Graaff Reinet, South Africa


Cynthia Margolis


Many thanks to Cynthia for this article and photos

Dear Eli

I was not born in Graaff-Reinet and came from a much smaller town about 5 hours away but I went to boarding school in Graaff-Reinet from 1958 to 1964 the year I matriculated.


When  I lived in GRT there were 10 Jewish families who were all very hospitable to the approximately 7 Jewish boarders and each family  took turns to host us for Shabbat dinners through  all the years.


The spiritual leader at that time was Manfred Halberstadt who owned a small general dealer store and he conducted the Shul services as well as teaching the Jewish pupils Cheder lessons on Sundays.


The two hotels were owned by Jewish families namely the Sermans who owned the Drosdty Hotel and the Bergers who owned the Graaff-Reinet Hotel.


Brenda & Frank Horwitz were the last Jewish people in Graaff-Reinet and the Red Cross Jewish aged home in the town  is named after Brenda Horwitz.  Frank Horwitz was the mayor of GRT for a few years.


Another one of the Jewish families, Norman and Ursula Loewenstein owned a butchery there and to this day I am still in touch with Ursula Loewenstein who is now in her late 80’s and living in Toronto where her daughter emigrated to many years ago  Her son, Derek Loewenstein lives in Perth so you might know him.  Ursula is the only one of the older generation who is  still alive and very much so.  She is quite an inspiration. 


The 10 Jewish families living there when I was at boarding school were:


Serman family  x 2   (The two Serman men were brothers and their wives were sisters so there were actually two Serman families living in GRT

Berger family

Sheiham family

Levine family (Ella Levine was my aunt)

Solomon Family

Halberstadt Family

Loewenstein family

Morris Family

Horwitz Family


1st Photo is of the school (Union High School) that Jewish children living in GRT attended

3rd photo which is of the cemetery has the Shul behind it.

The last photo is a plaque dedicated to the Jewish pedlars and is just outside the town



Another very interesting fact that is now gaining quite a lot of attention is the fact that there was a Raphael family who lived in Graaff-Reinet, one of the sons was in my year at school and we have always stayed in touch..  Their  father was Jewish and the mother was not.  Their daughter Sylvia Raphael went to live in Israel and joined MOSSAD.  There is a book about  her life story and a movie has also been made about it. 

If you do not already know about it please Google her.  There is a square in one of the Israeli towns that has been named after her. 

See below for various Internet Sites regarding Sylvia Raphael (Rafael).



I have some photos taken through the years.  Unfortunately I do not have photos of the Shul as it was when I lived in GRT.  It is now a disused pigeon club and rather sad to see.  The Jewish cemetery next to it seems to be well kept.


I will send you the photos I have that might be of interest in terms of the Jewish community.


As far as I know there are no more Jewish families living in Graaff-Reinet anymore.


Hope this email and the attachments will be of some help.  


Cynthia Margolis

Feb 2016

Sylvia Rafael - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Rafael Schjødt (born 1 April 1937, South Africa — died 9 February 2005, Pretoria, South Africa) was a South African-born IsraeliMossad operative and ...

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·  The truth about the Mossad | World news | The Guardian Feb 2010 ... When police arrested him, he claimed to be an agent of the Mossad ... Sylvia Raphael, a South African-born Christian with a Jewish father, was ...

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