Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Kislev 5768 - December 6, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











South African Jewish Community Continues to Cope With High Emigration

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

A new book by three South Africans who emigrated to Australia surveys the unique history of these Jews, whose forefathers arrived on the African continent just 100 years ago and have already found themselves immigrants once again. The book, entitled Two Worlds: The Second Emigration of South African Jews, notes that during the period of political instability in the country in the mid-1980s emigration was very common among young adults. The formation of the new South Africa in 1994 and the transition to multiracial democracy led to an alarming rise in the crime rate, which did not diminish until recent years. A 2005 study found that thanks to improvement in the economic and political situation 79 percent of participants plan to remain in the country, compared to 44 percent in 1998. Some of the emigrants even returned and resettled, and have been joined by Israeli emigrants.

Still, the loss of a substantial segment of the Jewish community, especially young families, continues to have an impact on Jewish life in South Africa. In response to interracial tension and international sanctions imposed on the country, the Jewish community was reduced from 118,000 in 1970 to 80,000 today.

Over the course of 15 years enrollment at Jewish schools dropped by five percent annually, and most of the students who left were those who could afford to pay the full tuition. With the loss of many potential donors the community found itself under increasing pressure to seek additional fundraising sources. In Johannesburg, where 70 percent of the country's Jews are concentrated, Jewish schools reached the point of no return and had to take extreme streamlining measures, such as closing certain study tracks and firing workers. Some institutions had to merge in order to survive.

South Africa has the largest Jewish community on the African continent and traces its origins back to the 17th century. The community, which is predominantly Ashkenazi, was formed largely of immigrants from the Baltic states of Eastern Europe and has the world's highest concentration of Jews from Lithuania.

Approximately 75 percent of the country's Jews are registered as members of the Orthodox community (14 percent consider themselves chareidi and 61 percent refer to themselves as traditionalists).


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