The unveiling of the Heritage Site Plaque awarded to Temple Israel took place on 22 November 2014. It was a truly auspicious occasion. They were honored by the presence of Rabbi Julia Margolis, with Rabbis Jacobs and Shaked coming after their own services. Steve Lurie, Honorary Life President SAUPJ, Giddy Lief, Chairperson WPJ, Steve Cohn past Chair SAUPJ, and members of both Beit Emanuel and Bet David were present. Leah Livni & James Lomberg from SACRED, and Aviad Sela from the Israel Centre were present.
In addition we had good representation from several Christian organizations in the area. Notably, Impact for Christ Ministries and The Lutheran Church. There were brief articles in the Jewish Report both prior to, and after the event. Charisse Zeifert from Chai FM interviewed me after the event .
My special thanks to Jacob Hurwitz, Serona Reitzik and Temple Israel staff for all the work they put into making this event the success it was. Letters of congratulations were read out from Rabbi Joel Oseran, Vice President WUPJ, and Alvin Kushner, Chair SAUPJ.
For the record, herewith short press release:
Unveiling of the Heritage Plaque at Temple Israel Hillbrow
Temple Israel in Hillbrow is the oldest Progressive Synagogue in South Africa, having been established in 1936. The synagogue, which has operated continuously since then, has recently been accorded heritage status and the Blue Heritage Plaque will be unveiled on 22 November 2014. Temple Israel still serves a small but active congregation and holds services weekly.
The Chairperson of the synagogue, Reeva Forman, has expressed her gratitude to the Johannesburg Heritage Council for their decision to confer heritage status on Temple Israel.
“Temple Israel represents a genuine commitment to the inner city of Johannesburg,” she said. “It represents the early history of progressive Jews in South Africa, and holds important memories for our congregation. Our first Rabbi, the late M.C. Weiler, was a great proponent of human rights and believed that the essence of Judaism is a commitment to others. Under his leadership the congregation established a primary school in Alexandra – now known as the MC Weiler School – and continued to grow and support the school throughout the dark days of apartheid. He was also deeply committed to women’s rights and was the first South African Rabbi to promote the equal involvement of women in all aspects of Jewish practice. So, we have a proud history. At the same time, Temple Israel is a contemporary institution, a home for Jews from a variety of backgrounds, and a welcoming space for visitors. We engage with our neighbours in the Churches and in the residential communities and we are committed to the ongoing improvement of the area.”