Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The Jewish Community that Bridged South Africa & Lithuania
In his blog entry on 6 January in the FT, Gideon Rachman pays tribute to Helen Suzman and reminisces on a few years he spent in South Africa as a child. He also pays tribute to one of Suzman's communities, the Jewish community and the tremendous contributions made by this community to enrich intellectual, political, cultural, and medical life in South Africa. The Jews who landed on South Africa's shores were predominantly from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, particularly Lithuania. Two-thirds of all Lithuanian Jews living outside Lithuania even before the exterminations of WWII, lived in South Africa. The life of Lithuanian Jews in South Africa is as interesting as the lives of the Jews in Lithuania. Vilnius (Wilna) was considered the centre of intellectual life of Jewish, Polish, and Lithuanian artists, writers, philosophers well into the 20th century.