17 December 2006

South Africa's disappearing Jews

Many South African Jewish communities in small towns have withered, while remaining Jews have headed to the large communities in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The Southern Africa SIG (special interest group) is collecting information on these former centers of Jewish life, many of which exist today in name only.

Among its projects:

South African Jewish Rootsbank, Centre for Jewish Migration & Genealogy Studies.

The project's main goal is to research the estimated 15,000 families who migrated (1850-1950) to southern Africa from England, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus. It also plans to map the history of Jewish migration to South Africa and provide data for the Discovery Centre at the South African Jewish Museum, and to integrate genealogical data at the Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town.

Many families were fragmented; siblings immigrated separately to the U.S., UK and southern Africa, and sometimes lost contact with each other.

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