with two stone houses and several werfs (?), we came to a brick farm-house, the residence of a French Canadian named De Jay, who had come to this country many years ago, and made his fortune hunting on the Kalahari, where, in one season alone, he cleared over 6,000 pounds sterling - nearly losing his life, however, another time, and having to abandon his wagons and oxen in the sands - and was now the possessor of 40,000 morgen of land, on which he had built two large stone dams and opened out two running springs, and which carried 1,540 cattle and 10,000 sheep.” This slaughter of the game is sad and explains how Swartmodder and the surrounding area were converted from a wild-life haven to sheep and cattle farming
Twice a year, just before Pesach (Passover) and Rosh Hashana (New Year), Solomon and Harry trekked back to Kimberley by ox-wagon with all the sheep that they wished to sell. For many years Kimberley was the nearest railhead to Swartmodder. In Kimberley Solomon and Harry sold the sheep and spent time with their families, who had meanwhile come out to South Africa and lived there. This explains, I was told, why most family members of the next generation were born nine months after Pesach or nine months after Rosh Hashana! Celie Raphaely mentioned that she had seen or had in her possession a note saying that the Harris brothers provided “supplies” (presumably sheep and cattle) to Cecil Rhodes. Some produce was apparently sold directly to De Beers Diamond Company and Julian suggested that the company may still have records of such sales. Julian found a map in the Jewish Museum of Cape Town listing all the water holes on the way from Upington to Kimberley. This map may well have belonged to the Harris's. The water holes were not further than 30 km apart, representing one day’s journey by ox-wagon.
My grandfather Harry Harris told me that the Kalahari desert was so hot that one just had to put an egg into the sand and it would get cooked.
THE LONDON JEWISH CHRONICLE ARTICLE
During my visit to Cape Town in 1999, Richard Newman (then curator of the Jewish Museum in Cape Town) and my brother Julian found the following article in the archives of the Jewish Museum of Cape Town. It was published in the London Jewish Chronicle of November 13, 1896, and took up most of page 16. The aarticle described Rosh Hashana (New Year) services organized in Upington by Harry Harris. The article mentions that the ox-wagon trip to the nearest railway line, which at that time was 300 miles away at Kimberley), usually took three weeks, though 1-2 individuals could travel the same distance in five days as passengers on the post-cart. The article also describes how the Harris brothers traded with the local people of different races. It reads as follows:
“A Remarkable Jewish Congregation in South Africa
(From a correspondent]
Upington, Gordonia, South Africa, Oct. 2, 1896
It will, no doubt, be of great interest to many readers of the Jewish Chronicle, to hear of Jews congregating in a desert to worship His Great Name, to read His commands from the Torah, and to listen to the blowing of the Shofar on the occasion of the recent great holidays Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (written in Hebrew script).
Upington is situated on the British Bechuanaland side of the Orange River, and bordering on the Kalabani Desert. The nearest railway station is about 300 miles distant, which is approached by ox wagon, occupying about three weeks, and occasionally five weeks. To travel through, one or two passengers can find accommodation on the post cart, which runs weekly, traversing the distance in about six days.
Being situated so far from the civilized world, it is very seldom, indeed, that members of our creed meet, though there are some who pursue the calling of traders, making their way through the desert with a large wagon drawn by 14, 16, 18, and at times 20 oxen, and barter their wares with the Boers and the various coloured people of all races, including Kaffirs, Hottentots, Bastards, &c., for oxen, sheep, goats, ostrich feathers, karosses, skins, and other African produce.
It is here, in Upington, where the congregation was assembled. Messrs. Harris Brothers, who are the principal storekeepers in this part of Africa, procured a Sepher Torah and Shofar, and also engaged a Shochet, for the purpose of observing and keeping up the Jewish religion as far as lay in their power, and it is to them that many thanks are due for the hospitality and kindness they have shown not only to Jews but Christians also. After having traveled through the desert, where, owing to the scarcity of water and the bad veldt, the live stock have perished, traders have arrived here, in a more or less dilapidated condition, after having undergone hardships and hard work to make a little money, with little or nothing to their name. It is this firm who have acted the good Samaritan and started these people on their legs again by supplying them with goods and other necessities, and accepting the produce and live stock brought in by the traders in payment.
• Mr. Harry Harris, who is the managing partner of the firm, determined to get together a Minyan in order to celebrate these great festivals, and after very assiduous labour, and expense was eventually rewarded by having no less than twelve men present as his guests, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Some of them had traveled a distance of over 100 miles in order to take advantage of this good and Godly opportunity. The New Year and Fast were observed here with all due solemnity. The prayers were read with a heart-felt fervency that could not be witnessed Aat home@ in our civilised countries. Men saw here the Torah which they had not had an opportunity of seeing for years. The reader can well understand, particularly if he has visited this part of the globe, the joy it gives to one=s heart to think that under such circumstances, he is worshipping the Almighty God in a land not far distant from the land of our forefathers. The guests of Mr. Harris were at a loss to know how to sufficiently render their sincere thanks to him who had filled their hearts with joy, and it was considered most appropriate to present him with an address of which the following is a copy:
Upington, Gordonia, C.C.
Sept. 18th, 1896
To Harry Harris, Esq., Upington.
• Dear Sir, B We, the undersigned cannot take our leave without first showing you our great appreciation of the kindness and hospitality bestowed upon us by you and your wife on the occasion of the celebration of these great Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
• We are here in a vast wild country, bordering on the great Kalahari Desert, where it is very seldom that we are fortunate in meeting members of our race, and we can well believe the very trying times you have occasioned in bringing us together to worship in congregation the Great Creator, and read His commands from the Torah, and listen to the blowing of the Shofar.
• We cannot, as we would wish, express to you in words our sincere gratitude for your goodness, but we humbly trust that your prayers will be heard by the Almighty God, and His blessings bestowed on you and your good wife.
Wishing you and all members of your family Leshanah Tovah Tikatevu Vetichatemu.
• Thomas Jacobson. Jacob Dreiger. S. H. Markus. J. Friedland. S. Jacobson. Lewis Bloom. A. Kohn. M. Greenspan. J. Schaml. B. Katz. S. Edelstein.
This congregation at Upington was so remarkable that I send a photograph of all its members, and it deserves reproduction as a historical record. If ever the place becomes an important centre, this record will stand as evidence of the efforts made by its earliest Jewish settlers to celebrate the Great Festivals in 1896 according to the traditional observances of their faith.
B S. H. Markus”
The center of the article contains a photograph of 2 women and 11 men wearing various types of headgear, which is headed: The Worshipers at the First Jewish Service held at UPINGTON, GORDONIA, SOUTH AFRICA. The rest of the page in the Jewish Chronicle has an advertisement for L.E. White, a kosher butcher and purveror (presumably not of kosher mest) to Her Majesty the Queen, announcing that they had employed a shochet in Dundee, Scotland, and (for Welsh mutton) another shochet in Bangor, North Wales.
LATER ACCOUNTS RELATED TO SWARTMODDER
On 11 September, 1984, we received a New Year letter from Isabel Rosenzweig (my first cousin) describing a trip to Swartmodder. The letter read in part: "Oscar, Rebecca and I recently spent a week in Upington. We went there because no-one we knew had ever been there and Oscar had a thing about seeing the Harris farm. My roots, as he calls it, although I had never been there. My mother used to speak very vaguely about Swartmodder and how long it took to travel there by ox-wagon. As her memories were so dim, she must have gone there as a very small child. Well, after many inquiries in the district, we actually found the farm Swartmodder and directly over the road another farm called Harrisdale. Swartmodder is about 100 km from Upington on a terrible dirt road in the middle of nowhere, where the horizon has no end. You just look over the desert scrub for ever. It's set in a few low hills and obviously floods when there is rain. The silence is utter, no birds, no insects. Just the blood in your ears, and such peace. Will send you photos of the old farm house, rather dilapidated at present (I may have them somewhere). It was most interesting, but how on earth the old boys found it is quite a mystery. It's not near anything or anybody." She did not say who lived there at that time. Derek Isaacson and Jocelyn and Lennie Kruskal have also visited Swartmodder.
Later, my brother Julian found out that part of Swartmodder was at that time owned by Mr. R.A. Engelbrecht, who bought it in 1960. According to Isabel, the Engelbrechts have a house on top of a koppie (hill), whereas the original house was in a valley, perhaps near the pan of water. In correspondence with Julian around 1997, Mr. Engelbrecht said that the original house was then a store-room. In 1999 Mr. Engelbrecht sent Julian photos of the farm called by him Zwartmodder. One of these photos shows quite a large dam or pan (temporary lake) which (according to Isabel Fram) is fed by a spring and today by boreholes. A photo sent by Mr. Engelbrecht showed a Magen David on a brick, presumably inscribed before the brick was fired, with the initials H.M. (probably Herman Mandelkorn, who bought the farm from the Harris’s). Mr. Engelbrecht said that it would take 10 days to ride on horseback to Kimberley driving oxen. I presume that sheep would take longer, perhaps 14 days. Harrisdale is a village today and presumably is named after the Harris brothers.11
Julian received a fax on 26 May, 1998 from Mr. Engelbrecht stating that the farm Harrisdale and maybe also the farm Zwartmodder were registered on 13 April, 1895, in the names of Solomon and Harry Harris in partnership with Owen Robert Dunhill, William Thomas Kingwell and John Anderson. The last three men were directors of Dunhill, Ebden and Co. from Port Elizabeth or nearby Algoa Bay. They had a number of farms in the Eastern Province (which includes Port Elizabeth) section of the Cape Province. Mr. Engelbrecht has seen photos of this company's premises in the Eastern Province town of Graaf Reinet.
Apparently, the Harris's also ran a guest-house for wayfarers, probably with just 4-5 rooms. In those times one needed a lodging every 30 km or so. Mr. Engelbrecht later wrote the following:
• "Rumor has it that the Harris's sold the farms to Herman Mandelkorn, who came to the area as a 'Smous' (Yiddish for hawker) and settled at Harrisdale to help the Harris brothers. I could not find the date of sale. Rumor has it that the Harrises sold to Mandelkorn on very easy terms. Apparently, one of the Harris brothers became very ill, and left the area for medical treatment, presumably in Cape Town. The other brother, being very fond of his brother, found it very lonely on the farm so he left. My father told me they started the Waverley blanket factory - does this coincide with your information? It is a great pity that the Jewish people have left Upington. There is only one family left. We had approximately 20 families here. The synagogue still stands, but it is not in use anymore. I would like to point out the neglect of the (Jewish?) cemeteries in the Platteland, with the exception of Upington where the Jewish people, who were the ‘Baanbrekers’ (pioneers?) of the platteland (the “flat land” or plains, used to describe the interior of the Cape Province), are buried....."
Many Jews in South Africa first settled in small country towns. The subsequent loss of Jews from the countryside of South Africa occurred as most Jews wished to join Jewish communities in larger cities and there were better opportunities there. The story of the sale to Mr. Mandelkorn is probably not quite correct, though possibly the Harris's only sold part of the farm to this man, because we know that Henry Harris and his family were living at the farm around 1914 (see next paragraph).
During World War 1, there was fighting between the Germans, who owned South-West Africa, and South Africa (which became an independent country within the British Commonwealth in 1910). At that time, Henry amd Marjorie Harris lived at Swartmodder with their daughter Roma, who spent several years there. The Germans, or possibley an AAfrikaner group who were fighting with the Germans, once raided Swartmodder. Henry escaped by jumping on his horse and galloping off into the desert.
Julian and Gwynne Robins found a report about the shochet (ritual slaughterer) Mr. Matz in The Jew in South Africa: A Record of what individual Jews are doing in the various spheres of the Country’s life. This isan undated Who’s Who, probably from about 1944. The report stated that Mr. Matz was once a shochet for the Harris brothers in Swartmodder. Mr. Metz was probably the shochet who traveled to Swartmodder with Beccy Harris when she was a a small child a round 1900-1905 – see section on Morris and Beccy Fram. The report, which also contained a picture of Mr. Matz, reads as follows:
• “MATZ, Isaiah Hirsh, Shochet and Mohel (man who performs circumcisions), Born in Wilkomir, Lithuania in 1874. Educated at Waloshna Yeshiva. Came to South Africa in 1897. Married in 1902 to Annie Gertrude Stern; has three children. One of the five official communal shochtim, recognized principal Mohel in Johannesburg; 1897, first served as Shochet with Harris Bros. at Upington, then at Van Ryns Dorp, 1899.1901, then at Colesberg 1901.1905; in Johannesburg since 1905; at the time of the Great War collected large sums for the War Fund; ardent collector for the local Talmud Torahs as well as for the Johannesburg Hebrew College, also for Zionist funds and other Jewish efforts. Postal Address: 138a Loveday Street, Wanderers View, Johannesburg.”
So there must have been an active Jewish community in Upington in 1897. I suppose that Mr. Matz traveled from Upington to Swartmodder to slaughter animals there for the Harris family. Presumably, he also worked for other Jews in the Upington area.
CAPE TOWN AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN WOOLLEN MILLS
Somewhere around World War 1, the Harris family owned property in Simonstown, a town with a naval base, which used to be British, on False Bay near the tip of the Cape Peninsula (currently with a colony of penguins on one of the beaches). For this reason, one of the streets in Simonstown is called Harris Street (from Julian).
Woolf Harris probably worked in the textile industry in Lodz, as did his father and his uncle, Harry Harris. According to the interview with Arthur Markovitz (Appendix 2), shortly after the Boer Warended in 1902, Woolf Harris went to Europe and established a “chain of woollen factories” in England, Belgium and Germany. The businesses flourished, but Woolf “found the climate too harsh” and returned to South Africa after three years, in 1905. Whatever the details of his experience, it clearly provided Woolf with the expertise needed to start a textile business in South Africa.
The following is taken from the book Jewish Roots in the South African Economy by Mendel Kaplan and Marian Robertson, published in 1986:
• “In 1875 William Wallace Dickson established the Waverley Woolwashing Establishment near Ceres Road railway station (at Wolseley, a small town on a railway line 70 miles from Cape Town at the entrance of Mitchell's Pass leading inland to Ceres). The river, flows from Ceres through the pass and supplied water for the washery. Washing the wool to remove the grease (lanolin) is the first stage in converting wool into woollen fabrics. In 1897 Waverley Mills was in the hands of the bank and was then taken over by a Scot, James Gray.
In 1911 the Harris family acquired an interest in the Waverley Wool Manufacturing Company, and Woolf Harris and his brother-in-law Jack Gesundheit moved out to Ceres Road. Non-Jews had pioneeered the textile industry in South Africa but this immigrant Jewish family was to prove it could be profitable. In 1912 they erected a modern addition to the very small blanket factory. The rental was £200 per annum with the right to erect buildings, which became the property of the Harris’s. Woolf Harris always dated the start of their company (South African Woollen Mills) as 1912, so they probably did not actually take possession until 1 January of that year. The property was transferred to the Harrises in 1913 and Woolf Harris then returned to Cape Town, where he attended to the building of a new factory in Beach Road, Woodstock (a suburb close to the center of Cape Town on Table Bay). The Harrises solved what must have been a labour problem by siting the factory in the city, using the machinery from Ceres Road and keeping the Ceres Road property as a wool washery. It remained as such for many years, its machinery operated by a water mill as the Bradshaws’s had been. In 1914 the woollen mills began operating in Cape Town and, when war broke out in August of that year, the Harrises obtained good contracts for the supply of blankets to the army. (Roma Gottlieb said that the factory received large orders from the South African army for woollen blankets and material for overcoats at the beginning of World War 1 – S.M.) But the reason for their success was not simply a good contract to start with - the Harrises knew their trade.”
Kaplan and Robertson make the point that “it required courage to take over this very small blanket factor and wool-washery, which had struggled to survive in Ceres Road for some 16 years and had never developed. Woolf Harris was married by 1911 and had a growing family; it consisted predominantly of daughters, his only son, Isadore, having been born in 1905. His limited experience in the textile industry was almost 30 years behind him (this is incvorrect in view of his stay in Englans – see above), for he was by then in his late 40s. Yet he took the bold step of taking over this shaky concern and moving it to Cape Town. And they quote Neville Gottlie, the managing director of SWAM in the 1970s check date, who said “This was the real start of the blanket industry in South Africa.”
The question remains (asked Jonathan Raphaely) as to where the Harris's got the money to buy the wool washery and Myrtle Lodge (see later). I think the answer is probably that they made a lot of money from selling their sheep and from trading at Swartmodder. They must have been the only trading store for 50 miles in all directions, so that they were in a position to buy a large amount of products, mainly sheep, at very reasonable prices, and sell the produce at a large profit after their long trek to Kimberley. The Harris's may have done especially well during the Boer War (18989-1902)..
From the 1918 letter by Jack Gesundheit to Woolf Harris (Appendix 3) we can deduce that Solomon was a director of the S.A. Woolen Mills from its beginnings. We learn that Woolfie (the chairman of the factory) used to consult with Solomon daily at home when Solomon was ailing. I presume that Solomon pushed Woolfie (who probably would have done so anyway) to bring all the members of the family into the business. We also learn from this letter that Jack Gesundheit joined the Factory in 1913 (not 1911 as stated by Kaplan and Robertson), that during 1913 Woolf Harris and Jack leased the Woodstock property from the Railways, and that Woolf and a Mr. Chadwick went to England to buy textile machinery, which began arriving in Cape Town early in 1914 and was assembled at the Woodstock site. We also learn that Henry, Harry and Morris Harris joined the Factory in 1915, 1916 and 1917, respectively. Morris moved to Cape Town from Salisbury in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Henry and Harry moved to Cape Town directly from Swartmodder.
The factory continued to do well after the war ended in 1918. However, just as the post-war depression was starting, in the winter of 1920 or 1921, there was an enormous storm. “The sea came up and flooded the factory near the beach at Salt River,” said Neville Gottlieb. ”It was literally wiped out.” The Harris’s “turned this severe setback into a bold new development” (from Kaplan and Robertson). They created the S.A. Woolen Mills as a public company and, with the money raised, Neville told Robertson, “they bought a big piece of land, farmland on the high ground at Mowbraty, and built this great big factory next to the railway line.” The buildings still stand today. The factory in Mowbray began operating in 1923 and was formally opened in 1925 by the Prince of Wales, who was then on a tour of South Africa. “The S.A. Woollen Mills was something of a show-piece among South Africa’s early industries. Solomon Harris did not live to attend the opening ceremony. He had died a couple of years before and Woolf Harris and his brothers had this family misfortune to cope with at one of the worst times of crisis the business experienced” (Kaplan & Robertson). Kaplan and Robertson’s book has photos of the wool washery in Wolseley before 1914, the blanket factory in Ceres and the factory in Woodstock.
A large part of the SAWM business was making colorful blankets, often with bright African-type designs, for the black (African) trade. Black men and women used to (and some still do) wear blankets as their main clothing. This especially applied to the Xosa people in the Transkei and Ciskei areas of the Cape Province. When there was a drought in that area of the country, business decreased at the factory. The blankets were called Waverley blankets and most members of the family, even David and Ruth Erlanger in Switzerland, still have them in the 1990s, as they were of a very good quality. Kaplan and Robertson say that the S.A. Woolen Mills made blankets for the middle class, whereas the later competing factory of Mauerberger in the Cape made poorer quality and cheaper blankets for the working class.
I remember talk, probably in the late 1930's or early 1940's, about a possible strike at the SAWM and how worried the family was about this. Apparently, a strike never occurred and the factory was never unionized by the Garment Workers or any other trade union.
In 2003 the factory buildings had been subdivided into small workshops and look rather nice, I am told.
SOLOMON AND CELIA HARRIS
When Solomon’s wife Celia became ill with cancer, they went to England so that she could get treatment there. Celia died in England in 1911 and was buried near London.12 In 1997 Paul Cheifetz in Cape Town found out that Celia had spent the last year of her life in Paddington, London, and discovered how to find the grave. In 1997-8, Michael and Nava Chen found the site with help from the London Beth Din and went to see the grave in Edmonton, about 25 km north of London. The grave was well kept and a nice man who took care of the cemetery helped Michael and Nava make a rubbing of the inscription, which was in Hebrew and English and had faded. They could clearly read the rubbing, which stated that Celia was 59 years old when she died and had spent about 20 years in South Africa. This means that she came to South Africa around 1890. She died of cancer of the neck (periosteal sarcoma). The tombstone states that her father was Yaakov Yeshaia Hacohen.
I have a copy of an undated letter written in Yiddish with Hebrew letters, which is hard to read but appears to be a warm family letter from Harry Harris to his family in Cape Town, mentioning Beccy and Hilda as young children and mentioning an illness of the writer. The letter is written on paper with a letterhead reading: Harris Bros., 11 Manchester Avenue, Aldergate Street, London. E.C. 191. Telephone 8663 City. Telegrams: Semichorus, London. Code used: A.B.C. 5th edition. The number 191 after London was probably intended for the date, to be used for 1910-1919, with the last number to be filled in. This letter suggests that Solomon and Harry established the office during 1910-1911 when Celia was living in England, unless Woolf had set it up when he was there in the early 1900s (see Woolf Harris). The stay in England suggests that the Harris brothers were in touch with family in England and, possibly, that the Harris name came from some family in England.
Gwynne Robins emailed me in 2002 as follows: “I have a memo by my great-uncle Harry Schrire written in the 1970s. He writes: “The wealthiest ‘frume Yidden’ (religious Jews) in Cape Town in these early days was the “Reicher Harris” (rich Harris), who was a smallish man with a large beard. He founded the blanket mill names after him (Harris Mills). Greatly respected and generous, he would arrive on Rosh Hashanah in our shul (the Roeland Street synagogue) accompanied by his sons and son-in-law (Jack Gesundheit), and together they would schnodder (hand out to requesters) a few hundred pounds. This was a terrific amount of money in those days. They had a large house at the top of Schoonder Street.” The wealthy Jew must have been Solomon Harris. I guess that this “schnoddering” occurred between 1914 and 1918, while the Factory was making lots of money during the War.13
Roma Gottlileb was nine years old when Solomon died. She remembers that on Saturday evenings, after Shabbat was finished, Solomon used to give each of the children (Rita, Connie, and Roma) a penny or a tickey (threepenny bit). With this money they bought a treat at the Greek or Indian café at the corner of Schoonder and Mill Streets.14 Jubby Gesundheit remembered Solomon sending him and the other kids to fetch a hansom cab (like a taxi) from the cab rank. This was a big event as the kids could ride back in the horse-drawn cab.
According to a stone plaque at the Talmud Torah (Hebrew School) in Hope Street, Solomon died on 27 September, 1918, in front of the ark of the Gardens Synagogue during the Kol Nidre evening service. From the letter by Woolf Harris in Appendix 3, Solomin had been ill and mostly house-bound, probably with heart disease, for some years before his death.
Around 1895 the family bought Myrtle Lodge in Schoonder (Dutch for beautiful) Street at the corner of Vriende (friends) Street in the Gardens district of Cape Town. The following describes the house as I remember it. Myrtle Lodge was a large two-storied house built about 1840 with a thick stone wall about seven feeti high around the extensive propoerty. This wall was called the slave wall, becuase it was said to have been put up by slaves before the house was built (slaves were freed in the Cape Colony, as elsewhere in the British Empire, in 1840). The house had two large rooms, called the dining and drawing (withdrawing) rooms, in the front of the ground floor, with a hall between them, a breakfast room, a study and a pantry. The study had a Waygood-Otis elevator (lift) installed for Miriam Harris. It was said to be the first elevator instalaled in a private house in Cape Town. The kitchen was originally a separate building and was joined to the house by a long, drafty passage. Upstairs there were two enormous bedrooms, two medium-sized bedrooms and a small bedroom over the hall, which was my room when I was a child. I think I remember a coal stove in the kitchen and that ice was delivered daily by an ice-man with a horse-drawn cart.
The dining room of Myrtle Lodge had a very long (when extended) dark brownish-red wooden table around which Jewish holidays were celebrated. It had large round legs of the same wood sitting on wheels, which sat on green glass cups. This table was used for the signing of the contract to buy the wool-washery, which took place in Myrtle Lodge. Julian brought in a carpenter to make the table smaller and had it at his farm in Tokai. I and the other children used to crawl under the table at Yom Tovim (Jewish holidays) from the feet of one person to those of another. At the bottom of the grounds, facing Schoonder St., the Harris's added two small detached houses for other members of the clan.
The center of the grounds of Myrtle Lodge had a large circular driveway lined on both sides by myrtle hedges. The outer hedge of the circular drivway was about six feet high and the inner ones were about three feet high. In the middle of the driveway was a lawn and, in its center, a classical-style pool with scalloped cement edges and a central cement column with a miniature pool/bird-bath at the top. I once went paddling in the pool and got badly cut in the ankle by broken glass - I still have the scar. The garden also had classical columns, similar to that in the mddle of the pool, which bore plants in pots. The pool and columns were all white-washed in the Cape style. Outside the outer hedges were small enclosures. One of these was a herb garden and another had a large loquat tree in the middle. Towards the exit at the bottom of the driveway was a large Norfolk Island pine. At the bottom left of the garden was a tennis court and below it, a chicken hok (pen). A fig tree stood near the tennis court overlooking the outer wall. There was also a mulberry tree. Allthese trees bore fruit profusely. We used to grow silk-worms by feeding them mulberry leaves. On the left, towards the back of the house, facing Vriende Street, was a two-car garage, which had once been a carriage house. Above the garages was a large loft with beams, which was origninally a hay loft and was reached by a ladder. At the right side of the house was a sukkah, built for the holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and a cemented area with a separate room for Simon Domingo and another room near the kitchen for Bertha Adams (our servants).
It was traditional for Polish Chassidic families to live in family compounds and a book by Singer describes one such compound. Solomon established such a compound in and around Myrtle Lodge. Roma Gottlieb said that at first Solomon and Celia, Harry and Miriam and their families all lived in the main house.
Jack and Bella Gesundheit and their children, including Jubby, lived in one of the two small double-storied houses (Rose Ville) built in the grounds of Myrtle Lodge facing Schoonder Street. He practiced cricket in the lane between the two houses. Jubby lived in Rose ViIle until 1924, when my parents got married and moved into Roseville. Woolf and Rose Harris lived in the other of the two houses, called Beatrice Villa, until 1922, when Celie was eight years old, at which time they moved to Oranjezicht. Note that Rose live in Beatrice Villa, named after Bella, and Bella lived in Roseville, named after Rose - a big point made at the time. Later, Fritz Raphaely arranged for a distant cousin of the Raphaely’s (who married a Fish girl) to stay in Beatrice Ville. They ran a boarding house there. Myrtle Lodge was about 15 minutes walk from the Gardens Shul, in which the Harris's were very active.
Probably during the period before and after World War 1, the family used to go nearly every year to Karlsbad or Marienbad, which are warm-baths and tourist centers in what is today the Czech Republic and were favorite centers for Polish Jews to visit. Singer’s books [which SIngere] mentions that the wealthier Chassidic Jews of Poland used to go to these places. The family bought clothes there in the latest fashions, said Roma. Once they bought the same dress for Roma as one that a Mrs. Rosen had bought. This calamity was even commented on in the newspaper! They also bought deep blue Czech glasses, one of which we still have and used to use for Elijah’s cup during the Passover Seder, elaborate sweet dishes and a Schlaggenwald dinner set of crockery with deep blue borders and rather ugly hand-painted fishes, which we still have.
Gwynne Schrire writes: “Karlsbad was a favorite health resort. My grandparents lived in Kimberley and would frequently travel there in the 1930's, staying away from home for 6 months at a time to take the waters to cure my grandfather’s diabetes. I think that my grandmother must have spent her time shopping while my grandfather drank the water - which tastes disgusting. We also have lots of souvenirs from that visit, mainly china. When I visited there with my daughter in 1990, I was amazed to see in the shops garnet jeweler identical to some that we have inherited, which I had thought to be Victorian and was obviously bought on those trips.”
My mother Hilda Harris was born in Myrtle Lodge in 1899. After they were married, my parents stayed in Roseville. My father, Louis Mirvish, converted the succah in the back yard of this house into an animal pen and kept guinea-pigs and rabbits there for experiments. I was born in that house.
Some time in the 1920s the Harris’s added to the front of the main house a fancy stoep with a red cement floor and a first-floor balcony. The stoep and balcony exrended the entire fron of the hose. On the stoep were several hard-wood barrels bearing small palms. The barrels were held together with polished brass hoops. The red floor was polished nearly every day by the servants, as was common in South Africa at that time. The stoep and balcony had heavy round white pillars, on which red bougainvilleas grew profusely. On the balcony was a cupboard with glass doors, which contained shells and bones and was called the museum. The stoep and balcony were very imposing but made the front rooms of the house dark. When I was a small boy, most of the family had moved out of the family enclave, initially to houses in Oranjezicht, e.g., I remember that Henry and Marjorie Harris had a nice house there. Later, much to my mother’s dismay, they all moved to around Kenilworth in the suburbs. My mother resisted moving out of the family enclave for many years, long after the rest of the family had fled to the suburbs and the area had "deteriorated". My mother felt a responsibility to the family to maintain the family seat. Before I left for England as a graduate student in 1951, we had a photographer in and I have family pictures taken in front of the stoep and a picture of the house. My parents finally left Myrtle Lodge around 1953 for Cheyne in Kenilworth. Later, Myrtle Lodge and the surrounding houses were torn down, a shopping center and an ugly block of flats was put up in their place, and even the streets were changed, so that it is difficult to see today where the house stood.
The dining room of Myrtle Lodge had a large side-board with a cupboard at the bottom, which was full of old photos and postcards. The latter were mostly sent by family members who had gone on trips to Europe. Sadly, my mother threw them all away when she moved to Kenilworth.
Mrs. Ginsberg lived in one of the houses at the bottom of the garden. She came from England, was a dress-maker and made many of the clothes for my sisters Miriam and Doreen and for my mother. She visited us in Myrtle Lodge, took all the measurements, made the dresses in her home, brought them back to be tried on, and then altered them if this was necessary.
When I was a small boy, there were chicken in the chicken hok at the bottom of the grounds and we used to collect new-laid eggs from there. I remember that, on the day before Yom Kippur, my grandfather killed a chicken by twisting its neck, and the chicken then ran around the garden near the myrtle hedges for a long time purely by reflex action. This is the ceremony of Kappores, in which one's sins are symbolically laid on the chicken before it is killed. Jubby told me that originally there was a larger hok, which was converted into the tennis court. In Jubby’s days the chicken hok was called a fowl hok and the tennis court was in place (the Gesundheit family left for Palestine in 1928). Jubby knew that this was correct because he remembered that the Fram family came to Cape Town before the wedding of Beccy (my aunt, sister of my mother) to Morris Fram in 1923, so that the Fram family could meet the Harris family. Jubby retained a vision of Morris Fram standing on the tennis court and showing him a walking stick which sheathed a sword. Jubby said that one area bear the tennis court was called “Lover’s corner”
The succah at Myrtle Lodge was a green wooden one-roomed structure. It had a solid roof made of two halves attached to the walls by hinges that could be hoisted up with ropes to expose the sky. Under this roof was a wooden lattice framework on which we laid shach (branches) and from which we hung fruits. After shool on Succot, for which Harry of course had a lulav and etrog, the family and guests came there and had a brocha (blessing) with bread,, chopped herring and chopped liver (called in our family "tsibbeles", the Polish word for onions).
When I and my siblings were teenagers, we frequently had parties at Myrtle Lodge, because it was such a great place for this purpose (especially the two front rooms and the hall), we had servants who did most of the work and we had the biggest house in the neighborhood. To this day, we call our practice of having parties the “Myrtle Lodge complex.”
Unfortunately, most of the generation of Woolf Harris and their spouses died of massive strokes, including Woolfie, Rose and Margie. I attribute this at least partly to the rich Polish Jewish diet, which was high in salt and saturated fat. At one stage my mother was always going to visit a family member who was bedridden with a stroke. She loved salt herself and finally succumbed to a series of minor strokes.
Probably in the early 1900s the Harris family bought a farm called Knapdaal near De Aar in the Cape Province. Jack Gesundheit and his wife Bella moved to Knapdaal soon after they were married in 1904 and he managed the farm for some years. Some business concerning this farm is mentioned in the correspondence in Appendix 3. Hilda Rokach was born there. Jubby spent a year in Knapdaal, where he learned how to kill a chicken in the kosher manner. My mother told Miriam, Julian and me that she used to go to this farm for school holidays. During the ostrich feather boom before World War 1, she used to collect ostrich feathers that had blown onto the barbed wire fences and they would sell them. The family sold Knapdaal in 1912, just before the ostrich boom went bust. Presumably, the money was used to help start the factory in that sameyear. The Firedlander family had a farm near Knapdaal (my friend Mike Friedlander, a physicist, is a member of this family).
Gesundheit section repeats some of this - p 37
SURVEY OF INDIVIDUAL FAMILIES
We will now survey separately each of the families of the five children of Solomon and Celia Harris, staring with Miriam and Harry because they are my grandparents. In the following chart, the order of births was supplied by Roma Gottlieb and Michael Chen.
Solomon and Celia Harris
Miriam, b. 1870
Woolfie, b. 1873
Henry, b. 1879
Morris, b. 1881
Bella, b. 1881
HARRY AND MIRIAM HARRIS
Harry and Miriam Harris
Beccy, m. Morris Fram of Johannesburg and moved there.
Isabel, m. Oscar Rosenzweig, lived in Johannesburg and now in Israel
Daniel, lives in Philadelphia
Moshe Chaim, lives in Johannesburg
Jonathan Gideon, lives in Johannesburg
Beccy Shlomit, lives in New York
Hilda, m. Louis Mirvish, lived in Cape Town.
Sidney Mirvish, m. Lynda Kahn, lives in Omaha.
Leora, lives in Washington, D.C.
Daniel, m. Rachel Miller, lives in Los Angeles.
Miriam Mirvish, lives in Israel.
Julian Mirvish, m. Edna Oppenhaeimer and then Jewel Donde, lived in Cape Town.
Doreen, m. Simcha Bahiri, lives in Tel-Aviv.
Isabel, m. Moshe Erlanger, lived in Switzerland and then Tel-Aviv
David Erlanger, m. Ruth Wasserstrom, lives in Basel.
Simon Erlanger, lives in Basel.
Daniel Erlanger, lives in Basel, m. Jasmine Kiond in 2004.
Harry (b. in Lask, Poland, 1862; d. in Cape Town, 1938) married Miriam (Miriam Peise, b. in Zdunsdka-Wola, 1870, d. in Cape Town, 1928) in Kimberley. They proably were married sooon after Miriam arrived in Kimberley in 1890. Miriam was Harry’s niece – such marriages are legal by Jewish law. Miriam was the person who won the lottery in Poland and thereby enabled Woolfie to emigrate to South Afria. She settled with her mother in Kimberley, but after she and Harry were married, she must have lived at least pert of the time in Swartmodder because she was there during Rosh Hashanah of 1896 - see the London Jewish Chronicle article. Miriam and Harry had three daughters, Beccy, Hilda and Isabel. Miriam had heart disease for a number of years before she died and they installed a lift (elevator) for her in Myrtle Lodge. Miriam died a few months before I was born in 1929.
We have already mentioned the undated letter written in Yiddish, which appears to be a warm family letter from Harry Harris to his family in Cape Town, mentioning Beccy and Hilda as young children and mentioning an illness of the writer.
My sister Miriam still has a cloak embroidered with silk thread and white felt that belonged to Miriam Harris and before that to Celia Harris. Morris Harris bought it in Egypt, then part of the Ottoman Empire, on his "grand world tour" and gave it to his mother, Celia. As a child, Miriam Mirvish used to wear it when she and her friends put on plays in the front hall of Myrtle Lodge.
Jubby Gesundheit related that when Harry Harris was staying in Berlin with my parents around 1929, he went to a very posh social affair and introduced himself as a joke as "Harris von Swartmodder." Harry was very froom (orthodox). Jubby remembered that on Friday afternoons in London around 1930 Harry used to tear up the toilet paper for later use, because one should not tear paper on Shabbat. When I was going through the papers in my mother's flat in Sea Point after she died, I found a book in Yiddish, which was a translation of the Bible or the Pentrateuch. It had an inscription in Yiddish written by my grandfather Rabbi Moshe Chaim Mirvish, dedicating the book to Harry Harris and hoping that he would enjoy it. Unfortunately, I threw the book away, though I kept the fly leaf with the inscription. Apparently, Harry did not know enough Hebrew to read the Bible in that language. He seems to have been the most religious member of the family at that stage. It does not appear that Harry was too involved in the factory after his wife died, because he took off at least part of three years to travel in Europe with my parents, but I remember that he went by car (driven by a chauffeur) every day to the factory in the 1930s over the then-new De Waal's Drive. Several times I was taken with him to the factory and enjoyed the visits. For example, I remember the carbonizing facility, where the washed wool was heated to a high temperature to burn off burrs and other plant material, and the enormous halls filled with very noisy looms. Woolf Harris was the chairman at that time.
The Harris family was prominent in the Gardens Shul in the 1920s and 1930s. Lynda's mother Ruby Kahn told us that the Harris's tried to instal my grandfather Rabbi Moshe Chaim Mirvish as a rabbi in their shul soon after my parents married in 1922. Rabbi Mirvish was the only orthodox rabbi in Cape Town at that time. Reverend Bender, the well-liked rabbi/minister of the Gardens Shul, was not an ordained rabbi. Some people regarded this as an attempt to help their Machoton (father of their daughter's husband). The story was written up in the minutes of the adjourned general meeting of the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation, held in the Old Synagogue on Sunday, 9th November, 1924, at 10:30 a.m., a copy of which was sent to me by my brother Julian. The minutes (slightly abridged) read as follows:
• "Present: Harry Harris, Esq., Vice -President (in the chair) and 149 others. The Vice-President, in opening the meeting, asked the Treasurer, Mr. H.J Stodel (a prominent man in the Jewish community whom I remember meeting – S.M.), to take the chair. Mr. Stodel asked the Members to discuss the question before them amicably and without any heat, and pointed out that the only item to be discussed was the Resolution left over from the Annual General Meeting, namely: 'that the sum of 100 pounds sterling be granted to Rabbi M. Ch. Mirvish for services rendered to the Jewish community during the past year.' An amendment moved by Mr. J. Gitlin (whom I also remember) and seconded by Mr. M. Chiskeskel moved that the same sum be granted annually to Rabbi Mirvish. This amendment was withdrawn.
• A letter was read from Rabbi Mirvish, pointing out that many of the members of the Congregation had constantly been availing themselves in many ways of his services, and that he thought that he was fully entitled to the Congregations's support and remuneration. He also said that he would not accept any remuneration if it was given grudgingly and suspiciously, and sooner than friction and bitterness should arise on this account, he would prefer that the matter be dropped entirely, as he had too great a regard for the peace and harmony existing in every Jewish Congregation.
• After considerable debate in which most of the members took part, the amendment was carried. The ballot showed 67 for and 65 against. Mr. Woolf Harris, on behalf of Rabbi Mirvish, thanked the members for their decision, but informed them that the reverend gentleman declined to accept the money. This terminated the meeting."
So Rabbi Mirvish stayed on as head of his poor congregation and head of the Beth Din (the rabbinical court). The discussion sounds very much like synagogue meetings discussing rabbis that we have attended in Omaha, Nebraska!
I have a certificate, which I framed, that is beautifully printed in blue and gold lettering with pictures of Jerusalem, including the Western Walll, the Temple Mount and various tombs (including Rachel’s tomb), from the Yeshiva Hamerkazi Haolami (Central International Rabbinic Academy), acknowledging a gift from “Hanoch Harris”. The certificate states that the Yeshiva was headed by the famous Rabbi Abraham Isaac Cook.
In the late 1930s, Harry suffered from heart disease and could not leave Myrtle Lodge on Saturdays to go to shul. So they arranged for a minyan (10 men) to come to Myrtle Lodge and daven (pray) there. Harry used the lift then to go upstairs. Later, my father converted the lift to a stationary bar.
The death notice for Harry from the daily newspaper (the Cape Times or Cape Argus, perhaps from August 8, 1938) says:
• “Late Mr. Harry Harris: Large attendance at funeral. Funeral of Mr. Harry Harris, director of the S.A. Woollen Mills, was conducted by Rabbi Israel Abrahams assisted by Rev. Mr. Kibel and Rabbi M. Ch. Mirvish. The following organizations were represented.” The notice then lists about 20 people and their organizations, all synagogues or Jewish charities in Cape Town. On another page there is an obituary reading in full: "Mr. Harry Harris dead: Pioneer of the wool industry. The death occurred yesterday of Mr. Harry Harris, director of the S.A. Woollen Mills, at his home in Schoonder Street. Mr. Harris was one of the pioneers of the woollen industry in South Africa. He was 74 years of age. He was born in Poland and after spending a few years in Manchester, came to South Africa in 1880. He opened business in Griqualand West and was one of the pioneers of Upington. He came to Cape Town 25 years ago in connection with the mills, of which he has been a director since their inception. Mr. Harris was associated with many Jewish charitable movements and was a past president of the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation. He leaves two daughters, Mrs. L. Mirvish of Cape Town and Mrs. M. Fram of Johannesburg.
This notice confirms that Harry spent time in England as a young man. The connection with Griqualand West was new to me, but it is close to Kimberley and perhaps that is where they had a store. (Cecil Rhodes once represented Griquzland West in the parliament of the Cape Colony.)
Four documents found in a S.A. Woollen Mills safe (see earlier) help here. A hand-written passport from British Bechuanaland, dated June 25, 1895, states that Harry was a resident of Upington at that time (and thus did not actually live in Bechuanaland), that he was born in Lask, Russian Poland, and that he was 31 years old (this would make his birth-date 1864, whereas in cact it was 1862). The second hand-written document dated 4 July, 1895 is a testimonial "To whom it may Concern" from John Auchitel Ashburnham, Resident Magistrate for the District of Gordonia, British Bechuanaland. It states that Harry then lived in Upington and Swart Modder (Harrisdale) in the Gordonia district and that he was a store keeper there and one of the partners of the firm of Harris Brothers of that district, and that this firm had conducted business from 1889 and was still doing so. Harrisdale sounds much grander than Black Mud! Apparently, at that time Swartmodder fell in the Bechuanaland, not the Cape of Good Hope, area, both territories being ruled from Cape Town. The third document is a South African passport issued in Pretoria on 8 May, 1923, to Harry. It states that Harry was a British subject of Russian origin and refers to the above-mentined naturalization certificate number 14 issued in Bechuanaland on (so it says) 9 July, 1895. The fourth document is hand-written in German, comes from German South West Africa, and is dated 27 September, 1900. It apparently concerns a transaction involving the sale of land. One of the two people involved could not write his/her name and signed the document with a cross.
LOUIS AND HILDA MIRVISH
Louis (Yehuda Leib, 1897-1960) and Hilda Mirvish (Hinde, 1900-1978), m. 1924
Sidney Solomoin (Shlomo Zalman, b. 1929), m. Lynda Kahn (b. 1935) in 1960
Julia Leorea (b. 1961)
Daniel Mark (b. 19660, m. Rachel Zlatkoff (b. ) in 19 …
Rebecca Sophie (b. 1999)
Jonathan Abraham (b. 2003)
Miriam Phyllis (b. 1931)
Julian Gerald (Yaakovv Moshe, b. 1933, d. 2002), m. Edna Oppenheim in 1961, m. Jewel
• Donde in about 1985. Both marriages ended in divorces.
Doreen Phylis (b. 1937), m. Simcha Bahiri (b. 1927) in 1978
When my mother Hilda Harris was a child, she and her sister Isabel used to go to a farm, either one in Swakopmund in South West Africa owned by the Harris's or Knapdaal near De Aar in the Karroo (of the Cape Province) where the Gesundheits lived - see Jubby Gesundheit. She used to collect ostrich feathers that the wind had blown onto the barbed wire fences. According to a story told by Ma to Miriam, the water in Swakopmund was extremely hard, so they (or the servants, I suppose) used to collect dew and use it to wash the girl's hair! There must be a lot of dew because a beetle that lives near the coast there gets water by going to the top of a sand dune and staying until dew condenses on it, according to a nature program I saw. Probably, only fairies wash their heir with dew. More likely, people collected rain water from the roofs and used that for washing hair.
As a child, Ma remembered going to Muizenberg for family vacations in Strathaven (see below). At the beginning of the vacataion, they packed up all the needed crockery cafefully in paper and then into boxes, and loading a wagon. Horses then pulled the wagon to Muizenberg, which is 15 miles from the Gardens area of Cape Town. The road was bumpy, so the packing had to be well done. Ma remained an expert packer after that. The suburban railway system was already operating, so they presumably sent the goods by wagon but went there by train.
After schood at Good Hope Seminary (the local girl’s school), Ma studied at Normal College, a precursor of the Univefsity of Cape Town. She graduated from there as an elocution teacher and then taught elocution. Probably as a result, Ma always spokde very clearly. She adaored her aunt Bella Gesundheit, in part, I think, because Bella was such a warm and sympathetic perso and in part because Ma’s mother Miriam was sickly when Ma was a child, so that Bella helped to bring her up – of course this would be easy because they all lived in the Myrtle Lodge compound. Miriam remembers that, towares the end of 1947, just before the state of Israel was esdtablished (in May, 1948), Ma flew with Fanny Weinreich to Palestine to visit Bella, who died in 1950. They landed in Lydda airport just after it was captured by the Jews. After landing, they could heara shells exploding near the airport.
My father Louis was born in Plunyan (Plunge), Lithuania, and in 1908 immigrated to South Africa with his father, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Mirvish, his mother Sheine and his siblings. In Cape Town, Moshe Chaim became the first Orthodox rabbi in South Africa and served as rabbi of the Beit Midrash synagogue in Constitution Street, District 6, Cape Town. Moshe Chaikm and Sheine had six children who survived to adulthood. In order of birth they were Jacob (d. in flu epidemic, 1917), Sophie (m. Mr. Anziska), Louis, Naomi (m. Mendel Aronson), Issie (m. Esther Misnun), Abe (m. Sonia Abramowitz) and Ettie (m. Nathan Helman). The older siblings were born in Lithuania and Ettie was born in Cape Town. My cousin Cecil Helman wrote an article on Rabbi Mirvish in xxxx ADD
As teenagers or a bit later, Ma and Pa belonged to the Young Judea group. They went for extensive hikes on Table Mountain with this group and we hae some group pictures from this period. Dad used to enjoy bicycling. Once he was cyckubg in Micthell’s Pass on the way to Ceres when his brakes failed on the way down. He cold not stop and at the end crashed and disssslocated a shoulder or broke an arm.
Morris Zion, whose mother was a half-sister of Sheine Mirvish, remembered (in 2004, when he was 98 years old) visiting the Mirvish family in Constitution St. in District Six and getting lectures on becoming more religious from my grandmother, who was extremely religious (froom). The Zion family emigrated to South Africa some years before the Mirvish family. Morris Zion’s father, Charles (Chaskal) Zion, had a produce business and was relatively well off. Morris’s mother was Tsippe. Charles kindly lent my father money so that he could attend the Medical School of the University of Cape Town, where he graduated in 1922.
Dad and Dr. Solomon (both Jews) were the first graduates of the University of Cape Town Medical School and hence the first doctors to graduate in South Africa. Students who wished to become doctors had previously gone to medical schools in Europe, mostly England, Scotland and Ireland, but the Mirvish family could not afford to do this. In 1922 Dad married Hilda (Ma), the seco nd daughter of Harry and Miriam Harris. Ma was nearly the only one of her numerous girl cousins to marry an immigrant - all the rest married men born in South Africa. Beccy's husband Morris Fram was born in Europe but probably immigrated when still a baby - unlike Dad, he did not have a foreign accent. The marriage of Dad and Ma followed an Eqaastern European tradition, in which a learned man married the daughter of a wealthy man.
Dad was asked repeatedly by the Harris family to enter the factory. He refused. They found it hard to believe that he would rather earn less as a doctor than enter a prosperous business. So Dad continued to practice medicine as a general practitioner, work as a scientist and teach medical students, while Mom and Dad also received income from shares in the Factory. After he graduated, Dad was a Lecturer in the Physiology Department of the Medical School.
In the 1920s Lancelot Hogben was the Professor of Zoology at the University of Cape Town. Hogben subsequently became a famous British popularist of science and wrote the books “Science for the Citizen” and “Mathematics for the Million.” Dad worked together with Hogben and they published several joint papers. For example, the chameleon changes color when it moves to a background of a differente color and this camouflages the animal. Hogben and Dad showed that this color change was under nervous control, because the change disappeared when they cut the nerves to the skin. Chamelions about 6 inches long were common in the hedges of Myrtle Lodge.
Hogben was a liberal and once asked Cissy Gool to go to a University ball with him. This was reported in the newspapers and greatly shocked society because Cissy Gool, a beautiful woman, was Colored. Sissy Gool was a daughter of a prominent Colored doctor, Dr. Abduruman, who was a member of the Cape Town City Council. (Dad took me once to see Dr. Abduruman at his house in Buitengracht Street.) Sissy was a Communist and later became a city councilor.
In 1948 Dad visited Hogben in London and wrote in his diary: “He drank a lot of sherry and talked over old times very gleefully. Lancelot talked a lot on publishing. He was as stimulating as ever and a good host. Enid was dressed in a long black dress with a white and silver peacock on it, enormous earrings and masses of bangles and rings. We talked till 2 a.m.” Miriam and I met Hogben once when my parents visited me in Cambridge and took me and Miriam for a tour by car of the U.K., including a visit to Hogben’s retirement cottage in Wales.
H. Zwarenstein (“Zaarie”) was a Professor in the Physiology Department of the Medical School. In Zwaremsteom’s autobiography entitled Memoirs of an Academic, published in 1986, he reminisced that, when he was a new lecturer in the Department, “as part time demonstrator, Louis Mirvish kindly took charge of the first practical of the year” and showed him “how to run a practical”. In 1934, when Zwarenstein and Hillel Shapiro were developing what was to become known as the Xenopus pregnancy test, Zwarenstein asked my mother for a urine sample to test their idea. In Zwarenstein’s words, “she kindly obliged. ... The next afternoon we found that one of the frogs had ovulated and history was made. We performed control tests on ourselves and on some of our girlfriends. Fortunately all were negative.” Considerable controversy was aroused when the test became known overseas as the Hogben test. Shapiro and Zwarenstein published a letter in the British Medical Journal contesting this. Zwarensteyn said in his auatobiography that “all in all I think it would be fair to sum up the whole business by stating that Hogben fathered the possibility of a Xenopus pregnancy test, but that Shapiro and Zwarenstein produced the baby.” This test remained standard all over the world for some three decades until it was superceeded by a simple chemical test. My brother Julian was the fetus responsible for producing my mother’s positive response to the pregnancy test. Zwarenstei later taught me biochemistry – see below.
In 1929 Dad went to Berlin to specialize and thereby become a "physician". Ma, their three-month-old son Sidney (me) and Ma’s father Harry, whose wife Miriam had just died, went with Dad. Dad's sister Sophie Anziska and her daughter Phyllis, who had cerebral palsy and for whom they were seeking treatment, were also part of the entourage at various times. Hilda’s sister Isabel was then at a finishing school in Switzerland and joined them at times. Ma used to say that the Polish relatives were continually coming to see them in Berlin, but Mom and Dad never went to Poland or Lithuania. Among these visitors was Tamara Ospezin, who told Miriam about her visit as a child (see ‘Ospezin – recent history).’ Ma, who was born in South Africa, thought it was strange that her husband, who was born in Lithuania, refused to go back there for a visit, since Lithuania was so close to Berlin. Perhaps Dad thought it would be too foreign and would "pull him back" to his origins, i.e., he was still unsure about his status as a new South African. Perhaps he preferred to keep his picture of Plunyan (his home town) intact - he wrote several stores and told us often about Plunyan as he remembered it. Of course, no-one could imagine what would happen just ten years later. There was little money in Poland and the relatives apparently depended on money from the family. Dad once asked one of the Polish relatives what he did for a living. He answered: “What, I don’t work. I have a rich uncle in South Africa who sends me money.”
I have a phptograph of me at the beach of Herringsdorf, near Berlin. I had a German nanny called Fraulein (Miss). Ma was struck by the German habit of not allowing children to play on the lawns of apartment buildings - it seemed everything was “verboten” (forbidden) or regimented. Later, the family moved to Vienna, where Dad also studied, and then to London, where he finished his studies and my sister Miriam was born.
In England Dad wrote a book on gastroenterology together with an Egyptian doctor. The Egyptian published the book without putting Dad’s name on it. Dad understandably did not think highly of Egyptians after that. Dad also applied for an academic position in the U.K. and did not get it. They then decided to return to Cape Town.
When we returned from Europe in 1932, we lived for about 18 months in "Strathaven," the family summer house in Muizenberg. The house was close to the railway station, on a road overlooking the beach. I remember Dad taking a train to work every day from Muizenberg station, which is a handsome Victorian building that was being restored in 1999. Strathaven had been knocked down when I visited Cape Town in 1999. In 1932 we moved to Myrtle Lodge. However, Dad felt oppressed by the Harris presence and after quite a fight we moved in 1937 to a small house in Belmont Avenue, Oranjezicht. After my grandfather Harry died in 1938, we moved back to Myrtle Lodge. So I only lived with my grandfather for four years. Myrtle Lodge was rather formal and Victorian. The “drawing room” (short for “withdrawing room, I believe) was full of Victorian furniture and knick-knacks. We always ate in the dining room.
• Our stay in Myrtle Lodge: At Myrtle Lodge and alredy in Starthaven, a big treat fou
us children was that at bed-time my father would tell us long stories about an imaginary land divided into red, blue anmd blck countries. These stories must have been told to all four siblings as Miriam remembers Doreen crying at the top of the stairs of Myrtle Lodge, complaining that she had been left out of story-time. The Dr. Doolittle books that Dad brought beck from America in 1937 were also big hits. Dad wrote down some of his stories, but we do not have them any more.
During our years in Myrtle Lodge, we had quite an establishment. In addition to the family, we had three servants, Bertha Adams, the cook; Simon Domingo the butler and house cleaner; and Tom Franks, the driver, gardener and general handyman.
Bertha Adams was a Colored woman whose family lived in Elsie’s River and included her sister Spasie, who sometimes helped out in the house. Berthawas a small, kind woman who let us prepare dishes in the kitchen and lived in a room just off the kitchen. She used to send quite a large sum of money every week to a society who would use the funds to pay for her funeral - quite a racket, we thought. However, most respectable Colored people apparently subscribed to such schemes so that their families would not have to pay for their funerals, which would be, for them, an enormous financial burden. On Christmas day, which was usually spent at Strathaven in Muizenberg, Bertha use to bake a large plum pudding filled with silver tiekies, wishbones and other prizes, whichw we enjopyed eating.
Simon Domingo was an American Negro who had jumped ship in Walvis Bay, South West Africa. He was somewhat educated, served at the table well, especially when we had guests, spoke with a cultivated voice and on the phone sounded exactly like my father. When Miriam asked Simon where he was from, he answered “Simonstown” (a town in the Cape Peninsula). When Miriam asked Simon what his home language was, he replied “Simon language.” Miriam used to see Simon at left-wing parties, where Miriam noticed that he wore my old shirts. People would take them both home after the parties - Miriam would go to the front door and Simon to the side door. Simon got drunk on occasions and the police would pick him up and put him in jail, presumably because Africans were not permitted to buy alcohol. He would then telephone the American Consulate and, much to the surprise of the police, they would come and get him released. Simon had a separate room between the kitchen and the succah. The bedrooms of Bertha and Simon seemed poor as they had linoleum floors, iron beds and not much furniture. (The house proper had wooden floors.) A pretty Colored woman, Lilly, also worked for some time at Myrtle Lodge. She had an affair with Simon and as a result had a baby.
Tom Franks went home every evening to his family near upper Buitengracht Street. His wife was Colored and as a result Tom was on the voter’s roll at one time. Later, Tom’s wife became ill and was sent for a long time to Valkenberg mental hospital. Tom was a native of Bechuanaland and had been a shepherd as a child. As an adolescent, he traveled to Johannesburg to study at a mission school, but all his money was stolen while he was sleeping in the railway station, so that was the end of his education. Doreen reminded me that Tom used to drive the family to the Gardens shul before the Kol Nidre service at the beginning of Yom Kippur (during which we did not drive) and came to fetch us by car at the end of Neilah, the last service of Yom Kippur on the next day, with apples in the car. Tom taught all four of us to drive, starting on Green Point Common, but he never succeeded in teaching Ma to drive. One of Tom’s jobs was to look after the garden. He used a heavy roller to flatten the orange gravel of the driveway and tennis court.
After Tom had been in South Africa for about 50 years, the government changed their laws and wished to deport him back to Bechuanaland, although he had married a Colored woman in Cape Town, had a family there and no longer knew anyone in his old country. Dad finally appealed to the government minister (perhaps Mr. Donges) and eventually had the deportation postponed, but I think it still hung over Tom’s head until he was in his 80s. Tom was always saving us from bad situations. Once he drove to Elgin to drive me back from a scout camp from which we had got rained out, jumped on an “old” bee-hive, and brought out a swarm of bees. We hid under some bushes for a long time after that. After my father died in 1960, Tom continued to work for my mother in Sea Point until he became too old (in his 80s) to work any longer. The two old people (he and my mother) were inseparable and used to argue constantly, e.g., Miriam remembers them arguing about what color to paint something. Both of them were exceedingly obstinate. The situation reminded me very much of the movie “Driving Miss Daisy” about a Southern U.S. lady and her driver. Tom died at the age of about 90. I visited him once where he was living with his daughter on the Cape Flats. Miraim recalls Tom as loyal to the family, warm, simple and direct. Julian was very attched to him. When Tom was old, Julian used to bring him to his farm, where he would emjoy sitting in the sun.
All these servants worked for our family for many, many years. The other members of the Harris family, such as Woolf and Rose Harris and the Raphaely family, also lived in big houses and had several Colored and African servants in their households, most of whom worked for and became almost part of the families for many years.
Tienie Carstens: In addition, a young white Afrikaner woman, Tieneie Carstens, looked after us children for some years. She came from Clan William, north of Cape Town. Tienie used to bathe all four of us in the same large bath on legs, in water which at that time was deep brown because (I gather) it percolated through peat. Tienie married Rudolph in the large Dutch Reformed church in Adderley Street and we all went to the wedding. Rudolph was a bus driver and an alcoholic. The marriage ended in divorce. They had two children who were put in an orphanage. At one stage Tienie worked at OK Bazaars. I think she later became an aid for old people.
Of course each generation of immigrants looked down on the next generation of immigrants . The Gardens area was inhabited by many Jewish immigrants who arrived in the 1920s and 1930s, especially from Lithuania and, later, Germany. Yiddish was widely spoken. This immigration was later than most of the Jewish immigration into the U.S.A. However, Jewish migration from Eastern Europe to South Africa was mostly stopped by the Quota Act of 1930. German Jews could still come in, and many did after Hitler rose to power in 1933. However, after the Nazi Greyshirts organized a large protest on the arrival of 570 German Jewish immigrants on the Stuttgart in 1936, D.F. Malan, later the head of the Nationalist party, introduced a bill in Parliament to restrict Jewish immigration and this was passed by the ruling United Party as the 1937 Aliens Bill15. One of these German immigrants was Mr. Pulvermacher, a very nice man who tried unsuccessfully to teach Miriam and me to play the Bechstein mini-grand piano, which had originally been bought for Isabel Harris and was kept in the drawing room. Later, Mr. Pulvermacher gave up on this with relief and, more successfully, taught us to appreciate classical music.
Myrtle Lodge was the biggest and richest house in the area and many of our contemporaries came to visit us and spend evenings there. I still hear from people who used to visit us then. Mom and Dad and, later, their children had many visitors who came to play tennis at Myrtle Lodge, including Ruby Kahn, mother of my wife, Lynda. Lynda remembers coming ther when she was 5-6 years old and being impressed with the milkshake mixer, which we used to make myrtle berry juice (not to be drunk!).
Dad’s activities: Dad was then a physician specializing in gastroenterology. In addition to his research, mostly on animals before he went to Europe, he published a number of clinical papers on gastroenterology, including papers on gastric ulcers and colitis (irritable bowel syndrome). Dad is considered to be the first physician specializing in gastroenterology in South Africa and today the Gastroenteroloical Society of South Africa has an annual “Louis Mirvish memorial lecture.” For many years Dad’s office was in the London and Lnacahire Building at the top of St. George’s Street. Later, he moved his office to the Stuttafords building lower in the same street. In addition to his private practice, Dad was appointed head of a teaching ward at Groote Schuur Hospital (the principal hospital in Cape Town at that time) and kept that position until he died. The ward consisted of 26 beds and was the left-hand half of a large room or hall. Morris Rogoff told me in 2003 that Dad was always kind to residents, students and patients. Gwynne Robins wrote in 2004 that she had just met Dr. Izzie Pilowky, a psychiatrist visiting Cape Town from Australia, who worked as a resident in Dad’s ward. He desrevcibed Dad as very cultured with a dry sense of humor, who was the first doctor to give a barium meal in Cape Town. I remember that for many years Dad had his own X-ray machine, which he would have used to monitor barium meals, in his private office at the top of St. George’s St. Finally, he was forced to give up the X-ray machine when radiology became better established, as then only radiologists were permitted to have these machines (I gather). Dr. Pilovsky said that Dad persuaded him to take up psychiatry because, Dad said, so much of gastroenterology had psychological causes.
For many years towards the end of his life, Dad was a member of the influential Cape Province Hospital Board. I remember him preparing for meetings of this committee with much care. This position made Dad leery about his children acting to oppose government policy - see story about Miriam. In administrative matters, he used to say that it was important neither to favor nor to discriminate for or against Jewish doctors, and that this was the general practice in Cape Town, unlike (he claimed) the position in Johannesburg, where the Jewish and Christian doctors formed two camps, each promoting their co-religionists.
In his private practice, Dad treated many patients “pro bono” (without payment), including many members of his father’s congregation and of course all family members. Just before he died, Dad was troubled by the fact that he would have to retire from the hospital at age 65, yet really he would be 66 at that time, because his parents had declared his age to be one year younger than he was in order to get cheaper tickets on the ship when they immigrated to South Africa (apparently, birth certificates were not required for this purpose). Unfortunately, this question became moot because Dad died when he was 63 years old.
In the 1930s Mom and Dad became interested in the Popular Front, a movement to halt the spread of fascism, and knew many of the Communists of that period, including Jack and Ray Simons. Later I heard songs on records about the fight of the republicans against the fascists in the Spanish civil war in the late 1930s. Jack Simons was a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Cape Town. His wife Ray was Jewish. Jack became widely revered after the African National Congress took over the government around 1990, and died only around 2000. The left-wing movement was especially concerned with the treatment of Blacks, Coloreds and Indians in South Africa. I remember going with Dad and Jack Simons on a weekend trip to a dorp (village) near Cape Town, perhaps Tulbach. We visited the “location,” the area where Colored people lived, and soon Jack had them talking with considerable bitterness about their situation. The 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact put an end to Dad’s interest in the Communists, and, like many other Jewish liberals, this and the terrible experiences of Jews in Europe (to the extent that they were known then) convinced him to concentrate his efforts rather on his own, Jewish community.
Dad was interested in painting and sculpture, and knew many of the Cape Town artists, including the sculptors Lippy Lipshitz Solly Disner and Eva and Vilodza Meyerowitz, and the painters Wolf Kibel, John Dronsfield and Gregoire Boonzaier. Miriam thought that Dad had helped to support Lippy Lipschitz during his studies in Paris and that he had also helped Wolf Kibel. Mom and Dad’s home became a gathering place for artists and this even continued to some extent after Dad died. Dad collected paintings and sculptures by these artists, including a frieze by Lippy Lipshitz of activities in Cape Town, later owned by Julian. Dad also collected African art, some of it,including a collection of brass “gold weights” (used to weigh gold) sent from Ghana (the Gold Coast) by Eva Meyerowitz, and this was later distributed to his children. Together with Ma, we gave a number of items to the South African Museum. These items included especially a collection of pipes from the Transkei that I think Dad mostly bought during trips to the region. We have a photo of Dad riding a Basuto pony on a trip to Basutoland (Lesotho), a mountainous area in the center of South Africa.
Dad had many intellectual woman friends, including many of the women active inthe Union of Jewish Women such as Rose Moscovic, Minna Levitas and Sarah Sloman, as well as the artist Eva Meyerowitz, Ma’s cousin Rita Hinden in London and Essis Shrire. Essie and her husband David lived near Kloof Nek and gave me and Lynda an 18th century map of Southern Africa for a weddiong present. Dad enjoyed close relationships with and much intellectual stimulation from these women. Whereas Rose Moscovic was thin and intense, her husband Sam was a jolly, friendly, chubby and well liked traveling salesman, who knew everyone in all the small towns in the Western Cape and beyond. Mom and Dad had frequent dinner parties. After dinner, the men would retire to the study to discuss men’s matters, while the women remained behind. Dad was also friendly with Jean Mathews, his secretary for many yrears, who was calm, well organized and very English. After work he used to visit her and her husband, who lived near downtown, and have a drink with them.
Dad told me about the role of Woolf Harris in getting Parliament to vote in 1939 to join the Allies in declaring war on Germany – see Woolf Harris. Apparently, after I went to England in 1951, Dad told Julian that in fact he (Dad) was also very much involved and was an important go-between in this effort. Dad felt this so strongly that he told Julian that he had already done his war effort before South Africa declared war and that this excused him for not joining the Medical Corps of the Defense Forces. Dad worked very hard as a doctor in Cape Town during the War, whereas many of the Medical Corps doctors were underutilized.
In his later years, Dad became very involved in Jewish communal activities. During and soon after World War 2, he became busy with the Ort Oze, an organization that encourages Jewish youths to take up skilled trades instead of becoming shop-keepers and other occupations which, among other things, could not easily be transported to other countries. People in such occupations were regarded as Luftmenschen - people with their feet planted in the air instead of on the ground. This feeling was part of the Labor Zionist and Bundist (non-Zionist labor) movements (see mentions of this feeling in the article on Woolf Harris (Appendix 2) and of Dad’s role in Ort-Oze in the section on Myer Katovsky). As Myer Katovsky related to me and I remember, Mr. Syngalowsky, international head of Ort-Oze and an impressive individual, visited Cape Town soon after the War, and Mom and Dad were very busy hosting his visit. Afterr.Syngalowsky’s visit, according to Miriam, Dad started Ort in Cape Town. Claude Reitstein, in an araticle written in 2000 on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Sheltered Employment Council, recorded that the Ort organization, the headqwuarters of which was in Geneva, Switzerland, established a committee in Cape Town in 1942. Claude Reitstein joined the committee in 1946, when Dad was chairman and Myer Kaatovsky was honorary secretary. Seeral industrialists, e.g., Mr. Marks, were also members of this committee and worked to employ or train young Jewish men in various trades in their factories.
Dad was deeply concerned about Phyllis Anziska, his niece, who had cerebral palsy. An Ort subcommittee found a number of young Jews who needed sheltered employment and were a terrible burden on their parents, especially their mothers, who had to stay home and look after them16. So an inaugural meeting was held in 1950 of what became the Jewish Sheltered Employment Council. Attendees included Dad, Myer and Zelda Katovsky, Minna Levitas and Claude Reitstein. Dad was the first chairman. In 1951 the Council acquired rooms at the Astra Grils’ Hostel in Breda Street, Gardens, which was then operated by the Union of Jewish Women for young Jewish women. This building was later taken over completely by the Council and this is where it still operated in 2004. At this site the people employed by the Sheltered Employment Council began by making string and tapestry work, simple weaving and cane work. These activities gave these people self-respect as well as some income. Claude Reitstein was the Director of the facility for many years after that.
Dad was the first chairman and chief founder of the Jewish Museum in Cape Town. Probably, his interest in art stimulated this interest. I remember many evenings when he attended meeting of the museum committee after a hard day at work. The museum was eventually established in the oldest synagogue in South Africa, the “Old Shul” built around 1840. The building is adjacent to the main building of the Gardens synagogue, which was built in the early 1900s. The Gardens was originally the Dutch East India Company’s vegetable gardens and is now a historic park in the middle of Cape Town. At that time there were plans to knock down the Old Shul and expand the main synagogue, and Dad fought hard and successfully to prevent this. It took a great deal of effort to persuade Rabbi Israel Abrahams, rabbi of the Gardens Shul, to support establishment of the museum, but he eventually became a strong supporter of it. Items were collected from homes in Cape Town to start the museum. A number of these items came from Mom and Dad’s collection, much of which came originally from Harris family possessions in Myrtle Lodge. Items and records were also collected from small rural Jewish communities that were dissolved when their members moved to the big cities. Later, the museum received many items from Jewish organizations that distributed artwork salvaged from Jewish institutions in Europe after the War. The museum also collected archival material and eventually had a part-time and then a full-time curator17. The museum was taken over by Mendel Kaplan’s organization and is now part of his much expanded museum. Its primary emphasis now is to present the Jewish community to the Jews and the general population, rather than to preserve the history and artifacts of the community. It includes an interesting reconstruction of houses in a Lithuanian village (shtetl) and an exhibition about the Holocaust.
Ma’s activities: Mom became very interested in social organizations after her children began growing up. She was mostly active in the Union of Jewish Women, a non-religious and non-political organization like the National Council of Jewish Women in the U.S.A. At one stage she was President of the organization in Cape Town and was on the Union’s central committee for many years. While other white South African women spent all their time going to tea parties and playing carfd games, tennis and golf (as they had servants to lookafter the house and, often, the children), the women in this organization spent much of their time on social causes. Ma was skilled at committee meetings and Miriam remembers that phrases lime “Madame Chair…” and “On a point of orde …” were second nature to Ma. The Union eventually took over Dad’s offices in the London and Lancashire building when he moved his officeto the Stuttaford’s builidng. Dad enjoyed meeting with these women and discussing ideas for their work.
During World War 2 the Union was very busy entertaining the soldiers who passed through Cape Town in convoys on their way to and from the Far East (they traveled via Cape Town becuse the Suez canal was closed). The Union operated a dining hall at the Zionist Hall in Hope Street especially for Jewish soldiers. Other women’s groups operated similar halls elsewhere in the city. Ma was one of the chief organizers of this program, but for the actual cooking Ruby Kahn (Lynda’s mother) was shocked that Ma did not know how to prepare mustard from mustard powder. Although petrol (gasoline) was strictly rationed, the Union also arranged tours by car of the Cape Peninsula for visiting soldiers.
In a major effort, the Union of Jewish Women established Jewish Kindergartens throughout the Cape Peninsula. For example, in 1945 Simon Scher suggested establishing a Jewish day school in the Southern Suburbs and approached the Board of Deputies to push this idea. Ma, who was then chairman of the Union of Jewish Women, heard about this and, because of his interest in Jewish education, persuaded Mr. Scher to call a meeting to establish a Hebrew Nursery School. He did this and the result was that an extra room, which had just been built for the Talmud Torah in Hope Street, the Gardens, was allocated for a Kindergarten18. In 1950 Ma persuaded the Claremont Hebrew Congregation to establish a Hebrew Nursery School. Named Menorah, this became the largest such school in Cape Town.
Much later, Pauline Pobrey, a Jew and a Communist, married A.J. Naidoo, an Indian. They had a daughtrer and wished to enroll her in the Hebrew kindergarten. The committee initially refused to admit the child becasue she was Colored. Finally, Ma and Mr. Avin, a wonderful Hebrew teacher, who taught me Hebrew privately and later became principal of the Herzlila Day School, strongly objected and the child was admitted. Later, the Naidoos left Sout Africa, went to Hungary, where they became disillusioned with Communism, and settled in England.
After much discussion, Ma persuaded the Union of Jewish Women to open a creche (daycare center) in the suburb of Kensington on the Cape Flats, inhabited by Colored people. According tro my sister Doreen, the idea for the creche came from a meeting of former Leftist Jews held by or including Dad. They wanted to help the Colored people and though initially of establishing a newspaper form\ them. But Dad thought a more practicval approach would be to set up day care centers and Ma enthusiastically adopted this idea. I think she was the head of the committee running it for a number of years. This was a day-care center where working mothers could leave their children and thereby allowed the mothers to earn a living, and was especially important for single motahers. My cousin Jocely Kruskal, wrote the foloowing to me in 2005 about the founding of the creche:
• “The creche was started in the earlyu 1940s as a soup kitchen serving the Windermere area, which is now known as Kensigton. Subsequently, the creche was added to the soup kitchen – I think about 1943, bu nobody is too sure about the date. The creche has always been on the premises of SHAWCO –Stuents Health and Welfare Organization – which runs many facilities in the townships – health, legal, etc. I remember going to the crech with your Mom en route to the farm (see below) many years ago and I still visti it every week.”
Later, the Union of Jewish Women established a string of such creches in Cape Town. The creches were subsidized by the (Nationalist) government or the Cape Town city council, but not by the later African National Congress government, which has different priorities. I heard some of this in 1999 from Jocelyn Kruskal, who was then prominent in the Union of Jewish Women and co-chair of the creche. Only the original creche at Kensington was operating at that time.
Family matters: At some stage during the War, Mom and Dad bought a 23-acre farm called Hillrise in Durbanville, about 15 miles from Cape Town. Dad hankered after the land, he said, and for many years before the purchase we motored into the country every Sunday looking at farms thqt were for sale. This was a family enterprise and we were all involved in converting this empty land, full of native protea bushes, into an active farm. Ma enjoyed spending weekends there cooking (I remember scrambled eggs with tomato and onion on a Primus stove in a simple concrete house. (Ma did almost no cooking at home in Cape Town.) Tom Frank, the driver, came with on these expeditions I think. Later, a man was employed at the farm, the one room became his house and they built a separate large room with a thatched roof with no ceiling, which was attached to a rondavel (round thatched room, modeled on African huts). This became the farmhouse. We used to invite friends there and I celebrated the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 with an all-night party at the farm organized by the Habonim youth movement. We planted olive trees and also had bee-hives at the farm. Julian became interested in agriculture because of this experience. Eventually, the farm was sold and the proceeds were used to help Julian buy his farm at Tokai.
In 1953 or 1954 (after I went to England), my parents sold Myrtle Lodge, with much misgivings by my mother, who was born in the house, and moved to “Cheyne” in Kenilworth between the main road and the railway line. Kenilworth was a suburb near where the rest of the Harris family had been living for many years. Dad would have preferred to go to Sea Point because it was warmer and drier, he was troubled by rheumatism and he thought it wold be more sociable than the suburbs (both his brothers Issie and Abe lived there), but Ma prevailed.
In November, 1960, Lynda Kahn and I got married in Cape Town. The marriage was held in the Gardens Synagogue and Dad gave a speech at the reception. He had complained to me beforehand of pains in his back, but he and his orthopedics doctor thought it was just rheumatism. However, it was really angina and two days after the wedding Dad died from a heart attack at the young age of 63. We returned from Johannesburg for the funeral. Miriam also came to the funeral. Lynda and I stayed in Cape Town for a month before leaving for Israel.
Ma lived for 19 years after Dad died, had to become much more independent and in fact developed a lot. She moved to a flat in Sea Point and began to travel frequently to visit her children - at that stage Miriam, Doreen, Lynda and I were all in Israel. Once (in 1970) she visited us here in Omaha and even saw (and liked very much) the house that we now live in, though we had not yet moved into it. Ma would help Miriam and Doreen with their shop, visit her grandchildren Leora and Daniel, and spend time with other family members in Israel. Mom and Julian were in Israel during the Six-Day War in June, 1967, when she sent us the following postcard:
• “From Mrs. Mirvish, Kikar Hameginim, Safad, Israel, to Dr. and Mrs. Mirvish, Rehov Hanassi Harishon No. 19, Rehovoth, Israel: Safad, Tuesday. My dearest Sidney and Lynda, I am writing you this card in the hope that it will reach you. I do not know when I will try to ring the Institute tomorrow (we did not have a telephone at home – S.M.). I do hope that you are all alright. We arrived here safely after just two air-raid alarms on the way. However, they were quickly over. We got here, fixed up the black-out and the shelter. All night there seemed to be shooting and planes flying. The car has been commandeered and Miriam and Doreen have been driving just really round the town. They needed blood urgently. Julian and I have been sitting on the stoep listening to the news and watching the flares. Anyway, the Israelis seem to be getting on alright. Please if you feel I can be of any help to you, send me a wire or phone me at the Herzlia hotel and I will come back. I am sorry you did not come with us Lynda, it seems quieter than Rehovot although I cannot give you guarantees. All my love, Mom. P.S. Julian cannot leave at the moment. His plane has been canceled.”
Ma’s last few years were spent in her flat in Sea Point. She slowly deteriorated after a series of minor strokes and eventually needed a daytime and a night-time companion. Julian had the chief responsibility of looking after her and was most attentive.
Harry Harris left S.A. Woollen Mills shares to each of his grandchildren. Ma put the dividends from these shares into post-office savings accounts each time they arrived, and I remember going to the post office in Mill St. to help deposit the money. I used This money was used by me to augment my scholarship when I was a student in Cambridge, by Julian to help buy his farm in Tokai, and by Miriam and Doreen to help buy and stock their shop.
SIDNEY AND LYNDA MIRVISH
I was born in 1929 and my Hebrew-Yiddish name is Shlomo Zalman, in memory of my great-grandfather Solomon Harris. When I was about 3 years old, my English name was changed from Solomon to Sidney Solomon to anglicize it. When I was about 2 years old and lived in London, relates Jubby Gesundheit, I was looked after by a German woman, a “Fraulein,” that my parents brought over from Germany where my Dad had been studying. The fraulein was educated in the liberal Weimar Republic and caused a stir when she insisted on letting me walk around naked in the park.
I attended a Hebrew kindergarten off Camp Street in Oranjezicht run by Mrs. Mibashan, who had lived in Palestine. Her husband came from Rumania and her son Ruby became a friend of mine and a doctor, and settled in England. Later, I went to Good Hope girls’ school in Breda St., probably for a year (only its kindergarten class took boys) and then went to junior and high school at SACS (South African College School), a school for boys about 15 minutes walk from Myrtle Lodge. When I was in high school, my parents helped me to convert the succah into a laboratory. I did chemical experiments there together with Alex Charlson and Brian Abrahamson, both of whom were in my class at SACS and later moved to Australia (Alex became an organic chemist and Brian, a mathematician). I have a picture of the three of us with a distilling apparatus, which we used to dry-distil wood (this generates a terrible smell), assembled on the gravel driveway of Myrtle Lodge. We used to go to Buitengracht St. near down-town to a supply house, where we bought chemical apparatus and chemicals. One of these chemicals was a large bottle of uranium nitrate, which made me nervous when the atom bomb was exploded in Japan 1-2 years later, but is actually fairly harmless.
I first belonged to the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts. When I was 14 to 20 years old, in 1943 to 1949, I belonged to the (Zionist Socialist youth) Habonim scout group that met in the Jewish orphanage in Oranjezicht (Kenny Dixon, who became an architect, was a member of the orphanage and of the Habonim group). Later, I graduated to a Habonim chavura (group) called Tel Yosef, with about 12 members, including Joe Berg (its leader), Joe Jach, Joel and Marion Tobias, Neville Velkes, Morris Rogoff, Miriam Morgenstern and Orca Shapiro. The group adopted the loft above the garage of Myrtle Lodge, which was entered only by a ladder and had a nice pitched roof with cross-beams. The cross-beams were decorated with slogans from Zionist leaders and from Friedrich Engels (Karl Marx's associate), a quotation from the Bible saying "Man does not live by bread alone" and a "quotation" by one of our members, Joe Jach, saying "See you a chalutz! He shall sway a multitude of statesmen". (Joe obtained a Rhodes Scholarship and a Ph.D. in chemistry at Oxford University and later became a futures trader in Wall Street. I am still in contact with him.) The driving forces for this and similar groups were the terrible news of the Holocaust and the struggle for a Jewish state in Palestine, as well as the situation of Black people in South Africa and the inauguration in 1948 of the Nationalist government in South Africa, which stayed in power for almost 50 years. In November, 2001, I attended a 50th anniversary party and sing-song at Kibbutz Tsor’ah near Bet Shemesh in Israel. The anniversary commeroated the arrival at the kibbutz of the first South African Habonim group, was organized by athe brothers Gus and Dov Seligman (Gus was originally from Jo’burg, had gone to Elsenberg Agricultural College near Cape Town, often stayed for weekends at Myrtle Lodge and became a very successful agricultural scientist in Israel after some years at kibbutz Tsor’ah). The day at Tsor’ah included a tour of an ancient Canaanite city and of the adjacent new town of Beth Shemesh, an explanation of the economic and general future of the kibhutz - it is in a designated green belt area, with lots of water from recycled Jerusalem sewage and land on rent from a nearby monastery. The day ended with songs from Habonim, Israel, South African, and USA (including songs by Pete Seeger). It was great to see so many of my old friends again, mostly still keeping well.
I did very well in the Matric exam in 1945, paratly due to joint studies with Brian Abrahamson. Luckily for me, the War ended before I could enlist in the aramy. Instead, I enrolled as a student at the Univesity of Cape Town in 1946. Dduring those years, the university built a special residence of prefabricated huts for army veterans, called unfeelingly “Belsen.” Dad wanted me to study medicine but to first get a scientific background by obtaining a B.Sc. degree, probably because he had had so much contact with research himself. So from 1946 to 1948 I majored in Chemistry and Physiology and graduated in 1948. My lecturer in Chemistry, Fred Holliman, was a young and enthusiastic lecturer who had studied in Camabridge. For example, he taught us in detail how the structure of the steroids had been established in about 1930. The Physiology was not very interesting except for the lectures on biochemistry by H. Zwarenstein. He had earlier developed the pregnancy test as described earlier. He gave me my first research project, to try to find out if the clawed toad Xenopus laevis (the species used for the pregnancy test) excretes excess nitrogen as urea or ammonia in its urine – I enjoyued the project but never found the answer to the question. After my B.Sc. degree, I decided that I would stick with chemistry and Dad agreed after some very serious arguments. Ironically, I have been at Medical Schools for most of my subsequent career.
I was awearded a masters degree in chemistry at the University of Cape Town in 1950 and for my research worked on a bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) that produced a red pigment. My aim was to identify this pigment. To help in this project I used the relatively new techniqwue of ultraviolet spectrosopy. I did not solve this problem, but Holliman liked my elaborate arguments based on very little evidence to guess the type of compound that the dye was (Holliman later solved the problem himself). I was awarded a Jamieson fellowship (established by the leader of the Jamieson raid that started the Boer War!) and with its aid and recommendations from Holliman went to England in 1951 to study for a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Cambridge University. On the recommendation of Dad’s friend Myer Fortes, who came from the Cape Town Jewish community and was an anthropologist at Cambridge University and a Fellow of King’s College, I was also accepted as a member of King’s College.
My Ph.D. thesis concerned the synthesis of an unusual plant toxin called cicutoxin. I finally succeeded in the synthesis (I made about 20 milligrams of cicutoxin, enough to establish its properties using the new technique of infrared spectroscopy) and received my Ph.D. degree in 1955. In 1953 my adviser, Basil Lythgoe, was appointed a professor at Leeds University and as a result I spent the last 18 months of my Ph.D. studies in Leeds. Stewart Trippett, the post-doc of Lythgoe, was especially encouraging when it looked as if the synthesis would not work. In Leedds I met up with Neville Gottlieb, who was studying textiles at the university there, and Michael Raphaely, who was studying textiles at the Ujniversity of Manchester.
I then returned to South Africa for 5½ years, where I initially worked for 6 months at the South African Wool Research Institute in Grahamstown, and for the rest taught biochemistry and did cancer research at the Physiology Department of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In Johannesburg I re-met Lynda Kahn, born in 1935, the daughter of Jack and Ruby Kahn. She grew up in Sea Point, Cape Town, until the age of 11, when she moved to Johannesburg. In Joburg she obtained a B.Sc. degree in Fine Arts at the Universityof Witswatersrand and then worked in adavertizing, especially for a cosmetics company. Her mother Ruby knew my mother and used to play tennis with her at Myrtle Lodge.
Lynda and I married in November, 1960. I returned from Jerusalem, where I had already been working for two months, for the wedding in November, 1960. After Dad died two days later, we spent a month in Cape Town before leaving for Israel with the aid of a fellowship from the South African Zionist Federation, which paid my airfare.
Lynda and I spent seven years in Israel, between 1960 and 1969. Our daughter Julia Leora was born in Jerusalem in 1961. I worked initially at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where Leora was born in 1961 at a hospital used by Hadassah bearing the slogan “British Mission to convert the Jews” (it was built in the 1880s)). For the rest of our stay in Israel, I had a postion at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. We spent 18 months in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, in the middle of that period, during 1965-1967. Daniel was born in Madison in 1966. Since 1969 we have been living in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A., where I am emplolyed by the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
In 1986, Ruby Kahn moved in with us in Omaha and died here in 1993. Her family came from London and I have written up stories about her family and life as a "Ruby Kahn" document. Lynda became a graduate student in fina arts and history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has had a job as an editor of the Jewish Press in Omaha, worked for some years for the Mutual of Omaha insurance company and in 2005 works part-time at the local Public Radio station. She was recently involved in publicitiy for organizing tetsting for Ashkenazi Jews in Omaha to detect carriers of genetic diseases common in this scommunity.
Leora is an architect in Washington DC, where she has worked extensively on renovation of the concert hall, the opera house and, most recently, the theater of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts; and on the renovationof an old school. In 2005 she gave a tak on the Kennedy Center to a national theater architects group in Knasas City. She is active in the Peace Now movement (for peace in the Middle East), grows vegetables in a Victory Garde (multiple plots established during World War 2 to supply food to the city) and lives in an apartment built in about 1920, overlooking Rock Creek park..
Daniel married Rachel Miller in February of 1996 in Los Angeles. They now live in Culver City, a suburb/satellite town of Los Angeles. For their wedding we had a family reunion including Miriam, Doreen and Simcha from Israel, Julian and Jewel from Cape Town, Adrian and Lissa Mirvish (Adrian is the son of Issie, brother of Louis) and their three sons from San Francisco, Melissa Raphaely (daughter of Jonathan and Dorothy Raphaely, granddaughter of Celie Raphaely) from San Francisco, and Avron Weinreich of Los Angeles, who helped Miriam start their shop in Safad and was a distant relative of Lynda. Avron died of lymphoma later in 1996.
Daniel is a budding film director and a co-founder and organizer of the Slamdance film festival for independent producers, held annually in Fall City, Utah, at the same time as the more welll known Sundance festival. Daniel has directed and produced two movies. The first was “Omaha the Movie,” a comedy-adventure set in Omaha that he made when still a graduate student. The second movie was “Open House,” a musical dealing with the real estate business that he showed at the Slamdance Festival in January, 2004. Rachel is a pediatrician and a partner in the Kaiser Permanente Health Organization. Danaiel and Rachel have two children, Rebecca Sophie (b. 1999) and Jonathan (b. 2003). Rebecca is named after Ruby, Lynda’s mother. Jonathan is named after my brother Julian. Add full names
Miriam (b. 1930 in London) was named after her grandmother, Miriam Harris. Miriam attended Good Hope school (a school for girls only except for kindergarten). As a child she used to put on elaborate plays together with her friends Leah Padovich and Judy Zinman. The three of them dressed in fancy clothes and staged the plays at the far end of the hallway of Myrtle Lodge near the stair way and behind curtains that were installed there. The audience (the family) had to sit on chairs in the front parat of the hall. Later, Miriam became active in the Habonim movement. Miriam trained in social work at the University of Cape Town. She became active in left-wing opposition groups and became known to the police.
After an argument with Dad about her left-wing activities, Miriam went to England on the same boat that Mom and Dad went on. In England Miriam went with Ma, Pa and me on a car trip through the Midlands of Britain, ending with a visit to Lancelot Hogben in Wales. (Miriam says Hogben was living there with a woman.) Miriam then spent 3-4 months in Leeds, where I was a student, and stayed with me at Mrs. Parker’s while she was doing a “rotation” in social work.
After she returned to South Africa, she was refused a passport and so could not leave the country. My father had treated the Minister of the Interior, Dr. Donges, and wrote to him promising that Miriam would not do anything political if she was given a passport. So she got her passport and left South Africa. For some years, I believe, she could not return there. Miriam traveled widely (mostly on her U.K. passport), e.g., she spent a year in her early 20s in Spain, where she had a very serious boy friend, and settled in Israel in the 1950s.
Miriam eventually (when?) settled in Israel. She worked there as a socialworker and did various other jobs, including working at the kibbutz Ne’ot Hakikar in the Jordan valley south of the Dead Sea, and helping in the archeological digs at Madada. She and Doreen started the shop Dervish in Safad in 1965. They invested 1,000 lira each. This was supplied by Doreen, who had recently arrived from South Africa bringing some money with her. Miriam also borrowed some money from my wife Lynda and from Avron Weinreich, an anesthetist from Cape Town, who became a partner in the shop. Avron’s firend Kevin painted and fixed up the shop. Later, Miriam and Doreen bought out Avron. The shop was ‘a hole in the wall’ on a small square in the old Jewish quarter of Safad, and much of their wares were placed outside. We have pictures of the square, which has not changed much since those days, except that most of the people there are now religious residents and not artists and tourists. At first Miriam and Doreen sold tourist goods made to be sold in gift shops. In those days Safad was full of Israelis who did not travel very much and did not have air conditioning, so they came to Safad from the coast in summer to escape the heat, especially from June to August (the shop opened in August). Later, they bought stuff from Safadis, who saw pots outside the shop and said “I’ve got some just like them in our attic.” A little later they bought stuff from the Arab villages in the Galilee. They got friendly with Assad, a Druze, who helped them in the buying. Assad gave the villagers new aluminum ports and in return took their old copper pots. Miriam had a Vespa scooter and she carried the pots on the back of the scooter. When someone in Safad died, their relatives in Haifa took all the modern goods. They would call Miriam and Doreen and ask if they would take all the old stuff, which they did. Miriam and Doreen also sold some of their own belongings. The old pots were made by hand and were beautiful when cleaned up.
In 19… add date Miriam and Doreen moved their shop to Tel-Aviv to take advantage of the larger clientele there and to be in the big city. Miriam, Doreen and Simcha still keep (with "key money") a charming house in Safad, built into the hillside. They mostly stay there during weekends, especially during sukkmer, and know many people there. The house has one room on each level and has arched ceilings in the old Safad style. The house is set in a walled garden with fig trees and ivy covering the ground. It is now surrounded by modern blocks of apartments (shikunim) inhabited by orthodox Jews with whom my sisters find little in common. The previous owner of the house was a woman who died when she was nearly 100 years old. Miriam and Doreen found walking sticks (canes) of varied sizes - the old woman used shorter ones as she got older and more bent. Her job was to wash and prepare the bodies for the cemetery just on the other side of the road down the hill. (In the Mirvish family there was a relative who left his wife and children in Lithuania at the age of about 60 to "die in the Holy Land." Instead, he lived for many years in Safad and should be buried in that cemetery. My father looked for the grave, but could not find it.)
In the 1970s Miriam started traveling abroad to third-world countries. She toured Yemen three time using her British passport. On one of these expeditions, she made a home movie about her experiences. On her return, Miriam gave a number of talks about her trip to Yemenite Jews living in Israel. They found it hard to beliege that their country had changed so mukch since they had left it. One of her first trips was to India. Somewhat later, Doreen also started traveling to buy goods for the shop. On one trip Miriam traveled to Northern Afghanistan near the Oxus River and the Hindu Kush mountains. She stopped at a village. They had old china plates just as described by Marco Polo. The river next to the path that she was on was swollen and Miriam fell in. In the water she managed to hold on to her bag containing her money, passport and air ticket. Men were sitting on the banks of the river with fighting cocks and other men were on the path. None of them would help because it was “unclean” to touch a woman, especially one who was unveiled and Western. Finally, one man held out his hand and helped her out. She went to the house (Babu) of the man with whom she was staying. During this walk the whole village followed Miriam without saying a word. Her host made her take off all her clothes and boiled them. Another man brought her white robes which covered her from head to toe like an Aghan woman. Next day she left, traveled 200 kilometers over the mountains (the Hindu Kush?). On the other side of the mountains the villagers had already heard about the woman who fell in the river. They invited her to see cock-fighting at dawn. The whole village (but only the men) were there and she was the only Westerner prewent. They kept tie-dyed covers over the cages, walked around carrying the cages and gambled on the fight. Near the final village on this trip there was a town built from scratch by the Russians. It was very ugly.
In about 1980, Doreen and Simcha spent a year in the U.S.A., where Simcha was teaching. When they returned, Miriam went traveling for a year in East Africa and Moslem Asia, including China and Central Asia. She visited (not in order) Ethiopia, Yemen, Oman, the jungles of Borneo, Sumatra, Nepal, India, Burma, Thailand, Brunei, Kashgar in the Sinkiang proinave of China, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan and the Karakoram highway, She started the trip mundanely by taking a bus to Cairo. The central Asiasn countries were places whre the British and Russians had competed for influence for a century. Later, she used to travel for about 3 molnths every year. Once she was in Cambodia when the Kmer Rouge took power, the regime that was reposnsible for the killing fields. She was the only visityor to the Ankor Wat temples there.
Revised to here
Julian Gerald (Yaakov Moshe, 1933-2002) was named after Dada’s brother Jacob, who died in 1918 during the flu epidemic. As mentioned in the section on Dad, the Xenopus pregnancy test was first tried out (successfully) on Ma when she was pregnant with Julian. As a child he had beautiful golden curls. Julian became a chicken breeder and farmer. He first expressed this interest as a child. As a result he was given an incubator as a Barmitzva present. This was heated with paraffin and was kept under Julian’s bed, but none of the eggs hatched. Julian became interested in agriculture when our parents bought the farm in Durbanville in 1943. At the age of 15 or 16 he had beehives at the farm, producied honey and won a prize for the honey at the Rosebank agricultural show. The honey was called “Hillrise Honey (afater the name of the Durbanville farm). Underneat on the fancy label was printed “Golden treasures of the bees” (a quotation from Horace). The labls were designed by Jack Dronsfield, an artist and friend of Dad. Julian had an extractor and a smoker (so the bees would vacate the hives). The smoker once started a fire that burnt down much of the farm. Eventually, Juslian decided that it was easier to make a living from chickens than from bees.
After working for a short time at the farm in Durbanville, Julian apprenticed himself for a year to a Jewish farmer, Mr. Dorfman, in Hout Bay and for some time at a farm in Paarl or Klapmuts. Julian then studied agriculture at Elsenberg College near Stellenbosch, about 30 miles from Cape Town. He and Klaus Apt were the only Jewish students there. Then our parents sold the farm in Durbanville and, partly with its proceeds, Julian and our parents bought a farm at Tokai. They named it Tokai Poultry Farm. For many years Julian bred his own line of “Tokaiplus” day-old chickens for egg-laying and sold equipment for poultry farms. The chicken equipment was mostly bought from the kibutz Maagan Michael in Israel. At the height of the chicken business there, he had many corrugated iron barns containing the laying chickens. Julian sold the chicken and chicken equipment mostly in South Africa but also in other countries. For this purpose he traveled widely throughout Southern Africa and beyond, including Zasire, Ivorty Coast and Malawi. Once President Mobutu of Zaire visited his farm – his wife had set up a poultry farm in Zaire and Julian was helping them, When he went to Africa outside South Africa, he used to say “I am going to Africa.” Cecil Helman called him by the British phrase "an old Africa hand."
I have a poster from that period entitled “How we breed the profit into Tokaiplus …” with pictures of the workers who bred the chekns. The poster has a picture of Julian examiing the breeding records and a pictrure of Dr. Leon Rosenblatt, an American geneticist whom Julilan brought to Cape Town every year to advise him on the breeding. He organized an annual “Tokai Day.” This was a conference on the poultlry industry attended by professionas in the industry and even by 1-2 cabinet ministers. The conference included lectures on the poultry industry and “poultry chicks” – pretty young women dressed as chickens. Eventually, the Government allowed foreign companies to import chickens into South Africa and Julian could not complete with the advertising of U.S. companies, thouigh he maintained that his chickens were bred specifically for relataively crude South African and Third World conditions. So around 1995 he sold the poultry side of his business and slowly sold all the poultry equipment and housing barns.
The farm had an old single-storeid Dutch farmhouse with a thatched roof and another thatched cottage near the entranace gate. In addition, Julilan built an office complex of several rooms, also white-washed, with very tall cactuses around it. His office had many paintings and sculptures, many of them with chicken motifs. At the time of his death, a TV program had rented space in these offices. Elsewhere in Tokai and later in a corner of the farm, on the road, Julian erected a farm stall called “The Egg,” decorated with a large plastic egg, The stall initially sold his eggs and other farm products, and became a nice place to drive to for Capetonians It also served light snacks or tea in a garden at the back. The original farm stall was opposite Pollsmoor Jail, to which future president Mandela was moved afater his stay in Robeen Island.
Julian made the farm look like an old Dutch farmstead. He built large gateposts at the entrance, which were white-washed, and affixed on the gate-post a bronze “family crest” with a phoenix hatching out of its egg, taken from a bookmark of a relative of the Mirvish family from the late 1800’s. The farm had two pathways labeled Julian’s Way” and “Lisa’s Walk.” About 1990 he decided to sell off the upper part of the farm at the top of the hioll, adjacenet to the Silvermine nature reserve which covers the tops of all the mountains in the Peninsula and includes the highway called the Ou Kaapse Weg (Old Cape Road) leading to Kalk Bay further down the Peninsula. So he built a road up the side of the farm and sold off plots there. At the top of the road, at the entrance to these plots, he had a simple low white-washed wall with a low pillar at one end that added much to the atmosphere of the place. The District Council, which wants to preserve the area as a green space, insisted that he plant a vineyard below the houses, so he did this and then gradually transformed much of the farm iino vineyards. After the vines had grown, Julian employed 30 people to pick the grapes. He sent most of the grapes to a wine cellar in Stellenbosch. When Tom Franks, our old servant, was old, Julian used to take him to the farm and let him sit there for many hours in the sun.
Julian was married briefly to Edna Oppenheimer, an Israeli from Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia), and later married Jewel Donde. Julaan and Jewel were married for about 15 years and then divorced. Jewel’s son David grew up in their house. Later, David worked for Julian at his farm and David, his wife Lisa and their two children lived at Julian's farm and took over the farm store there. They livled in the farm-house and Julian built a second story for this house, still retaining a thatched roof.
For many years Julian lived in a “bungalow” that he built in Clifton right on 3½ beach. The bungalow was built among granite boulders and one of these boulders sticks into the basement, where one room is dug out of the ground. Julian was uncompromising in matters of taste. For example, he hid all modern appiancesfromview in the house. He scoured scrapyards to find the right kind of wood for different parts of the building. Old railway ties came in useful. The house was origninally designed by Sam Abrahamson, an architect, but Julian changed the design so much that it was mostly his design. To reach the bungalow one has to descend about 120 steps, which was difficult for infirm visitors, but probably was good exercise for Julian. The bungalow is right on the beach and its lower floor opens out onto a small lawn, on the other side of which is the beach, about ten feet below the lawn. There is a sunken bath in the basement master bedroom. There was a tree (I think a Port Jackson willow) where the bedroom stood, so Julian built glass walls around the tree and left it standing. Another gnarled tree was in the garden near the front door. Julian left the tree standing, so that visitors had to bend down to avoid the tree before reaching the front door. Julian had many friends who also lived in Clifton bungalows, including our cousins Jocelyn and Lenny Kruskal, Dusty Holloway, Bennie Stolzman (who died in 2004) and the constitutional lawyer, Albie Sacks. For about the last ten years of his life, Julilan had an attentive Colored maid called Magda, who looked after the bungalow and cooked for him.
Julian owned many paintings, with several by Gregoire Boonzaier, who gave paintings to Julian in return for loads of chicken manure for his garden. The house was also decorated with African sculptures and other articles from our parents’ house inKenilworth and, after Ma died, from her flat. The bungalow was written up with beautiful photographs in a book on South African homes called “South Africa: Private Worlds” (photography by Solvi dos Santos, text by Desmond Colborne, published by Conran Octopus, London, in 1999).
Julian suffered from childhood (type 1) diabetes from the age of four and this was an enormous burden for him – a cross to bear. But he cared for himself very well and, we were told, was fortunate to live to 69. He had a successful heart bypass operation in about 1990, but succumbed after a second such operation in 2002, after remaining in the hospital for four weeks, which included his 69th birthday.
I spent three weeks with Julian in 1999 and stayed with him in his bungalow. It was a great opportunity to get to know him better. One day we went to Worcester, 80 miles inland, to sell equipment to a chicken farmer there. I met Julian for the last time when the four of us siblings gathered in Israel for Miriam’s 70th birthday party. He looked tired but it was great to be with him. After his death in November, 2002, Miriam, Doreen and I spent a very intense two weeks staying at his bungalow, learning about his life in Cape Town and packing up his belongings.
An obituary for Julian appeared in Poultry Science about January, 2003. It was written by Duncan Unsworth, who had been a partner with Julian in Peninsula Poultry Appliances and now runs this company by himself. Duncan was very attentive to Julian during his last illness, visiting nearly every day. The obituary (slightly abbreviated) read as follows:
• “Julian Mirvish 1933-2002: Julian Mirvish – one of the pioneers of the poultry Industry – recently died in hospital after having his second heart bypass operation. …… Julian was educated in Cape Town and at Elsenburg Agricultural College. His future was determined early in his life when he asked for an incubator as a present for his Barmitzva. After working on farm in the Cape such as Dundurach and Hartenberg, Julian soon bought a farm at Tokai, which became known as Tokai Breeding Farm. This farm was to become the home of the once famous Tokai Plus and Tokai Brown laying hens. They were bred from strains such as Australorp, Leghorn, New Hampshire and Rhode Island Reds. For many years the Tokai layers had a major share of the local market until the eighties when imports of hybrids were introduced. The Tokai layers were also sold in many African countries and in countries like Taiwan, Seychelles, Thailand, Egypt and Turkey.
• There are many well known people in the industry who worked with Julian over the, years. These included Jeff Byrne, Arend Kulper, Neil Malan, Ray Davis, Graham Eberdess, Dave Findlayson and Wilbur Wilberam. In the mid-sixties Julian started Peninsula Poultry Appliances with Bob Bartee and Bob Brotherton. PPA pioneered the first Bell Drinkers, Pan Feeding System, the first Tunnel Ventilated houses and evaporated cooling.
• Julian also started the Tokai Day, which was eventually taken over by the South African Poultry Association. Those old enough will remember the Tokai “Chicks,” which Julian organized to make the event more eventful.
• In recent years Julian developed a portion of Tokai Breeding Farm into a wine farm and sold his grapes to local wine estates. He was very proud of the wine made under his supervision.
• On behalf of myself, Duncan Unsworth, and many others that knew Julian, he will always be remembered for the great character that he was”.
Overall, Julian was innovative and creative in his work, as the obituary describes. He had a fine appreciation of what was in good taste. He was less fortunate in his relationshops with women and found it difficult to commuknicate deeply with them, but in the last two years of his life he found deep friendship and happiness with a bright and compatible woman who appreciated him for what he was. Nevertheless, he had many deep friendships, including especially that with Gwynne Robins. (From Miriam:) He loved being a convivial host, putting fishes on the braai (outdoor fire), flavoring them with herbs grown in his garden, serving wine “to loosen up people,” including himself, and serving olives and humus. He could be flirtatious. He liked to show off his house. The life in Clifton suited him to a tee, with friends being casually invited in. He loved to sit with friends on his stoep (adorned with enormous pots – called “jarrot” in Arabic - imported from Israel together with the poultry equipment) and watch the granite boulders, the white beach and the sun setting slowly over the sea.
The hospital where he spent the last four weeks of his life said they were overwhelmed with the telephone calls he received. At his funeral, a number of his friends, as well as colleagues who had worked with him in the poultry industry, acted as pall-bearers. We inscribed Julilan’s tombstone, which is a Table Mountain sandstone rock, as follows: “In loving memory of our dearest brother and friend. Julian Mirvish 22.10.1933 – 4.11.2002. A man of the earth and lover of art. Deeply mourned by family and friends.” The Hebrew version included the phrase “Oved adamah veshocher omanut.” Jonathan (Yaakov), son of Daniel and Rachel and our grandson, who was born in 2003, was named after Julain. Also, in 2004 Peter Abrahamson included Yaakoav as one of the names of his newborn son in memory of Julian. Peter comes from Cape Towns, is the son of our old friends the architect Sam and hos wife Dorothy, and now lives in Australia. Julian and Miriam attended his wedding in New York and we met them there.
DOREEN AND SIMCHA BAHIRI
Doreen (b. 1937) trained as a librarian at the University of Cape Town and joined Miriam in Israel about 1960. Doreen married Simcha Bahiri in 1978.
Doreen became an expert jeweler and silversmith. She bases her jewelry primarily on ethic traditions. She learned the trade from several people, including a expert Yemenite jeweler, and specializes in making Oriental jewelry and in assembling jewelry based on old or modern African and Asian pieces that they buy. She once trained with a Persian jeweler. On other occasions she worked in India for two weeks with an Indian jeweler and learned some very fine, detailed techniques in a course in New York. She makes the jewelry in a workshop in her apartment and in one at the shop. The main source of income for Dervish is the jewelry, mostly made by Doreen with help from various assistants. For the past few years this assistant has been Udi (Edwardo) Rosales, who works full-time in the shop. When he is not busy with customers, he makes and assembles jewelry under Doreen’s supervision. Doreen has developed a unique style based on the items they buy for the shop, including influences from the Middle East and Africa. Several other jewelers in Israel have copied or adapted her ideas and style.
Miriam, Doreen and Simcha have traveled a great deal, especially to India, Indonesia and Africa (recently to Ethiopia) to buy merchandise for the shop. Perhaps more truthfully, they have a shop to pay for the travels!
Simcha Bahiri: Doreen’s husband, SImcha Bahiri, was named Stanley Breitbart (b. 1927 in New York), served in the U.S. Navy air force for 11 months in 1944-45, was in the Shomer Hatsair Zionist Socialist youth movement, immigrated to Israel in 1950 and was a member of Kibbutz Barkai until 1956. He married Anita and had three children, Amos, Gideon and Kim. Simcha then became an emissary (shaliacah) of the Shomer Hatsair movement in Liverpol, England. From 1960 to 1963 he studied at the Israel Institute on Productivity. Hespent three years teaching productivity in West Africa for the Israeli Government. He studied for his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees (the Ph.D. was in Engineering and Economics) from 1966 to 1970 in Britain with support from the Ford Foundation. Simcha then worked for a year at Olivetti in Italy and returned to Israel, where for four years he was a Senior Lecturer in Product Management at Tel-Aviv University. He then spent time at Columbia University and Renselaer College in New York State. He and Doreen met in 1975 and got married in 1979 after he and Anita divorced. He then began working part-time forecasating cement needs in Israel for the National Cement Company; this position lasted for 30 years. Simcha has been active in the Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) movement to elaborate the economic and social benefits that peace would bring to the Middle East (Doreen, Miriam and Leora have also taken part in this movement). He published about 100 articles on the economic results of the Israel-Arab conflict and urged Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders. Together with a Palestinian, Simcha is (1in 2005) co-chairman of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information. He initiated the idea of publishing a Palestine-Israel journal. As a side-line, he once worked for the Ministry of Defence on the military implications of applied parapsychology and finding water or minerals by downing! Doreen sees and is involved with Simcha’s children Amos and Kim and their families.
MORRIS AND BECCY FRAM
Beccy (b. 1898, d. 1970, both in Cape Town), was the oldest daughter of Harry and Miriam Harris. When Becky was a little girl, she and her family traveled from Cape Town to Kimberley by rail and then trekked by oxcart to Swartmodder. They took their own shochet (ritual slaughterer) with them (perhaps Mr. Matz - see section on Swartmodder). Becky stayed there for about a year (from Isabel).
In 1923 Beccy married Morris Fram (b. 1895 in Ponevez, Lithuania, d. 1960 in Johannesburg) and moved to Johannesburg. Morris’s parents were Daniel Isaac and Etta, who arrive in South Africa when Morris was a baby. Daniel drove an ox-cart through the streets of Joburg and moved goods with it. Etta had a sewing machine. One day in the 1920’s they found an old tent, perhaps among goods that Daniel Isaac was asked to get rid of. Daniel and Etta pulled the tent apart and sewed it together again. At that stage neither of them could write in English. On this basis David started manufacturing tents. The D.I. Fram company sold the tents initially to a government project that was building the Hartebeespoort dam, which employed poor Afrikaans men and served as a work project for these men (there was a depression at that time; this was juist after the white miners’ strike in 1924). The tents were used to house the men. Apart from canvas goods, D.I. Fram manufactured miners’ clothing, overalls, towels and other items requiring coarse fabric. Later, when Morris ran the factory, they manufactured leggings that fitted over boots and clothing for the South Afrcan army, fabrics, table cloths and rubber boots for miners. In this way they participated in converting Joburg from a mining camp to a modern city. Morris sold the business in 1945 or 1946.
Morris and Beccy lived in Johannesburg and had one child, Isabel (b. 1935). She was named after her aunt Isabel Erlanger, Beccy's sister, who had just died in Israel. They were rich and lived in Lower Houghton in a house with lots of large paintings and sculptures bought in Europe. Morris was a large man and liked everything in scale. He knew the big Joburg businessmen and used to tell stories about them and the excitement of the gold mining industry, with constant booms and busts, and fortunes made and lost overnight. He knew and despised Milne and Erleigh, two men who salted a gold mine and later were caught and sent to prison. ("Salting" means adding gold dust to a test bore so that the analyst would report high values.) Morris died of kidney failure associated with diabetes. He knew the doctors had sent him home to die and was resigned to his fate. The Frams were very nice to me when I lived in Johannesburg in 1955-1960.
For school holidays we used to go to Rustenberg, Transvaal, where the Frams had a large farm (20,000 morgen, one morgen = 2.2 acres) in the lowveld. The farm included valleys and hills, most of which had never been cultivated. They tore up the original bush and planted orange trees in the valleys. They had irrigation rights to much of the water in the river that ran through the farm. They were always calling the police to help them with intruders. The thickets around the river were said to harbor iguanas several feet long. Baboons lived in the hills and were always "stealing" the oranges. At the end of one winter holiday, we (the Mirvish children) went playing in the hay and all four of us came down with tickbite fever, which lasts 2-3 weeks. We had to be careful not to go paddling in the river because one could get bilharzia (schistosomiasis) there. This is a parasite carried by snails that live in water. The parasites infect the liver and urinary bladder and cause bleeding into the urine. The disease is widespread in most of Africa, especially in Egypt. The Frams built a house on the farm with an enormous lounge. Isabel became a skilled mechanic and drove a tractor. When we were children, there were two pet grey cranes (one called Jenny) at the farm. They were as tall as we were and used to hiss at us and chase us. In 1960, I took Lynda to the farm for a meal. There was an enormously long table in the dining room and Becky, Isabel and Oscar sat at one end of this table and were served by a man in a white dinner jacket.
After Morris died, Beccy spent several months of each year traveling, mostly in Europe, and we met her in England once. She had a down-to-earth approach to life which was enjoyable, and did not stand any nonsense. She thought her sister Hilda (my mother) was an impractical idealist who would not face up to life and act forcefully.
In 1958 Isabel married Oscar (Asher Emmanuel) Rosenzweig (b. 1928), an anesthetist. They lived in Johannesburg but in 2000 he retired and they moved to Israel and built a house in Ra’anana near Tel-Aviv. Oscar's father was trained as a rabbi. He did not practice as such, but had a business. Isabel remains actively involved in her business interests in Joburg abd ataahey return there frequently. The children of Isabel and Oscar are Daniel (1960), Martin (Moshe Chaim) (1961), Jonathan Gideon (1964) and Becca Shlomit (1963). Martin (a doctor), his wife and their three children live in Phiiladelphia, U.S.A. Daniel and Jonathan live in Johannesburg. Jonathan is married and has two children. Together with Isabel, Daniel owns several airplanes and flies them all over sub-Saharan Africa. For example, they ferried diamonds to Joburg from the diamond fields in the Congo, and from mines in Kimberley that do not belong to De Beers. The diamond mines in the Congo belong to Chassidic Jews from Antwerp, who insist that the planes carrying the diamonds not be flown on Shabbat (Sabbath). Daniel’s planes helped to rescue people from floods in Mozambique during 1999 or 2000 and carry Moslem pilgritms from Nigeria to and from Mecca.
MOSHE AND ISABEL ERLANGER
Isabel (1905-1934), the youngest daughter of Harry and Miriam Harris, was sent with Hilda Gesundheit to a Jewish finishing school for girls, the Institut Ascher, in Neuchatel, Switzerland. This is in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and the purpose was apparently for them to learn French. Isabel and Hilda were very close, more like sisters than cousins. The institute was run by Mrs. Ascher, who was a sister to Mr. Erlanger, in the German-speaking area of Switzerland), whom I met once when he was an old man. Mr. Erlanger had a long white beard and was the leader of an ultra-orthodox Aguda group in Lucerne. Mickey Rokach also remembers Mr. Erlanger. Mrs. Ascher introduced Isabel to Mr. Erlanger’s son, Moshe, around 1928. This was around the time (1929-1932) when my family was in Europe and Isabel joined them for some of the time. In 1930 Isabel and Moshe got married in Berlin. Her father Harry, my parents and Hilda and Izak Rokach (see Hilda's diary) were at the wedding. Isabel and Moshe were Zionists and Isabel wanted to be closer to her cousin Hilda. They soon decided to emigrate to Palestine. The Nazis were becoming stronger in Germany and they could have become aware of this in Berlin. They may have thought (correctly) that the relationship with Hilda and her well-connected husband would make it easier to get established in Palestine. Moshe and Isabel had a son, David (b. 1932 in Switzerland). Soon after the birth they moved to Palestine.
For many years Moshe worked in the office of the citrus growers' association in which Izak Rokach was prominent. In 1934 Isabel died of pneumonia, not long before the first antibiotics that could have saved her became available. After Isabel died, Moshe’s sister Reileen went to Israel to look after Moshe and his baby David. Isabel’s father Harry Harris was heartbroken (his wife had already died) and begged them to send the baby to visit hem. So Reileen, the sister of Moshe, took David for a visit to Cape Town. Reileen subsequently married Moshe Wagner in Israel and had an apartment next to Moshe’s. Her son Yaakov and her daughter Lilo were present at Daniel Erlanger’s wedding in 2004, held in Basel, Switzerland.
At that wedding we heard that the parents of Channa Sachs wanted to marry her off to Moshe when she was 17 years old, but she said that she was too young to get married. Channa then lived in Wurzburg in southern Germany. She immigrated to Palestine wither parents in 1935. She was employed by Reileen and her husband to help look after their son Yaakov. Reileen’s apartment was next door to that of her brother Moshe. Then (they said with a shrug) ”what happened, happened” and Moshe and Channa did mary after all. Afterwards, we were told, Channa made a great effort to integrate the Harris and Erlanger families with her own family, of which David became fully a part. Moshe and Channa had two children, Ruth and Michael, who are both married, have children and live in Tel-Aviv. We re-met them and their spouses at the wedding in 2004. Channa, who was almost 90 in 2000, says she does not want to be a burden to other people, tells people that every day she does something for herself and something for other people, and occasionally visits Miriam and Doreen in their shop. Moshe and Channa were nice to us when we lived in Israel.
DAVID AND RUTH ERLANGER
David served in the Israeli army for three years, studied medicine in Switzerland, specialized in neurology, and served in the Swiss army too for a long time. He finally settled in Basel and married Ruth Wasserstrom, the daughter of Polish immigrants to Switzerland. They have two sons, Simon and Daniel. Simon was in Jerusalem, where he worked as a German translator for the University, was the editor of one of the two Jewish weekly newspapers in Switzerland, and is now working for a Swiss television station. In 2004 Simon was awarded a Ph.D. in History. For his research he is investigated Swiss labor camps that operated during World War 2 and held many Jewish refugees. Together with others, he also compared the tolerance of foreigners in Switserland and the U.S.A. over the past 100 years. Daniel is the controller for a bank in Basel. The bank is or was partly owwwned by a Jew and for this reason allows Daniel to take off work for all the Jewish holidays. The Erlangers are orthodox and belong to the more modern and more Zionist synagogue in Basel, rather than to the Aguda synagogue. David has been a neurologist in private practice and is just retiring in 2005. Leora and Daniel have met them. It is nice for me to have a cousin in the center of Europe and I have visited them there several times. Switzerland was officially neutral during the War. In Basel David showed me the railway station from Germany where, during the War, many Jews arrived from Germany only to be turned back by the Swiss government.
When we were living in Jerusalem in 1961, David visited us once on his Vespa (a small Italian motorbike) carrying among his luggage his sheets and pillowcase. This was the practice then in Israel and endeared him to Lynda as our washing machine was very small. David has considerable charm, is interested in other people's doings, and everyone likes him. David and his father Moshe visited South Africa around 1958 and I met them in Joburg on that trip. David also visited Cape Town where we met him in 1960.
WOOLF AND ROSE HARRIS
Woolfie (Chaim Chanoch Zeev, b. Lodz, Poland, 1873; d. Cape Town, 1950) was probably named after both his grandparents, Chaim and Chanoch. Zeev means wolf. When he was a child he had rosy cheeks and for this reason people used to give him apples (said Celie). We have already described his immigration to South Africa and his early years in Zwartmodder. I have a small framed photo of Woolfie and his father Solomon in Kimberley, in which Woolfie is about 17 years old, taken about 1890. Julian had a copy of a letter of naturalization from British Bechuanaland dated 12 June, 1895, describing Woolfie as “a merchant, residing in the territory for five years”, i.e., since 1890, and a copy of Woolf’s passport, issued on 17 June, 1909, giving his age as 35.
In 1899 Woolfie married Rose Goldberg (b. London 1880, d. Oranjezicht, Cape Town, in 1944, daughter of Isaac David and Helena Goldberg). The wedding took place on the day when the first shots were fired in the Boer war (from Celie Raphaely). Rose came from a Johannesburg family of light-hearted English immigrants and liked music halls, musical hits and playing the piano. One of her two brothers who used to visit Cape Town was Sam Goldberg. When she died, Rose left money to her niece Roma Bleiden (b. 1919), who had a sister Helen Bleiden. It was said that Woolfie liked Rose because he was so serious and she counterbalanced him.
Woolfie and Rose had four children. They lived in one of the villas next to Myrtle Lodge until 1922, when Celie was 8 years old, and then moved to a large house that they called Rosetta at 27 Belvedere Avenue in Oranjezicht, overlooking the Molteno reservoir. After Harry Harris died, we all used to walk up the mountain (at least a mile) from the Gardens Shul on Saturdays and go there for lunch. Miriam remembers the large windows with heavy dark red velvet curtains that went "swoosh" as they closed, and the gilded mirrors. There were tennis courts at the back of the house. The butler was Griffiths, a gentlemanly African man. They had a white Great Dane with blue eyes that was a favorite of Celie’s. Miriam says that Woolfie exhibited dignity and pride of possession, and that the child of his that had this quality of dignity most is Celie. Woolfie used to stand with his hands clasped behind his back and express opinions slowly and convincingly. Actually, a reason for standing that way was that one hand was permanently clenched because he had once had an injection there which had gone septic.
Kaplan and Robertson wrote that “what made Woolf Harris’s story particularly interesting was that he developed into a community and business leader so very late in life. He spent most of his working life until middle age in a small Northern Cape dorp (village) where, although they might have been able to form a minyan occasionally, there was no synagogue. In Swartmodder there were no opportunities for his qualities of leadership in business or public or Jewish community affairs to develop - although it was a sufficiently successful business to enable Solomon Harris to retire and Woolf Harris to have enough funds to purchase the Waverley Mills. He arrived in Cape Town after the Anglo-Boer War not only as a stranger but as one who had not lived in a city since he was a young man. Yet within some 20 years he was a leading industrialist, a prominent citizen and regarded as one of the most important men in the Jewish community. And with all this he was not only respected but much loved, for one quality developed during the years in the country was kindness.
Woolf was a leading figure in the Cape Chamber of Industries. He was very involved with the Great Synagogue, he was very involved with the social problems of the city particularly Jewish problems, yet he was very involved with his business. He was one of the most respected men - by his family and community, by everyone in the city in fact.” Neville Gottlieb called him one of the great men of the Jewish community of South Africa.
On several occasions Woolfie was President of the Gardens Shul (the great Synagogue). The Gardens Shul now has a plaque that reads: “Here, like his father before him, worshiped Woolf Harris”. It is the only such plaque in the shul. The grandchildren of Michael and Jane Raphaely are the fifth generation to belong to this congregation.
In May, 1935, Woolf became chairman of the Cape Committee of the Jewish Board of Deputies, the principal representative body of South African Jews. Morris Alexander had been the chairman of this organization or its predecessor since its foundation in 1904. This was the time of great problems with the Nazi Greyshirt movement and the reason for the retirement of Morris Alexander was that he wished to tour the the countryside to reassure the Jewish communities and to estabnlish personal contacts with Ministers of Religioln, magistrates and Heads of Municipaliaties. The proposal to elect Woolf was proposed by Mr. A.M. Jackson sefconded by Mr. K. Gradnaer (a “kingmaker” of the Jewish community whom I remember meeting). (from miniutes of the Board of Deputies sent by Gwnne Robiuns)
In 1939 Woolfie was still chairman of the Cape Committee of the Jewish Board of Deputies. General Smuts was prime minister of a Fusion Government with Hertzog. Smuts wanted South Africa to join Britain in declaring war on the Nazis. Hertzog did not want South Africa to fight unless their interests were threatened. Many Afrikaners wanted to remain neutral and their sympathies were with the Germans. Nazi parties like the Ossewabrandwag (literally, “ox wagon fire watch”) and the Greyshirts attracted thousands to their meetings. If South Africa has remained neutral and closed its ports to the Allies, this would have been an enormous obstacle to the Allies, because the Suez Canal could not be used throughout most of the war and the Cape route was the only connection with the Far East. Smuts had to bring the question of declaring war to a vote in parliament and it was touch and go.
A neutral stance by the Government would have been detrimental for the Jewish community, but the main concern of the community was to help the Allies. So, according to what my Dad told me, Smuts's people approached Woolf and asked him to sway certain borderline members of parliament by a method that was widespread in the parliament of those years, namely, by bribing them. See section on my Dad for his own role in this matter. When I mentioned this story to Richard Newman in Cape Town, he named three members of parliament who switched their votes to support Smuts in the crucial vote to declare war. Finally, the crucial motion to support the war was passed by 80 votes with 67 against.
Woolfie and the Board of Deputies proceeded to do this within a few days, perhaps with their own money and in the utmost secrecy. The compromise adopted to assuage those Afrikaners whose sympathies lay with Hitler was that there would be no conscription and joining the defense forces would be voluntary. If the story is true (and my father certainly thought that it was), this is the biggest impact that the Harris family had on South African and even world history. Woolfie's sons-in-law Dr. Joe Harte and Dr. Isador Isaacson both joined the army medical corps and served in North Africa during the War.
General Smuts was a friend of the Zionists and appeared on many public platforms to show his support of the Zionist cause. My grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Mirvish, knew Smuts quite well because of this Zionist connection and they appeared together at many public meetings.
Woolf played a major role in starting the Talmud Torah (Hebrew school) in Hope Street, the Hebrew school that operated in the afternoons after public school finished for the day. When they were preparing to build the Talmud Torah in Hope Street (five minutes walk from the Gardens Shul), they cabled Woolfie, who was overseas or on the boat to overseas, saying “What shall we do, no means to build?”. Woolfie replied: “We will get the means to build” and they proceeded to build the school. When he died, the cortege went from the Gardens Shul past the Talmud Torah in honor of his contribution to the school.
Woolfie was the first chairman of the board of S.A. Woollen Mills and remained chairman for many years. He kept the business prospering and was a well respected businessman. SAWM was a public company and the shares did well. Later, it was said that, even just after World War 2, they did not invest sufficient in new machinery and took too much money out of the business. When he died, Woolfie left money to Mendel Ozpecin in Tel-Aviv. When the factory was taken over by Mr. Frame, he still kept a picture of Woolf in a prominent place with a caption saying that it had been founded by Woolf.
FAMILY OF WOOLF AND ROSE HARRIS
Celie Katz m Solomon Harris
Woolf Harris m Rose Goldberg
Hetty Harris m. Joe Harte
Belle, m. Denis Tavil
Candy, m. Phillipe Laurie, lives in Paris
Izzie Harris m. Edie Perl
Clifford, m. Denise Sonnenberg
Later divorced and m. Pei Lederer, now lives in Spain
Connie Harris m. Isador Isaacson
Derek, b. 1933, m. Pauline Pollen (??)
Godfrey Harris b. 1936, m. ?, had several children.
Celie Harris, m. Fritz Raphaely
Michael Raphaely m. Jane Mullins, live in Cape Town
Jonathan Raphaely m. Dorothy Lowenstein, lived in Miami
Melissa, lives in San Francisco
Leo, m. xxx, lives in New York
Rosemary Raphaely m. Arnie Benjamin, lives in Johannesburg
Caroline Raphaely m. Lennie Schtoch, lives in Johannesburg
JOE AND HETTY HARTE
In 1925, Hetty (b. 1900), the oldest child of Rose and Woolfie, married Joe Harte (b. 1898) from Johannesburg, a doctor. Joe served in the army during World War 2, then joined the factory, and eventually became its chairman. The letterhead of the S.A. Woollen Mills during that time listed “J. Harte (formerly Hartowitz)” as a director, so this was his original surname. The requirement to list former names of directors was aimed to prevent discredited directors from starting new companies with new names for themselves. Joe had a good Jewish education and was active in promoting such education. He and my dad got on well and called each other Reb Leib (Louis) and Reb Yossel (I think). He presided over the loss of control of SAWM by the family. Hetty and Joe lived in Belvedere Avenue after Woolfie died. After Hetty died, Joe moved to a flat (apartment) in Kenilworth, which was connected to one where his daughter Belle and her husband Dennis lived. Joe lived until he was 80. Joe and Hetty's daughter is Belle (b. 1927), who married Dennis Tavill and later got divorced. Belle was very attentive to her father, especially when he was old. Belle and Dennis have a son, Winton, and a daughter, Candy. Belle and Winton live in Cape Town. Winton has done well as a producer of film commercials for European companies. Candy married Phillippe Laurie, a Frenchman, and they live in Paris. They have three children , Carolyne (b. 1985), Alexander (b. 1990) and Antoine (b. 1994).
In 1954 I was just finishing my Ph.D. research in organic chemistry in the Chemistry Department of Leeds University. Neville Gottlieb was also there studying in the world-famous textile department of the university and Michael Raphaely was studying 35 miles away over the moors in Manchester and often joined us. On a trip to England Joe Harte came to Leeds to visit his cousins. I wanted to return to South Africa, but did not have a job there. I was fed up with academic life and Joe persuaded me to take a poisition in the textile research institute run jointly by the government and the textile industry in Grahamstown, South Africa. I suppose he spoke to the head of the institute to recommend me. I spent a few weeks doing a minor research problem in the textile department in Leeds before I left England. The job did not work out (a long story involving influence by the Broederbond, a secret advocacy group of the Afrikaners) and I soon moved to Joburg to become a lecturer in the Physiology Department of Witwatersrand University (I have been at academic institutions ever since), but it was not a bad way to find my feet again in South Africa.
I have an obituary of Joe Harte, which I think was written by the rabbi of the Gardens Shul and was published in 1983 in the synagogue bulletin. It mentions that Joe came from a poor background but earned enough money from teaching Hebrew in Joburg so that he could go to medical school at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. It praises his love of learning, his knowledge of English, Afrikaans, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Greek, his nearly 40-year friendship with Chief Rabbi Israel Abrahams, rabbi of the Gardens synagogue, his attendance at Shiurim (lessons) given by the rabbi, and especially his efforts to establish the United Hebrew Schools (the school that serves Jewish children in central Cape Town who attend public school) and his help in establishing the Jewish Day School in Cape Town. Joe was at various times chairman of the Hebrew School and president of the Gardens Shul. He loved discussing matters of learning with others (Louis Sandler is mentioned and my father was another) and gave much charity.
IZZIE AND EDIE HARRIS
Izzie (1904-1957), the only son of Woolfie and Rose Harris, was apprenticed as electrician as a youth. Woolfie believed that more Jews should take up trades and was proud that he had persuaded Izzie to learn a trade when Woolfie spoke for his interview (Appendix xxx). During this interview, Woolfie mentioned that Izzie used to walk around town in blue overalls on his way to and from work. Later, Izzie worked at the Factory, succeeded as chairman of SAWM after Woolfie died and remained as chairman until his death in 1957. Izzie was a diabetic and used to joke with Morris Zion about this.. He was known as a playboy and owned a large yacht, which was brought out from England and often sailed right around the peninsula. When we were growing up, Izzie and his wife Edie (nee Perl, she came from East London) lived in a house on Camp Ground Road in Kenilworth, a very nice house but "on the wrong side of the tracks" on the Cape Flats side of the railway line and not towards the mountain, right opposite the race track and built on very sandy soil. The gates of the house consisted of two large cart-wheels that opened out. Miriam remembers that it had a swimming pool and a private cinema. The house also had a bar that came out of the wall on pressing a button (from Morris Zion). Despite his reputation as a playboy, Izzie managed to control the disunited family and was strong enough to impose his will when he was the chairman of the board of directors of the factory from 1950 until his death in 1957. A problem at the factory was that none of the family except some of the later generation (Neville Gottlieb and Michael and Jonathan Raphaely) was formally trained in textiles. Edie was pretty and retiring. She survived long after Izzie died. She was nice to my mother when she was ill.
Despite his reputation as a playboy, Izzie managed to control the disunited amily and wa strong enough to impose his will when he took over the chairmanship of the caaafactory.
[[?OMIT]? The trouble with SAWM was that the majority of the stock was held by the family (though others also had shares, since it was a public company), many family members worked at SAWM, and this made it hard to reach decisions. It was especially hard to rein in the distribution of profits and invest the money in capital improvements. This must be a very common problem in family-owned businesses and there was probably not much that anyone could do about it.]]
Izzie and Edie's only child, Clifford (Cliffie, b. 1931), is the only family member of his generation to carry on the Harris name (Cecil Harris was older). He was good-looking, pleasant and well mannered. Cliffie developed tuberculosis (very common in Cape Town), but eventually recovered. He married Dennie Sonnenberg, whose parents owned South African Woolworths, a department store affiliated with Marks and Spencer department store in England. He and Dennie moved to England, where he worked for a time for Marks and Spencer. They have a son, Anthony, who now lives in the U.S.A., and a daughter, Nicolette, who lives in London. Cliffie and Dennie divorced and Cliffie then married Peri Lederer, who did not have children with him. They currently live in Spain.
ISADORE AND CONNIE ISAACSON
Connie (1909-1976) married Isador Isaacson, a cardiologist (d. 1955). He served in the army medical corps in World War 2 and died very young of heart disease. They lived in Kenilworth. They had two sons, Derek (b. 1933) and Godfrey (b. 1936). Derek married a very nice woman, Pauline Pollen check, whose grandmother was well known to my mother (that's not why she is nice). They have three children, Brent, Beverley and Craig. Derek worked at SAWM as the Director of Marketing right up to when it closed around 1986, and was well liked. Derek and Pauline emigrated to Australia in about 1995. Their daughter Beverley met Leora in Washington about 1994. Godfrey became a lawyer, stayed in Cape Town, and recently died. Godfrey and his wife had several children (names?).
FRITZ AND CELIE RAPHAELY
Celie (1914-), the youngest daughter of Woolf and Rose, remembers that as a child she was upset when her father went to Wolseley, usually for 1-2 days at a time, to manage the wool washery which was the precursor to SAWM. Celie married Fritz Raphaely, son of Leo Raphaely, whose family had an import-export business. The father of Leo Raphaely came from East Prussia, fought in the Frannco-Prussian war of 1871 amd emigrated to Cspe Town. Celie Raphaely still has his medals from that war. I remember the wedding of Fritz and Celie in 1934 in the Zionist Hall in Hope St., probably the first wedding I attended. Celie was very pretty. In the Gardens shul, Leo had a seat close to the Bima (central platform where the Torah is read) and davened (prayed) in a determined voice. After Leo died, Fritz occupied the same seat in the shul. Both Fritz and his father large, imposing men. Leo’s wife Judith was born in Australia and was the daughter of a rabbi. The rabbi lived in Ballarat, a gold-rush town near Melbourne. He was sent out from England to tend to the Jewish miners. The rabbi’s wife Angel came from a family that had married into the Montefiore family. The rabbi sent his daughter to a cousin in Durban with instructions to marry her off because he felt that the miners were too rough a lot. The cousin said he knew the five Raphaely boys, who were strong and healthy. Judith then met and eventually married Leo, one of these boys.
Fritz entered SAWM and for about ten years (from soon after their marriage) managed the factory in Harrismith, Orange Free State, which was established in 1927-1928 and made blankets, often with beautiful colored patterns, for the "native" trade (Harrismith is not far from Zululand and the Transkei). Reva Schultz, who was the mother of Omaha resident Miriam Ben Yaakov and lived in Harrismith most of her life, told me that 1,000 people worked at that factory, which was the major employer in the town. The family considered Fritz very able and successful. Celie told me in 2005 that she returned to Cape Town to give birth to her children and that there were then about 30 Jewish families and even a rabbi in Harrismith. Today, she said, all the Jews have left. At the befinning of Wrld War 2, she said, the soldiers in the South African army had to sleep on the ground as they did not have any blankets, and the factory in Harrismith was very busy manufacturing blankets for the army. She was moved recently to see at the Jewish museum in Cape Town, in an exhibition entitled “The First of Everything,” a photo of the wool washery in Wolseley.
According to Jonathan Raphaely, son of Fritz and Celie, matters came to a head in 1944, when Fritz left the factory in Harrismith that he had managed for 14 years (accoding to this, Ftitz worked for SAWM for 4 years before he got married), and asked to be made a director of SAWM. After a long and stormy meeting, this request was denied. Woolfie later told Fritz that he had a controlling interest in the factory, but would not go against the majority to support his son-in-law. So Fritz left SAWM and started his own factory, making narrow textiles, i.e., ribbons and labels. This factory became very successful and is still going strong. Years later, when Frame's takeover bid looked critical and the share prices were dropping fast, Joe Harte came to see Fritz and his sons Michael and Jonathan at their home, and finally offered Fritz the job of running the factory with full control. But Fritz refused because his own plant was doing well and he had just taken his two sons into the business. So Mr. Frame took over the SA Woollen Mills.
Some years later, Fritz introduced Mr. Frame to an old friend called Christie Owen from the U.S.A., for whom Fritz had worked for a time in the U.S.A. Mr. Owen was a patrician from New England and his family included members who had married Vanderbilts. He had come on a visit to Cape Town at Fritz's invitation. At the dinner, it came out that Owen’s letterhead stated that his factory was the biggest blanket factory in the world. So Frame asked how many blankets he made. Mr. Owen responded 3.5 million per year. Frame replied in a broad Yiddish accent: "I vont you to change your letterhead. My company makes 12 million blankets per year." Of course the blacks used blankets as their main item of clothing, which much increased their sales. Frame asked Fritz to come and work for him and Fritz returned the compliment, saying: "I own some of your shares, so I'd rather you came and worked for me."
Seven years after Fritz died, Celie married Sandy Grode, who had been keen on her when she was 17, but unfortunately he died after only three months. Celie was 90 in 2005 and still lives in Ardennes, their family house in Claremont. She still hosts dinners for her immediate family and assorted other people every Friday evening for Shabbat, and for the whole family at New Year and after Yom Kippur. The Raphaely's had four children, Michael (b. 1936), Jonathan (1940-2001}, Rosemary (b. 1946) and Carolyn (b. 1952). Celie told me that she used to travel from Harrismith to Cape Town to deliver each of her four children.
Michael studied textile engineering in Manchester, England, and used to travel over the Pennine Hills to Leeds to visit Neville and me there. Later, Michael studied at the London School of Economics. He now runs their factory in Cape Town. He met his wife Jane (nee Mullins) in England. She is a very successful editor-in-chief of womens' magazines published in Cape Town. Jane started Fair Lady and, more recently, became South African editor of Cosmopolitan. She also runs the Femina, Hearth and Leisure, and Bridal Book magazines. Michael is also involved in her magazine business. They have a large fire burning in the winter-time in their house in Newlands (a wet part of Cape Town in the shadow of Devil's peak. Two of Michael and Jane's daughters, Vanessa and Julia, both got married in 1998 and entered their mother’s business. Each of these daughters is now the editor of one of Jane’s weekly journals. They all work in a roomy office building with a great view of Table Mountain a little uphill from downtown, close to the parliament buildings, where I visited them in 1999. The third daughter, Catherine, runs a very smart game lodge in Botswana.with her partner Ralph Barsfield. Michael and Jane also have a son, Paul.
Michael and Jane Raphaely
Catherine Judith, b. 1964
Vanessa Ariella, b. 1965, m. Simmy Perutin 1998
Milla Eloise, b. 2000
Julia Gila, b. 1966, divorced
Paul Daniel, b. 1975
Jonathan Raphaely was a textile engineer. Jonathan married Dorothy (Dot) Lowenstein. Dorothy’s father was in the timber business in Rhodesia. She has traced the Lowenstein family, who came from Germany, through many generations of rabbis back to the 16th century. Her mother was better educated than her father and came from Cracow, a large city in Poland. Jonathan was originally in the textile factory with Michael, but later emigrated to the U.S.A. He and Dorothy lived in Miami. For many years Jonathan owned a narrow-textile factory in a small town in Alabama, to which he commuted every week. Jonathan and Dorothy's children are Melissa, who lived in San Francisco and whom we know, and Leo, who lives in New York. Add more Melissa married Kurt Billick in xxx and have a son, Max, boirn in 2003. Leo married Claudia Burheim and they live in New York. Their wedding was written up in the New York Times, because the newspaper writes up a wedding every week and their’s was chosen for this purpose. Dorothy remembers going with Celie in Cape Town to see my mother off on her way to visit us in Omaha in 1970 (her only visit here) and thinking that it was amazing that she could travel all on her own at 70 years of age. Tragically, Jonathan died suddenly from a heart attack while on a visit to Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, in 2001.
Rosemary Raphaely (b. 1946) is a reporter and married Arnie Benjamin, an editor of the Johannesburg Star and a friend of mine from my Joburg days. They lived in Joburg. Arnie died in 2003 while I was in Cape Town for Julian’s funeral.
Carolyn Raphaely (b. 1952) married Lennie Schtoch in 1991. They lives in Joburg and have a daughter Victoria (Ricky), b. 1993.
In 1946 Celie started a successful florist service run for the Union of Jewish Women, which sends flowers for weddings, receptions, synagogue events and other special occasions. She was chairman of the group for many years and she still (in 2005) actively worked in this group, which raises 40-50,000 rands each year for Jewish charities. Celie also works hard in her own garden. On Celie's 75th birthday in November, 1988, her family produced a mock version of a newspaper called "High Times" with all kinds of true and fake stories about her. (Her family is very involved in publishing!) Headlines include "Shock, amazement as saucy Celie admits all", "Celie says do it in style", "International award for rare rose (named Celia Raphaelus Grodia)", which is appropriate because Celie loves flowers and gardening and her large garden is always beautiful, "Free my trees, says noted arboreal campaigner", a tribute by Jane Raphaely called "A hard act to follow - she's lit up my life", a tribute by Rosemary Benjamin called "Daughter tells all: A lady to the tips of her corns" and a tribute (in the form of an advertisement for a position) to Celie's maid, Honjira Sonday, who had been with her for 42 years and was very familiar with Jewish cooking. The tributes emphasized the family dinners Celie organizes and hosts at Yomtovim (Jewish holidays) and the sensible and firm advice she gives to her family and friends. I met Celie in 1988 at an outdoor lunch at Kirstenbosch, the famous botanical gardens in Newlands, where she gave me a few good titbits of financial and other advice. In 1999 I attended a traditional Friday evening (Shabbat) dinner at Celie’s, at which there were present Michael (Jane was away), three of his children (with husbands of two of the daughters), a Raphaely relation from Johannesburg and Julian. After Kiddush, Michael blessed his (grown-up) children with the priestly blessing Yevarechecha Veyishmerecha ... (May God bless you and preserve you ...)’.
In 2003 my sisters Miriam and Doreen and I visited Celie again for a Friday Shabbat dinner. It was sad because we were in Cape Town for Julian’s funeral, their family was nearly all present to lay the tombstone for Jonathan, and Arnie Benjamin was dying. I thought that all the women looked similar,with a round faces (as did Woolfie) and were very good-looking. Michael discussed with the father of Leonard Stoch how to install and usea heavy piece of machinery with moving parts in his factory without damaging the structrure of the building.
HENRY AND MARGORIE HARRIS
Henry (Chanoch) (?), b. in Poland 1879, d. in Cape Town 1954) married Margie (Malka) Gesundheit (b. Warsaw 1882, d. Cape Town 1958), a sister of Jack, who married Bella, and of Sigmund, who lived in Cape Town. Henry and Margie had two daughters, Roma and Cecily. lived at Swartmodder for some years. Roma remembered that Henry and a black man used to go on horseback (each had a horse) to collect their sheep and cattle. Henry used to kill rabbits and chickens, make a hole in the ground, put coals in the hole and cook the rabbit or chicken as if the hole was an oven. We have already mentioned the story about Henry galloping off into the desert to escape the German army, presumably about 1914. Julian thought it was strange that Margie, who later in life was always dressed very elegantly and decked out in diamonds, could live as a farmer's wife on the edge of a desert. In 1915 Henry came to Cape Town and joined his brother Woolf and Jack Gesundheit in the SAWM (see Appendix 4). Nevertheless, they apparently still lived off and on at Swartmodder until 1924, when their second child, Cecily, was born. Ruby Kahn (Lynda's mother) said that Margie was a very nice and generous woman.
When I was a small boy, Uncle Henry used to pinch my cheeks when we went to visit them. He was called Uncle Teaser by the kids. Belle Tavill remembers this too. They were most hospitable and had great chocolates. Marjorie had an enormous diamond ring which now belongs to Vivian Gottlieb.
Henry and Margie Harris
Roma, m. Julie Gottlieb
Neville, m. Vivienne Gordon
Jennifer, b. 1964, m. Michael Schach in 1993, live in Australia.
Robert (Robbie), b. 1966, m. Leigh Robinson in 1993, divorced
Callan (a boy), b. 2002
Jocelyn,, b. 1936, m. Lenny Kruskal, b. 1934
Jonathan Bruce, b. 1959, in 1987 m. Pamela Klleviansky. b. 1963
Joshua David, b. 1993 in Boiston
Jessica Rose, b. 1995 in Boston
Megan, b. 1963, in 1993 m. Aharon Matrikan from Joburg, b.1965
Benjamin Simon, b. 1996 in New York
Gideon Ashe, b. 1997 in New York
Jill, b. 1965
Cicely, m. Victor Brasch, lived in Johannesburg
Susan, m. Michael Bernstein, lives in Johannesburg
Adrienne, m. Louis Klipen, lives in Australia
Steven, b. 1964, m. Lisa Sigal, b. 1953
Lior b. 1995 in Eilat, Israel
Noach,.b. in Aistra;oa 1999
Richard b. 1965, m. Michelle Belard
Benjamin, b. in Australia 2001
Michael, b. 1968, m. Jane Musko, b.1969
Lillie, b. in Ausrtralia 2001
I spoke with Roma Gottlieb (1909-2002) during my visit to Cape Town in 1999. She lived in a beautiful assisted living apartment in Newlands with a lovely view of Devil’s Peak from her front balcony and still went for a swim every day in a pool attached to her block of apartments. At the visit was her cousin Lola Gesundheit, daughter of Sigmkund Gesundheit of Cape Town. The previous time I met Roma, in 1989, she took me for a long walk along the beach front in Sea Point. When she was two or three years old, in 1910 or 1911, Roma was taken to Swartmodder and stayed there until 1914, when the war broke out and she returned to Myrtle Lodge in Cape Town. Roma remembered that Swartmodder had a long, low white house with lots of logs on the side of the house, and that she used to look for chicken eggs behind the logs. She still had a soup tureen and a candelabra that were used for Shabbat in Swartmodder. In 1914 her nanny took her to the balcony of Myrtle Lodge to watch the burning of Hildebrand’s restaurant. The Hildebrands were German and the burning was said to be revenge for the sinking of the ship Lusitania. Hildebrand’s still operated in Cape Town in 1999 and has a restaurant at the old harbor. Roma married Julie Gottlieb (1907-1964) from East London, a dentist. Hilda Rokach's diary mentions meeting a Mrs. Gottlieb, who was probably Julie's mother, in East London on her way by boat up the east coast of Africa to Palestine in 1926. Julie was our dentist when we were growing up. He was good-looking and sweet-natured and (speaking as his patient) had very pretty nurses. They say that Jocelyn gets her good nature from Julie, though Roma was also good-natured. After Julie died early from a heart attack (he was a diabetic), Roma spent a lot of time traveling the world. Roma died at the age of 93 in September, 2002, within a week of the death of her first cousin Jubby Gesundheit in Israel, with whom she had corresponded regularly. She had fallen and broken her hip shortly beforehand. She had said that, as she had survived her husband Julie for so many years, she was not sure he would still be waiting to meet her in the afterlife, but she hoped he would be there for her.
Roma and Julie’s children were Neville (b. 1933) and Jocelyn (b. l936), who married Lenny Kruskal (b. 1934). I have already mentioned how I and Neville both stayed in Leed, England in 1954, when Neville was studying textile engineering. After I finished my studies andbefore I returned to Soulth Africa, Neville and I went for a skiing holiday witht e British National Union of Students to Kitzbuhel, Austria. When Neville returned to South Africa, he worked for the SAWM. Neville married Vivian Gordon (b. 1945) in 1961; she is a first cousin of my wife Lynda. Neville was a pole-holder and Vivienne was a bridesmaid at our wedding in 1960. Neville and Vivian are now divorced. After the SAWM closed in xxx, Neville remained in Cape Town and now does a lot of hiking and mountain climbing. He also advises the Marks family in the running their textile factory in Woodstock.
Neville and Vivienne’s children are Jennifer (b. 1965), who married and settled in Australia, and Robert, a banker, who worked in Joburg, moved with his wife from there to Cape Town, and since then has moved to Switzerland. During the move to Cape Town they and his mother Vivienne were robbed as they arrived at their house in Cape Town from the airport - the crime rate is high now in South Africa and the thieves probably followed them from the airport.
Jocelyn married Lenny Kruskal, who grew up in the Bellville suburb of Cape Town. For many years Lenny Kruskal reviewed movies for the South African film board, one of whose roles was to act as the government's censor of movies. Lenny also organized film festivals in Cape Town. Jocelyn and Lenny have 3 children, two of whom live in the U.S.A., one in New York and one Boston - see chart.
Cicely (1914?-1994) married Victor Brasch (1910-1982). For many years he represented the S.A. Woollen Mills in Johannesburg. Victor and Cicely were prominent in establishing the Reform synagogue in that city. Their children were Susan (b. 1937) and Adrienne (b. 1939). Susan married Michael Bernstein (b. 1931). Their children are Niki (b. 1964), Jaolyne (b. 1965) and Simon (b. 1971). In 1999 Adrienne told me that Susan had eight grandchildren, lives in Johannesburg and breeds half-Arab horses Adrienne married Louis Klipin (b. 1937) and they emigrated to Australia. They have 3 children - see chartr above. In 1999 I met Adrienne with Neville in Cape Town. Adrienne was visiting South Africa from Australia for several weeks, re-establishing contact with her roots, just as I was.
MAURICE AND META HARRIS
Maurice and Meta Harris
Cecil, m. Ann Fanny Rutowitz
Roger William Solomon
Maurice Jeremy (Nechemiah, b. Lodz, 1881, d. 1950 in Claremont, a suburb of Cape Town) was the youngest son of Solomon and Celia. He became a lawyer. The family had met and liked Willie Rosenthal when they went to the spa at Nauheim in, I think, Czechoslovakia. (Much later, my mother was one of several family members who found Willie very charming – she probably met him when she lived in Germany in 1929.) Wilie’s father was a chazan in Breslau, Germany, close to Lithuania. At any rate, they decided to make a shidduch (arrange a marriage) between Morris and Wiilie’s older sister, Betty. So Morris went on his “grand tour” (which also involved a visit to Egypt I think) and visited Breslau. Suddenly the family received a cable from Morris saying "getting married to Meta", who was the younger sister of Willie and Betty. So he married Meta (pronounced may-tah, b. 1886, d. 1955) and not Betty. Morris and Meta’s antenuptial contract is dated 1909. Appendix 2 is an account of their wedding. Meta had two sisters, Emma, who lived in the United States, and Betty, and two brothers, Max and Willy. Perhaps soon after they were married, Maurice and Meta moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where Maurice started a sock factory called the South African Knitting Works with help from his brother Woolf. In 1917 Maurice and Meta returned to Cape Town and, a few months later, Maurice joined his brothers and eventually became a director of the factory in Cape Town . In the factory, one of Maurice’s duties was to advise the family on legal matters and draw up contracts. Maurice apparently also restarted the sock factory for a time in Cape Town. As Jack Gesundheit had been performing the legal and contract work for the Factory, Maurice’s work led to conflicts with Jack (see Appendix 4). Meta prided herself on being very German and this was a principal reason why they returned to Cape Town, according to Roma Gottlieb. Southern Rhodesia was very pro-British (jingoistic) and they feared to stay there. (During this war many Jews supported Germany rather than Russia because of Russia’s antisemitism.) During World War 1 the family had to keep Meta sequestered, they said, to prevent her from being locked up by the government.
While I was growing up, Maurice and Meta lived in a fancy house called "Corniche" in Newlands Road, Claremont. Meta collected Meissen and other German china and her drawing room was full of showcases of this porcelain. Jubby said that Meta brought a German fraulein out to look after Cecil, and that Meta worked at book-binding and pen-painting as hobbies. My dad was fond of Meta and used to kid her, perhaps because they were both collectors. She put on airs and graces. Her sister Betty Nelken later married Jack Gesundheit (see below). I don't remember much about Maurice. He and Meta must have made a substantial donation to the Jewish Aged Home as there is large plaque in its synagogue naming it the Maurice and Meta Harris Hall.
Maurice and Meta had one son, Cecil (b. 1914, d. 1989). Jubby says that Cecil once threw a cat into the fountain (which then had tadpoles at Myrtle Lodge. In 1942 Cecil married Ann Fanny Rutowitz from Pretoria. She came from a very wealthy family, who made their money from the milling of grain. Cecil enjoyed showing off his very fine collection of clocks, which were all kept in working order. At the factory he was younger than others of his generation and did not get on well with the other family directors. Cecil sold his shares of the Woollen Mills when their price was still high. This was important, I suppose, because, as the only child of one of the Harris brothers, he would have owned a large proportion of the total shares. He and Ann were then very rich and they moved to the fanciest area in Cape Town, with large estates converted from vineyards in the Constantia area, called Bishopscourt Estate. They then saw little of the rest of the family, though Celie Raphaely said in 1999 that she has seen Ann recently at a concert. We heard that they resigned from the Gardens synagogue after they moved to Bishopscourt and that Cecil was not buried in a Jewish cemetery and may have been cremated. Cecil and Ann had three children, Roger William Solomon, b. 1944; Pamela Patricia, b. 1947; and Maureen, b. 1950.
FATE OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN WOOLLEN MILLS
One big problem with the Harris family was that, except for Izzie and Cecil, all of the children were female. In those days it was unheard of for women to take an active role in business and not all the husbands were good businessmen. Actually, Lynda says correctly that some of the Harris women were capable and clever people, who could have made a success of running the business. Roma, her sister Cicely, Celie and my mother would have made a formidable team.
About 1958 the value of the shares of the factory fell over a period of several months to about one third of their value, I think from 24 to 8 pounds sterling per share. Mr. Frame of Consolidated Textiles in Durban had bought a lot of shares and was unloading them to lower the price. Eventually, Mr. Frame made an offer to take over the factory, which was accepted, and S.A. Woollen Mills became part of Consolidated Textiles. The section on Fritz Raphaely has more details. Mr. Frame was Jewish and his daughter Hazel went on a NUSAS (National Union of South African Students) tour to Europe with me. Mr. Frame kept Neville Gottlieb, who had trained in textile technology in Leeds, as the managing director of the factory. Frame also kept Derek Isaacson as the marketing director of the factory. Both cousins worked at the factory till it closed around 1986. Neville and Derek have now retired. Neville is still in Cape Town. Derek and his wife later emigrated to Australia. Mr. Frame never did install modern machinery at the plant and decided to consolidate all their facilities in Durban. After Mr. Frame died, I believe another group took over his company because none of his family went into the business. The high humidity in Durban, which is more suitable for woollen factories than is Cape Town, was also a factor. The SAWM buildings, which lie next to the railway line in Mowbray, are still intact and have been converted into an attractive series of small workshops. When the factory closed, Neville found an old safe with Harry Harris’s Bechuanaland passport dated 1895 and other papers (referred to earlier).
JACK AND BELLA GESUNDHEIT: THE FAMILY IN ISRAEL
Yehuda Julius Gesundheit, b. Warsaw in 1841, d. London 1905, m. Rebecca Rosalia, d. 1908.
Jack and Bella Gesundheit
Hilda, m. Izak Rokach
Mickey, m. Jonathan Ramon
Tamara Rachel m. Kay Sadeh, b. 1955
Noga, m. Robert Carmel
Gideon, b. 1989
Ophir, b. 1994
• Daniel Yosef, m. Daphne Solomon
Ron, b. 1991
Rotem , b. 1997
Nava, m. Michael Chen
Ofer, b. 1965, m. Osnat Ofer, b. 1970
Gil, b. 1967, m. Oshrit Porat, b, 1970
Nadav, m. Hila Lernau
Nadav m. Hila Lernau
Rita, m. Elchon Hinden
Judith, m. Ted Gair
Jonathan, m. Jackie Froom
Francis, m.Jeffre Allentos
Jubby, m. Rachel Ludvipol
Linda, m. Mr. Dittmar
Tirza, m. Michael Vallois
Nethaniel, m. Hilary Moore
Cecily, m. Jack Hachmi-Shvili
Leora, m. Danny Tsirlin
In 1904 Bella Beatrice Harris (b. Lodz 1881, d. Tel-Aviv 1950) married Jack Gesundheit (b. 1880, d. 1955), the brother of Marjorie Harris and Sigmund Gesundheit. Jack’s parents lived most of their lives in London. Jack obtained a British passport and shortly afterwards left for Cape Town. Before he was married, Jack lived at 1 Schoonder St., at the corner of Mill St., according to Jubby. Jack and Bella were married in 1904 in the Gardens Shul, Cape Town. Reverend Bender officiated and Jubby had a copy of their wedding certificate. The Harris family had previously bought the farm Knapdaal near De Aar in the Northern Cape Provincce and the Gesundheits moved there for several years, probably soon after their marriage, to manage the farm. Celie Raphaely has a note from the family offering Jack Gesundheit five pounds/month to work for them, perhaps at this farm.
Jubby told me that at Knapdaal they especially bred ostriches. Jubby spent the first year of his life there. Jubby's sister Hilda was six or seven years old when they left De Aar. During his stay at the farm, Jubby learned how to kill chickens in a kosher manner. Bella had a mirror with ostrich eggs (equal in volume to 24 hen's eggs) painted with violets and attached to the left and right sides of the mirror. The family sold the farm in 1912, just before the ostrich boom went bust and fram prices tumbled.
Jack and Bella then lived in Balmoral Villa in Schoonder Street. Jack was very religious and Ma told us how Jack often asked his nieces, including her, to go for walks with him on Saturday afternoons so that he could persuade them to become more observant. Jack went into the woollen business with Woolf Harris in 1912 and together they ran the Wolseley wool washery. Jack was the sole co-director with (as chairman) Woolf Harris of the SAWM until the other members of the family were brought into the business after the factory moved to Woodstock. Hence he must have had a considerable share of the stock. In 1918 there was a fierce family argument (see Appendix 4), but apparently Jack continued to work in the Factory until he and his family left for Palestine. Before I sent this correspondence to Jubby around 2000, he did not know about the family dispute in 1918, because Jack and Bella never told their children about it. When Juhby read the appendix, he was amazed that this argument had occurred between two families (Jack and Bella, and Woolfie and Rose) who lived next door to each other in Schoonder St.
Jack and Bella were strong Zionists. So they decided to emigrate to Israel. They left Cape Town at the end of 1926. Morris Zion told me in about 2000 that Rita was his girl-friend before they left, and that one his brothers was a boy frend of Isabel Harris (daughter of Hrry and Miriam and a great friend of Hilda) before she went to the finishing school in Switzerland. Hilda Rokach’s diary describes their boat trip from Cape Town up the East coast of Africa to the Suez Canal and on to Palestine, where they arrived in 1927. Jack and Bella's children were not very observant, except for Jubby at one stage. After living in Jerusalem for 2-3 years, the family moved to a big house at 77 Rehov Ben Yehuda, Tel-Aviv, at the north end of the road. They were one of the wealthiest families in Tel-Aviv. About 1949 they moved to a smaller house at 48 Balfour St. in Tel-Aviv. My mother adored Bella, found her (as did others) a very warm and caring person, and missed her very much when they moved to Palestine. The Gesundheit daughters all had some of this warm nature.
In Palestine an important man was called a Gvir (Yiddish, perhaps from gever, a boy in Hebrew) and Jack Gesundheit was certainly one. Their house in Ben Yehuda St. in Tel-Aviv had two balconies, one facing south and one facing north. They had a mikve and a shul in the house. Rachel Gesundheit said that her mother-in-law, Bella, was better at business than was Jack. Izak Rokach brought Jack into the orange business and he owned an orange grove which he visited weekly. Jack invested in Hamei Tiberias, the hot baths in Tiberias, and bought property in Tiberias. He also persuaded members of the family to invest in the hot baths and to buy property in Tiberias, and my sisters still have a piece of property in Tiberias and some fairly useless shares in the Tiberias Hot Baths. Jack helped start the Palestine Cold Storage Company and represented U.K. shippers. Otherwise he was occupied with his synagogue and with a yeshiva. Jack also bought property opposite his house in Ben Yehuda St. and willed it to the city on condition that it was kept as a park. After he died, the city asked Jubby if they could build a synagogue there. Jubby agreed because he said that would certainly have made his Dad happy. The synagogue was built and I visited it in 1997 on my father's yahrzeit.
Not long after Bella died, Jack visited South Africa and met and married Betty Nelken, the sister of Meta Harris and a widow. Betty's first husband Sam dealt in animal hides and had a shop in Hope Street. Betty and Sam used to eat with us at Myrtle Lodge every Wednesday evening. After her husband died very young (I remember him only slightly), Betty supported herself as a milliner, making and selling hats, and by making and selling chocolates. I remember her delicious truffles, which were spherical chocolates covered with small flakes of chocolate and filled with a soft chocolate filling laced with large amounts of brandy. Betty had a nice voice (her father was a chazan in Breslau) and we enjoyed her leading us in the songs for Pesach Seders when I was a child. On my first visit to Israel in 1953 (I visited from England, where I was a graduate student), I stayed with the Gesundheits at their house in Rehov Balfour. Betty's adopted son Richard and his wife Hadassah and I think a child of theirs were also living there. Shortly afterwards, Richard, who was a carpenter, ran away from his wife and from Israel and went to New York. Around 2000, Richard re-appeared in Cape Town to seek his roots and visited Julian there. Jack died in 1955. Betty then went to a German-speaking old-aged home at the top of Mount Carmel in Haifa and we used to visit her there. She was a charming and elegant lady, and still used to read regularly to the blind when she was in her 80s.
IZAK AND HILDA ROKACH
Hilda (b. 1905, d. 1994) married Izak Rokach (b. 1894, d. 1974), a businessman and orange grove owner. Rokach is Hebrew for a pharmacist. His brother Israel was the mayor of Tel-Aviv for 20 years and later became Minister of the Interior in the government. I remember meeting Israel at Izak and Hilda's house. The Rokachs were prominent in the General Zionist party, which was a capitalist party and opposed the Mapai labor party that controlled the Yishuv (Jewish population) at that time. Later, the General Zionists merged with other parties to form, eventually, Likud. As orange grove owners, the Rokach family had much in common with Arab orange grove owners and maintained good relationships with them. One issue that divided the Yishuv was that the Labor party wanted the orange grove owners to employ Jews who needed jobs, whereas the growers would often rather use cheaper Arab labor. Izak was a charming and intelligent host, and welcomed visitors in a warm, Middle Eastern fashion. This hospitality probably came in part from Izak’s Jewish background but also from his friendship with Arabs, who prize this quality. Izak wrote a book (in Hebrew) called Pardesim Mesaprim (the orange groves tell stories), which gives the history of orange growing in Palestine, and another book "Vatikim Mesaprim" (veterans tell stories), composed of anecdotes about the old days in Palestine. Mickey remembers that Izak always kept a pen and notebook with him to take notes when he spoke with people, and used the notes for his books.
Hilda went to a “finishing school” for Jewish girls in Switzerland together with Isabel Harris in the late 1920s (see Isabel Harris section). In 1996 the Rokach family published privately Hilda's diaries entitled “Hilda: Hopes and Expectations Realized in the Promised Land” (no publisher is listed). The diaries cover the period from 1926 (the year the family immigrated to Palestine) to 1940. This delightful document starts with her as a spirited and intelligent young woman just arriving in Palestine and contains much general information and family history. Izak and Hilda had two daughters, Mickey and Nava.
When we lived in Israel (from 1960 to 1969), Hilda and Izak lived in a house on Kaplan Street in Herzliah-Pituach. We visited them a number of times for meals, especially for Yomtovim (Jewish holidays). They always received us graciously and were very good hosts. Lynda noted that their Passover Seders went on very late, that Nava was able to recite the last verse of Echad Mi Yodeya in one breath, and that it gave us a warm feeling to see many famiies celebrating the Seder as we traveled back from Herzlia through Tel-Aviv to Rehovot.
Mickey (b. 1929) is the older daughter of Hilda and Izak. She studied pharmacy at the university in Geneva, Switzerland and married Jochanan Ramon (b. 1928), a dental surgeon. They had four children, Tamara Rachel (b. 1956), a computer programmer, who married Kay Sadeh, an architect; Amos Yehoshua (b 1957), a physician in England; Noga (b. 1960), a landscape architect, who married Robert Carmel (b,1957), a civil engineer and teacher; and Daniel Yosef (b. 1964), who married Daphna Solomon (b. 1966), a nurse.
After many years in Israel, Mickey and Jochanan went to live in Johannesburg, where he worked as a dental surgeon for some years. They saw a lot of Isabel and Oscar Rosenzweig there. They then returned to Israel and live in Herzlia Pituach. They own a cottage in Switzerland and we met them at the wedding of Daniel Erlanger in Basel in June, 2004.
The younger daughter of Hilda and Izak is Nava (b. 1937), who married Michael Chen (b. 1938), an aeronautical engineer who worked for a company that represented Iscor, the South African steel company, in Israel, and who has now retired. Michael helped enormously in the writing of this document. Their children are Ofer (b. 1965), an industrial engineer, Gil (b. 1967), a mechanical engineer married to Oshrit Porat (b. 1970), a teacher and Nadav (b. 1973), who studies alternative medicine. Nava and Michael live in Herzliah-Pituach. Nava's mother, Hilda, moved in with Naave and Michael after Izak died and had an apartment upstairs in their house. After Hilda developed bad arthritis, they installed a system that carried her in a wheelchair up and down the stairs.
RITA AND ELCHON HINDEN
Morris Zion remembered taking out Rita (b. 1909, d. 1971) in Cape Town before she left for Palestine (Hilda Rokach’s diary has a picture of Hilda in Cape Town with Morris Zion and Solly Turtledove, an old friend of my parents). After some time in Palstine, Rita studied political economy at the London School of Economics. After she returened to Palestine in the 1930s (see below), she co-authored with David Horowitz a book called "Economic Survey of Palestine," published by the Jewish Agency in 1938. I think David Horowitz became the head of the national bank when Israel was established. I have a copy of their book with an inscription from Rita to my Dad, thanking him for his help. She was at one time an assistant to Dov Joseph, a leader of the Jewish community (Yishuv). Rita met and married Elchon Hinden, who was a pediatrician, and then returned to London (see below). Elchon came (my sister Miriam thought) from a very religious background. Miriqm said that Elchon had a musical background, which could help explain why Jonathan took up music. The Hindens settled in Golder's Green, a suburb of London next to Hamstead Heath. Rita wrote a book about Africa in the early 1940s, which laid plans for the future independence of the British colonies in West and East Africa. Rita was intense, entusiatic and very bright. Elchon was quieter and more reserved than Rita. Miriam said that he had a glint in his eyes and a dry sense of humor.
Dad was very friendly with Rita. She was a student when we were in London in 1931 and my parents saw Rita a lot then and during subsequent visits to England. The Hindens had two children. The oldest was Judith (b. 1935 as Naomi, later changed her name), who married Ted Gair, an Indian Jew, and had two children, Stephan and Pamela. The second child was Jonathan, who in 1997 was the staff musical manager of the Glynbourne Opera Festival. After Rita died in 1971 due to a stroke, Judith and her family lived in the top floor of their house in Golder’s Green and Elchon lived in the bottom floor. Roma once visited Elchon there but did not see Judith.
I often stayed with the Hindens for weekends (and have heated political arguments because I was then more radical than they were) when I was a student in Cambridge in 1951-1953. I had the use of their spare room and enjoyed talking with their teenage children. I contacted Jonathan again by emaI in 2003. He wrote that they still keep in contacat with their cousins in Isarel, especially Micky and Jochanan Ramon.
In 2005 Jonahan Hinden contributed the following: “Rita and Elchon met on a Young Zionists holiday. Elchon grew up in Liverpool, where his family had immigrated from Latvia. I heard that Elchon’s father started selling from a barrow and then became a money-lender. He was reputed to have pawned his overcoat to go to a concert. Elchon had an older brother, Hyam, who naturally went into the business, while Elchon was academically very clever and went to Cambridge to read Mathematics, changing to Medicine after a few months. I have a lot of letters that Elchon and Rita exchanged during their separations before their marriage in 1934. Rita spent time in Palestine while Elchon completed his training in England. These are fascinating documents, not only personally but as accounts of many aspects of life in two countries.
When Elchon completed his internship, they moved to Tel-Aviv with the baby Naomi. I was born in 1938 and we lived in a still existing house on Rothschild Boulevard for a little while until we returnee to England just before war broke out. Elchon served in the Army throughout the war and afterwards specialised in Pediatrics, always his real interest. He was very reserved and not socially easy, and I think that he found he could be natural with children much more than with adults. He was completely different from Rita, who was warm and outgoing.
Rita was offered a parliamentary seat in the post-war election, which was a Labour landslide, but felt she had neglected her children, who had been evacuated more than once during the war, in order to further her own political career. She refused the seat but became very active, first as Secretary of the Fabian Colonial Bureau and later as editor of Socialist Commentary, an influential political monthly, and co-founder of The Socialist Union. My own post-war childhood saw a stream of major political figures from the Colonies, as they then were, in our house – several of whom became leaders of their countries after independence. Rita was a political philosopher rooted in the ideals of Kier Hardie, with a great respect for Gaitskell and an increasing distrust of the compromised and self-serving pragmatism, as she saw it, of Wilson (a Labor prime minister) and his like. When she died, many major figures in the Labour movement came to her memorial, which filled a big hall in central London.
Elchon was also politically committed but in a much less public way. The whole family would join in the practicalities of electioneering. (Many were the envelopes I stuffed and pushed through letter boxes.) Elchon ultimately became a very respected senior physician, though always less at home at dinners and meetings than at a child’s bedside. (I still come across people at my lectures who remember one or both of them, always with liking and admiration.)
I was meant to become a doctor too, but at a late stage exchanged medicine for music. I had played the piano since childhood and though I stopped lessons when I left school, managed to establish a career working with singers (I never played in an orchestra). I joined the Music Staff at Glyndebourne in 1966 and later became Head of Music Staff. I still work there as a Principal Coach, teach at Conservatoires in London and lecture on opera to cultural organisations. I and Jacqueline have one daughter, Frances, married to Jeffrey Allerton, with no children.”
In 2005 I searched Google for a list of Rita’s publications. There were hudreds of them, some by Rita and A. Creech Jones, who was Chairman when Rita was Secreatry to the Colonial Bureau of the Fabian Society. Google apparently listed only thoase items that they offered for sale. Th list included several books, which were entitled “No cheers for Central Africa,” Local government and the colonies: A report to the Fabian Colonial Bureau,” “Plan for Africa: A report prepared for the Colonial Bureau of the Fabian Society,” “Empire and after: A study of British imperial attitudes,” “Africa and democracy” and “A world of peace and plenty.” As far as I know, Rita never visited Africa after she left South Africa.
Additional information received about Elchon Hinden:
I stumbled across your website while doing a web search for Elchon Hinden.
Elchon was my father's first cousin, and I knew him fairly well until his
death in 1977. He visited us in Liverpool on many occasions, and I went to
his house or flat (I think it was on West Heath Drive) quite a few times.
Regarding your description of Elchon, I would like to confirm that he did
indeed come from a very religious background, although he lost his faith, I
believe, after reading a book on comparative religion. His wife Rita was
not religious. He told me that when he was at Cambridge he was still very
observant and the Jewish chaplain would eat only with him and no other
It was nice to read about Elchon again. He was a real gentleman, and one
of the most intelligent people I've ever met. When I read 2001 a Space
Odyssey, I lent it to him, and he returned it with a nice letter, setting
out his thoughts. I still have the letter.
If you want more information about him, I'd be happy to provide it.
I have many memories of Elchon,
too many to put down in one note, but here are a few that are most prominent in
my mind. I am sorry that I never really established contact with Jonathan
or Judith (Elchon's children), although I did have the pleasure of visiting
Bath with Elchon, Jonathan, Jacqueline and Frances in or around 1972. If
you (Sidney) are in contact with Jonathan, please tell him that I have
proposed a few items about his father's life.
Elchon was a very bright school boy. He attended the Liverpool Collegiate
School (as did my father and uncle) and according to my father, his final
examination results were so good that he was awarded a special medal and
the school had a day off to celebrate. He told me that his decision not to
study mathematics at Cambridge was largely as a result of pressure from his
parents who pointed out, most likely correctly, that there were then no
jobs for mathematicians (this was in the late 1920s).
Elchon's older brother was Chayim, known as Hymie. I never met him, as he
died either before I was born or before I was old enough to retain memories
of the event, although I did know his widow, and I am in touch with one of
his sons who lives in Israel. Elchon attended my bar-mitzvah in Haifa in
1973, and I remember visiting a South African family with whom he was
staying in Herzliya (I assume they were relatives of Rita).
When I was growing up, I was showing clear signs of moving towards physics
and mathematics. Elchon showed me quite a few interesting mathematical
oddities and helped me develop an interest even when I was moving into
fairly advanced studies at 16. He told me that he always loved mathematics
and said that it was "a game" to him. There was one trick he showed me
where you "prove" that 1 = -1. Of course, it's erroneous, but I remember
his explanation for why it was erroneous. In retrospect, it doesn't make
sense, and I'd really like to have been able to ask him if I had remembered
his explanation incorrectly or whether there was something more subtle.
Elchon was interested enough in music that when I once visited him in
London, I noticed he had taken out of the library a musical score for one
of Anton Bruckner's symphonies (I think it was the 6th), and he was
following it while listening to music. I was a keen amateur musician, and
it's a great sadness to me that Elchon died less than a month before I
played in one of the BBC Promenade concerts in London in 1977 to which I'm
sure he would have gone. About that time, another of my father's and
Elchon's cousins from Israel was visiting, and she had visited Elchon
during his last days in hospital. She told me that Elchon was in good
spirits but that he commented that he was "living on borrowed time", so he
obviously knew the end was coming. If I remember correctly, the last
thing that Elchon said to my cousin was "enjoy sich". When she related
this to me later, she didn't know if he meant "enjoy the rest of your day"
or "enjoy the rest of your life".
Last night, I found the letter that he wrote to me in 1976, having read my
copy of 2001. If you like, I will scan it for you.
JUBBY AND RACHEL GESUNDHEIT
Jubby Yehuda (b. 1911) was named after his Gesundheit grandfather, said Roma. Jubby came to Palestine from Cape Town as a teenager. He married Rachel Ludvipol (b. 1914), who came from Metulla in the far north of Palestine, wedged between Lebanon and Syria. Their oldest daughter is Linda Dittmar (b. 1938), a professor of comparative English literature at Boston University in Boston. She married Jim Dittmar, a lawyer, and is now divorced. They have a son, Jeremy, who was a student at the London School of Economics. I spent a pleasant evening in Boston with Linda in August, 1998, and she corrected some of the following material. The younger daughter of Jubby and Rachel is Tirza Vallois (b. 1943), who was an English teacher for many years in Paris and now lives mainly in England. She has published a series of guide books in English about walking tours in each district (arondissement) of Paris. She married Michel Valois and is now divorced. They have a son, Nethaniel, who is a violinist. Nethaniel Valois visited South Africa in about 1998 to perform music and met the family there.
In November, 1997, I spent an evening with Jubby and Rachel at their apartment in Tel Aviv and wrote down some memories from Jubbu’s childhood in Cape Town. Jubby was somewhat deaf, but was fine for ordinary conversations.
Memories of Cape Town: When machinery for the SAWM factory was imported from England in 1924, around the time of Jubby's Bar Mitzvah, they sent the pallets of wood in which the machinery had come to Jubbu to play with. He made a step-ladder and a dog kennel, which were sold when they left South Africa. This shows the makings of an engineer!.
Around that time Woolfie had a white Great Dane with blue eyes that went from house to house after supper to beg for food. The whole family got together on Shabbat for lunch at Myrtle Lodge and then the children played in the garden. Later, the Gesundheit family bought and moved into a house called Belmont in Belmont Ave., Oranjezicht. Woolfie and Rose built their house in Belvedere Avenue, Oranjezicht. For this house they bought very large soft chairs and a statue of a bull with a fly on its nose. Harry was always chasing the children away and telling people what to do.
The Gesundheit kids used to eat fruit off the loquat tree in Myrtle Lodge, as we did 15 years later. Jubbu remembered when the garage in Myrtle Lodge was converted so cars or carriages could enter from the back of the property, i.e., from Vriende St. and not only from the driveway of the hose. They used to explore the attic of the garage, which was reached with a ladder. Jubbu was interested to hear that later we used the same attic as a "den" for our Habonim group. Among the treasures that the Gesundheit kids found was their mother's bicycle. This did not have a neutral gear, i.e., one could not free wheel, but they learned how to ride it anyway. The family's first car was called a Marion. The kids sat in it and were taken for a drive by the Colored driver. At some stage the Gesundheit family moved into Myrtle Lodge and all four children stayed in the room that had been Solomon's. When Solomon died, Harry and his family took over Myrtle Lodge. After World War 1, they all moved to grander homes. At the time of Jubby's barmitzva in 1924, his family had already moved to Oranjezicht. Henry and Margie then also lived in Oranjezicht, in Woodley, Hiddingh Ave (before they became wealthy, he said). Woolfie (the oldest) moved first. Jubby's sister Rita (later Hinden), Roma (later Gottlieb) and Connie (later Isaacson) were of similar ages, grew up together and were called "the three graces".
The Talmud Torah had a shed in the yard which they used for a Jewish boy scout troop. Jubby received his Hebrew education from a private teacher. My grandfather Rabbi Mirvish taught him some Talmud from the book of Sukkot.
Going to Palestine seemed to make everything that had happened before they went stick in Jubby's mind. Some years ago Jubbu and Rachel went to Cape Town, maybe the first time that Rachel had been there. They saw all the family except Cecil and Anne Harris.
Student days: When Jubbu was a student in England, he joined the Zionist Socialist youth group Habonim in Hackney, a suburb of London, and taught the kids modern Hebrew songs. As a result, he said, they learned the songs all out of tune. Jubbu was in England when my parents and I were there in 1931. Jubbu stayed with my parents in Golders Green in London around 1931, during the time when my sister Miriam was born and he remembers me (aged 2) saying “Jubbu, come and play bat and ball.” Linda Dittmar told me that Jubbu remembered that my Dad once went to a flea market in London and bought an old painting. He was convinced that there was a second, older painting underneath the painting, so he scraped off the paint, only to find that there was nothing underneath. Jubbu says this was the beginning of my Dad's addiction to collecting art.
Rachel Ludvipol: Rachel's father was a journalist who covered the Dreyfus trial in Paris around 1895 and established the first Hebrew newspaper in Paris. Rachel's mother's family was one of the families that established the settlement of Metulla in the far north of Galilee in the 19th century as part of the First Aliyah. Her father attended the first Zionist congress in Basel in 1897 and emigrated to Palestine in 1905 (his family was originally from Russia). Until recently, Rachel still had a cousin in Metulla. She knew all the villages in the buffer zone of Lebanon that Israel occupied until 1999, for the following reason: The direct route from Metulla to Jaffa was not safe because it was full of bandits. So to reach Jaffa they used to travel with horses or mules and carts to Beirut and take a boat from there to Jaffa! Rachel called the Harris-Gesundheit family a Chamulla (the Arab word for a clan) and agrees with me that I.B. Singer's description of Polish Hasidic clans fits the family well. She also calls the family a matriarchate because of the large number of strong women in the family. She liked Lynda's idea that the women of the family could have made a much better job than the men of running the factory. She liked talking to Dad (who liked talking to pretty women, which included Rachel).
When Jubby was a student and engineer in London in the early 1930s (he told me in 2001), he worked on an early version of television. As I understood it, an instrument scanned the picture and then had to project the scanned picture onto a screen at exactly the same speed as that of the scanner. This was very hard to do in a synchronous fashion using the mechanical means available at that time. Now this is all done electronically. When he returned to Palestine, Jubby became a refrigeration and elevator engineer. He established the Electra Company, for a long time the only company manufacturing air conditioners in Israel. It was linked at one stage with Westinghouse Corporation and remains a very prominent company in Israel. He installed the first elevator in Israel, in the Pagoda building in Tel-Aviv. When Jonathan Raphaely met his future wife Dorothy, she told him that her uncle Izzie Loewy had worked for 30 years as Jubby's number-two man at Electra in Tel-Aviv.
Postscript: Jubbu and Rachel were often invited by Nava and Michael to join them for the Seder, but the noise was too much for him because of his deafness and they preferred to celebrate the holiday with a few old friends. In September, 2002, Jubbu passed away at the age of 91 within a week of the death of his first cousin Roma Gottlieb, in Cape Town. The two cousins had kept up a regular correspondence over the years and, in his last letter to Roma, Jubbu had written that he thought this might be his last letter. Jubbu was buried at kibbnutz Givat Hashlosha near Petach TIkvah in a completely non-religious ceremony, which included burial in a coffin (unusual in Israel, where Jews are normally buried in a sheet, following an ancient custom). The ceremony was, I hear, very moving with warm speeches by his daughters Lynda and Tirzah and his two grandsons Jermy and Nathaniel. At the funeral Nathaniel played pieces on his violin that Juubby had liked. Rachel sat on a chair at the ceremony and was silent until it was mentioned that Juby and Rachel met in London around 1931 and that he had held her hand and taken her to a particular park. She interrupted to correct the speaker, who had got the name of the park wrong. Attending were all the family and one person from Electra, the company that he founded and ran.
JACKY AND CECILY HACHMI-SHVILI
Cecily (1916-1975) was the youngest child of Jack and Bella, is called "baby" in Hilda's diary and finished high school in Haifa. She married Jacky Hachmi-Shvili (d. 1968, his surname is Hebrew plus Georgian amd meams "son of a clever person"). He was a lawyer in Tel-Aviv. He came from a sixth generation Sephardi family from Jerusalem. He was nice and very intelligent. They had two daughters, Leora and Ashbel. Jack died young of a stroke. At the funeral their younger daughter Ashbel, aaged 19 and serving in the Israeli armyh, complained of being sick. She was found to have leukemia and died soon after. Cecily was so broken by the double tragedy that she never seemed to recover, lived alone in her apartment and, it was said, did not look after herself or eat properly. She developed Alzheimer's disease at a very young age, in her 40s or early 50s, and died not long afterwards in 1975.
The oldest daughter, Leora, was accepted at the age of ten by the Royal Ballet in England. At that stage she was the youngeset girl ever accepted by the Balalet. After training there fpr anumber of years, Leora returned to Israel, where she still lives. She was exempted from the army because of her exceptional artistic ability. She became a professor of dance at the Rubin Academy of Music and taught there. She then esetablished her own ballet company, called the Jerusame Group of Contemporary Dance, which performed all over Israel and Europe. She was the leading dancer in a performance in Israel with Marlene Dietrich and Bert Bacharach. She esteablished the largest ballet school in Isreal, called the Leora Hakkmey ballet school. She is currently a director of the Batsheva dance corporation in Tel-Aviv-Jaffa and the chairman oaf the board of directors of the Batr Dor ballet company. She often visits England and is in contact with Jonathan Hinden there. Her husband is Danny Tsirlin, who is a retired businessman, an owner of orange groves and a director of the Citrus Marketing Board. They have three children, Doron anda Shi-I, who are twins, and Arbel. One of her daughters has a child, making Leora a grandmotehr.
THE OSPEZINS IN ISRAEL
The Ospezin family, most of whom now live in Israel, are descended from Menachem Mendel Ospezin, the younger brother of Solomon and Harry Harris. The following information comes from Michael Chen.
Tsvi Hirsch Ospezin (b. 1826) m. Hinda Lenchitski (b. 1824, d, 1876)
Solomon (Shlomo Zalman)
Harry (Chanoch Zeev)
Menachem Mendel (b. Lodz 1871, d. Tel-Aviv 1951 m. Sarah Gittel Makower (1877-
• Izak Ben-Yaakov (b. Lodz, 1903, d. Tel-Aviv 1982) m. Esther Sher
Zohara (b. 1912) m. Ivo Wilshprot
Elisheva m. Knobloch
Sharon m. Marcel Baruch
Sima m. Shmuel Shefi
Chaya Annie Ospezin, m. Gershon Gerhard Lowenthatl, murdered in Holocaust
Yaakov Moshe Max Ospiza m. Rosie and then Nelly (alive in 1997)
Yehoshua Ospiza m. Rose Leder
Tamara m. Arthur Hazlewood
Chaya Annie m. Gershon Gerhard Lewental (both murdered in Holocaust)
Yaakov Heintz (murdered in Holocaust)
Menachem Mendel's gravestone records that Chaya Annie Oszpycin (perhaps his sister), her husband Gershon Gerhard Lewental, and her son Yaakov Heintz were murdered in the Holocaust.
Yaakov Moshe Ospezin changed his surname to Ospiza. Yaakov Moshe's second wife was Nelly, who is living in Tel-Aviv. His children were Yehoshua and Mendel. Mendel Ospiza changed his surname to Ben Yaakov.
Itzhak Ospezin was born in Lodz or Dzunska-Wola and died in Tel-Aviv. He was a jeweler and watch repairer, and changed his name to Ben-Yaakov. Nava Chen remembers going with her mother Hilda Rokach to his shop. Itzhak Ospezin married Esther Sher, born in 1914 in Kalish, Poland. They had a daughter Zohara (b. 1942), who married Ivo Wilshport and had two children, Elisheva and Sharon. Esther Ben Yaakov lives in Tel-Aviv and gave the above information to Michael Chen in 1996.
Tamara Ospezin remembered me as a baby when I lived in Berlin in 1930 and she visited from Poland. In 1939 Tamara came to England from Poland as part of a program to rescue Jewish children from the poor conditions in Poland. She stayed with the Robinson family. Later, she married Arthur Hazlewood, a professor of economics at Oxford University, and lived in Oxford. She frequently visited Israel to see her relatives and kept an apartment there that had belonged to her parents. My sister Miriam saw quite a lot of her there. Tamara died of cancer in England in 1998. Tamara and Arthur had a daughter Judith and a son.
From Miriam I gathered that Harry Harris expended considerable effort and money to bring some of the family (apparently Mendel, Rosie, Itzhak and Esther and, later, others) out of Poland to Israel just before World War 2. I think the money went partly to pay the British an exorbitant tax (imposed by a White Paper) to allow the family to immigrate to Palestine.
DESCENDANTS OF THE KATZ FAMILY
(a) THE KAIMOWITZ FAMILY
Yaakov Hacohen Katz, m. Esther
Celia m. Solomon Harris, daughter of first wife of Yaakov
Yaakov Hacohen Katz. m. Cecily (second wife)
Bella m. Morris Kaimowitz
Jack Kaimowitz m. Kalcia Ehrlich
Israel (Issy) Kaimowitz
Solomon (Solly) Kaye (Kaimowtz)
Benny Kaye (Kaimowitz)
Gittel m. Mr. Ehrlich
Kalcia m. Jack Kaimowitz
Meier, see Katovsky family
Several families related to Celia Harris came or were brought from Poland to Cape Town. One was the book-binder Moshe Kaimowitz (b. Lodz 1875, d. Cape Town 1962) and his wife Bella (nee Katz, b. Lodz 1882, d. Cape Town 1946). They lived in upper Vredehoek, a district of Cape Town. The family came to South Africa with three grown-up sons. Bella was the daughter of Yaakov Hacohen Katz, the father of Celia,who married Solomon Harris. Bella’s mother was Cecily, who was the second wife of Yaakov Hacohen Katz. Cecily and Yaakov also had two sons, Moshe Nechemia and Meir. The first wife (name unknown) of Yaakov Hacohen Katz gave birth to Celia 30 years before Bella was born.
Benny Kaimowitz (now Kaye) told me by phone from New Jersey some details about his family, especially his father Moshe. Moshe and Bella both grew up in Lodz, Poland (Benny thinks), which was then a part of Russia, and Moshe was trained there as a bookbinder. In 1897-8 the Boxer rebellion broke out in China. Russia had "interests" in China, perhaps extraterritorial areas, and sent troops there, including Moshe, who was then a conscript in the Russian army. After this war, he left the army, returned to Poland, married Bella and left for England. Their three oldest children, Jack, Izzie and Max, were born in England. In 1912-1913 there was a slump in England but not in Poland, so the Kaimowitz family returned to Poland, only to be caught there by World War I. In 1914 Moshe was once again conscripted into the Russian army. One year later, he was captured by the Germans and spent three years as a prisoner of war in Germany. In 1918 he returned to Poland, which had just become an independent country, and then apparently moved to London. By this time Moshe and Bella had had enough of Europe and Moshe wrote to his relation Woolf Harris in Cape Town, who brought the family out to South Africa in 1921.
The children of the three oldest Kaimowitz sons claimed U.K. citizenship and now have both South African and U.K. passports. Jack married Kalcha, his first cousin, daughter of Gittel Ehrlich, who was a sister of Bella. This was an arranged marriage and Moshe brought Gittel out from Poland. Another relation was Esther Katz, who used to visit Myrtle Lodge every week. The two youngest sons of the Kaimowitz family, Solly (b1923) and Benny (b.1924) were born in Cape Town. Solly was named after Solomon Harris (as was I). Benny (now Ben Kaye) was in the South African air force from 1941. He became a paratrooper, transferred to the U.K. army, landed up in Egypt and visited Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. On his first leave in 1943, he went to Palestine, where he visited Bella and Jack Gesundheit. He met Mr. Rokach, the mayor of Tel-Aviv (brother of Izak). Benny met his first wife Mollie Michelow, a South African, in Egypt. She came from a family of artists and singers, and sang in concerts for the army. She once sang with Frank Sinatra. When he returned to Cape Town, Benny entered the family printing business. He and Mollie married in 1945 and she died in 1995. Benny then came to the U.S.A., met and married Shirley Aidekman and now lives in New Jersey. A Jewish center in Newark and a building at Tufts University are named after the Aidekman family.
I remember from the 1930s that Moshe was tall, walked very erect and had a self-confident but modest manner. Moshe first worked at the Cape Times (the Cape Town daily morning newspaper) and then started a book-binding shop and later a printing company in Cape Town at the bottom of Buitenkant St., near my Dad’s surgery in Caledon St. (my Dad, Solly said, treated all members of the family for nothing). Solly told me that Woolf Harris guaranteed the bank loan that started Moshe’s factory and that Woolf and Morris Harris bought Moshe’s first machine, a cutting machine. Woolf also guaranteed the loan from the bank for Jack’s first house. All the brothers except Solly went into the family business. The factory bound a number of books with gold lettering for General Jan Smuts and also bound my Dad’s scientific papers. At one stage the company printed pass books for Blacks, a kind of internal passport used to enforce the pass laws. The company finally closed about 1996. When I visited South Africa in 1990, the Kaimowitz family were prominent in the committee running the Gardens Synagogue. Solly became a physician and married Goulda Ospovat. They still live in the same house on Bradwell Road in Vredehoek,. where his parents Moshe and Bella lived and he has a general practice operating from the house. I met Solly on my visit in 1999 and much of the information about his family comes from him. He believed that acupuncture can be used successfully to treat addiction to cigarette smoking. Solly also gave me a family tree of the Katz family. Solly Kaye’s Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Harold Kaimowitz, the son of Jack and Kalcia, became very active in the Gardens synagogue and was president of the shul twice. Unfortunately, Harold died very young of primary cancer of the liver.
(b) THE RITCHKIN FAMILY
Yaakov Yeshua Hacohen Katz m. Esther
Celia m. Solomon Harris
Bella m. Morris Kaimowitz
Meier Katz, see Katovsky family
Moshe Nechemia (Morris) Katz m. Esther
Connie Katz m. Alf Lover
Monica Lover m. Herbert Ritchkin
Pamela Ritchkin m. Alan Hepple
One son who died in a motor accident
David Ritchkin m.
Miriam Katz m. Mr. Mayers
Robin Mayers m. Maureen
I spoke on the phone with Monica Ritchkin, who lives in St. James, during my visit to Cape Town in 1999. Monica’s grandfather Jacob Katz (she said Morris Katz?) and his wife Esther came from Lodz. Monica said that in Lodz Jacob Katz was a weaver, as were the Harris’s. Morris had four sisters or half-sisters. One was Bella Kaimowitz and another was half-sister Celia Harris. Another sister Rachel died “in mysterious circumstances.” Her cousin, with the same grandfather, is Robin Mayers in Johannesburg, who is constructing a family tree of the Katz family (tel. no. 011-640-1916). Monica’s mother was Connie, daughter of Moshe Nehemia, who married Alf Lover. As a child, Monica was considered part of the Harris family. Connie Lover used to bring blind people to eat with them and was generally very involved in “good works.” Monica has one daughter Pamela who married Allen Hepple. They had two sons. One was killed in a motor accident. The other, David, had been at a yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) in Israel, returned to South Africa to take over his brother’s business when the brother died, found a wife in South Africa who became orthodox like him, and became a keen member of the Chabad movement (Lubavitcher Chassidim). Monica said “it is pleasant to have David and his family for a meal as they bring their own food” (her’s not being kosher or kosher enough). Monica’s husband is Herbert, aged 87, who is a retired farmer from the Rustenburg area of the Transvaal. In 1962 he sold his farm to a nearby platinum mine for the water rights for a very large sum of money. They bought a house in St. James (the next suburb after Muizenberg on the False Bay side of the Cape Peninsula). The house is a national monument. They have since sold it to their neighbor Mendel Kaplan (a wealthy man who was once chairman of the Jewish Agency in Israel and has done a great deal for the Jewish and general community in Cape Town and elsewhere), with the proviso that they can stay in the house until they die.
(c) THE KATOVSKY FAMILY
Yaakov Hacohen Katz m. Cecily
Ray m. Israel Katovsky
Myer m. Zelda Rosenberg
Another branch of the family comprised Ray Katovsky and her son Myer. Yaakov Hacohen Katz and Cecily had a son called Meyer Katz (d. Cape Town, 1914), who was the father of Ray Katovsky (b. 1897 in Lodz, d. in Cape Town in 1953). Ray left Poland to visit her father in Cape Town in 1914, but he died two days before she arrived. Presumably she stayed in Cape Town because of the war. In 1915 she married Israel Katovsky, who died in 1927. I remember both Ray Katovsky (a small woman) and Moshe and Bella Kaimowitz coming to Myrtle Lodge in the 1930s for Yomtov (holiday) celebrations. I guess that the Harris family helped Ray get settled in Cape Town.
Myer (b. 1916, presumably named after his grandfather Meyer Katz) became a pharmacist, married Zelda (nee Rosenberg, b. 1915, d. 1984) in 1945 and ran Kayes’s pharmacy in Sea Point until about 1985. I visited Myer in Cape Town in 199. He lived in the Bordeaux flats in Sea Point. The flat was full of paintings by his wife Zelda and others, including two paintings by the African artist Sekoto, all at floor level propped up against the walls. His son Raoul was apparently staying with him. Zelda grew up in Johannesburg, was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1939-1940, worked towards a Ph.D. in (probably) sociology and returned to South Africa in 194,0 just ahead of the Nazi invasion of France, to take an academic position at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. The position eventually did not work out and Zelda got married to Myer. They had two sons, Raoul and Robert. Raoul works in Cape Town on computer software.
On my visit in 1999, Myer expressed thanks to my Dad, who he said was one of the two mentors who inspired him to work in the Ort-Oze and recruited him to be the treasurer. Myer helped receive Mr. Syngalowsky, International Head of the Ort-Oze and an impressive personality (I remember meeting him), on his visit to Cape Town, probably in the late 1940s. The Ort-Oze is an international organization devoted to persuading young Jewish men and women to take up trades rather than become small shop-keepers and other occupations - the latter types were called “luftmenschen” (“air people”), because their feet were not planted firmly on the ground with a trade or profession that was movable. When Myer visited my Dad in his office downtown to discuss the Ort-Oze, Dad used to take him for a walk around Koopman de Wet Museum near his office, show him the art and only then talk about the Ort-Oze. Myer once visited my Dad because another doctor said he had high blood pressure. My Dad talked to him quietly for ten minutes and only then took his blood pressure - it was completely normal.
Myer has always been active in public affairs and was busy with the old people’s social club in Sea Point, a committee on social work and a comittee on pharmacy practice. He was going to see a minister of the government during the following week in connection with the social work committee. He invests in his son Raoul’s business, which has sometimes not been successful. When Myer sold his pharmacy, he kept the rights to distribute a French product for treating alcoholics, involving a novel use of the drug Antabuse, and was busy on the telephone selling this product during my visit. This is apparently a profitable sideline. Myer certainly keeps occupied and has achieved a great deal. In 1905, Myer still lived in the Bordeaux flats in Sea Point.
THE GESUNDHEITS IN CAPE TOWN
Michael Chen provided me with the following deails about the Gesundheit family:
Yaakov Julius Gesundheit (b. Warsaw, 1841; d. London 1905), m. Rebecca Rosalie (d. 1908). They lived in London.
• Jack Gesundheit
• Marjorie Harris
• Sigmund Gesundheit, m. Millie Gordon
• Julian Gesundheit, b. 1912, d. 2004; married Mara Nathan, b. 1915, d. 2003
Phillip Auerbach, m. Jesse
During my 1999 visit to Cape Town, I met Lola Greenstein at Roma Gottlieb’s flat. Lola lives in Cape Town. She and Rhoda are the daughters of the well liked Sigmund and Millie Gesundheit. Sigmund was a brother of Jack Gesundheit and Marjorie Harris and lived most of his life in Cape Town. At his 80th birthday party, Sigmund described how he arrived in Cape Town in 1905 and shortly afterwards was given a job at Swartmodder serving in the shop for five pounds a month.. At night he slept on top of or under the counter of the shop. In about 1914 he was captured by the Germans and stayed in South West Africa until 1917 (presumably when the South Africans and British conquered the territory), when he returned to Cape Town. At his birthday party, Sigmund said that he had been in every jail in South West Africa. His mother did not hear from him for the whole period that he was imprisoned. Lola’s sister Rhoda Perel now lives in Toronto.
In January, 2001, I spoke on the telephone with Julian Gesundheit, who lived in Sea Point, Cape Town. He added more information about his father, Sigmund. When Sigmund worked at Swartmodder, his boss Harry Harris once turned up at the shop at 4 a.m., woke him and said: “What’s the matter? Are you sick? Why are you still sleeping?” Sigmund told my brother Julian how wagons used to come to the compound with goods to sell and stuff to buy, and how they would often provide lodging for the travelers. Julian said that around that time Sigmund also worked for the Harris’s at the farm Knapdaal near De Aar. In 1914 Sigmund was captured, not by the Germans but by a group of rebellious Boers who were helping the Germans (this was only 12 years after the Boer War ended). The Boers delivered Sigmund to the Germans in South West Africa. While Sigmund was held by the Germans, the Harris family gave Sigmund’s wife Millie ten pounds a month for her to live on.
Sigmund was not actually in jail all day long for much of his time in South West Africa and used to wander about the towns where he was kept, because they knew that he could not get away from the town. Presumably, he knew German, or could easily learn the language as he spoke Yddish, so that he could converse with the people there. Sigmund wandered around to the shops and businesses in each town and wrote down their addresses and what type of goods they stocked. After the War, Sigmund wrote to each business from Cape Town asking them what they needed and offering to obtain it for them. So he set up a business and became an agent for companies selling to South West Africa. He was presumably an agent for South African Woollen Mills and also sold groceries, clothing and other items. In the 1930s Sigmund visited an old customer, a German, in South West Africa, and they went for dinner to a hotel. The German said: “Will you drink to Hitler?,” to which Sigmund replied: “OK, if you will drink to King George (the Fifth).” After that, Sigmund began to wind down his business with that country. Sigmund’s son Julian had entered the business by that time and had been interested for some years in radios as a hobby, so they transformed the business into a shop for radios and high fidelity “hi fi” records, and eventually expanded the business by establishing branches in Port Elizabeth and throughout South Africa.
Julian Gesundheit (b. 1912, d. 2004; married Mara Nathan. The main street in Hong Kong is named after Mara’s father. Julian sat next to mt brother Julian in the Gardens shul, so they kept in touch. When I spoke to Julian Gesundheit in January, 2001, he told me that his wife was than an invalid and that they had just sold their house to a hotel next door (the plot was made into a parking lot for the hotel). This was quite an event because it was the last private house on Beach Road, Sea Point, which faces the sea. All of this street was then lined with hotels and blocks of flats (apartments). When Julian was a child, his family lived in a house in Oranjezicht next door to Julius Shenkman, the father of Ruby Kahn, the mother of my wife Lynda. The two families were friendly and Julius Shemkman used their garden as a short-cut from the tram stop to his house, when he returned from his work - he owned a clothing shop in Adderley Street down town. I and my siblings remember Sigmund, Julian and other members of the Gesundheit family well from our childhood days, including Phillip and Jesse Auerbach. Jesse was nice and had a loud voice.
Sidney Mirvish, Ph.D., obtained his post-doctoral degree in organic chemistry at Cambridge University. He then held positions in South Africa, Israel and Madison, Wis. Since 1969, Dr. Mirvish has been a member of the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The chronicling of the Harris family history has been done with love and diligence by Sidney Mirvish. He has done a remarkable job and deserves all the praise.