Kimberley, South Africa


Benjamin Family Page

Benjamin, Bernard

My name is Bernard Benjamin.  I was born in Sister Tyres Nursing Home, Pan Rd, Kimberley in 1938, in the same week, as Arnold Rauff, and as "Only Children", we were "Brothers" ever since. From the time Arnold’s parents, Markie and Sylvia Rauff arrived in Kimberley with him, we did everything together, from CBC, pipe band, army, sports, holidays, mischief, our Pappas’ businesses, the Chevra K., everything. At the moment I am trying to accept the fact that since August this year (2017), Arnold Rauff and I will not be calling each other for our birthdays next year, as we have since the first year that we learnt to use a phone. (Arnold sadly died in August 2017 – see newsletter no 10)

My father Ychiel Benjamin came to Kimberley in the early 1930's after his older brothers Solomon Benjamin and Japie Benjamin had already been there for a few years. He joined them in the wholesale business known as Benjamin Bros. He married Freda Rosenstein in 1937, who was well versed in accounting and business admin and had her own Commercial College. After a few years my mother and father broke away from Benjamin Bros and started their own wholesale business and E Benjamin & Co, Wholesale Softgoods Merchants was born. In 1955, aged 17, I joined them in the business, and it was then renamed E. Benjamin & Son.

In this picture we see my mother Freda Benjamin bottom left. We don’t know who is behind her. Back right is Hilda Hotz. Next to Freda is an unidentified woman in the middle (whom Geraldine thought was Violet Toube – but her children disagree. Another suggestion was Rae Dubowitz as it looks like her son Brian. Yet another suggestion is, is it Mrs Shles?) Helen Brown is on the right. The picture might be from early 40s.

Bernard says: We employed travellers who called on the mine stores, farm stores and country shops. Many of these customers were hundreds of kilometres away. We provided our customers with goods which were generally delivered by rail. The wholesalers provided a very important link supplying goods to the country stores. The hotels in the country districts were always a-buzz with travellers from all over and they also had an annual Travellers Ball at the Constance Hall. Unfortunately, with the advent of the large chain stores opening up all over the country areas, the wholesalers became redundant. We closed E Benjamin and Son in 1981 when our older son, Darryl matriculated and went to university in Cape Town. 

I married Hellen Baitz in 1963 and she also helped in the business.

We were married at the Pine Street shul in Johannesburg

Below we are with my parents Ycheil and Freda Benjamin and my in-laws Abe and Ray Baitz.

In the picture below our best man was Leon Maresky, Poleholders were Arnold Rauff, and Bobby Benn. All were my friends in Kimberley. The other one at the back is my brother in law Cecil Baitz. The bridesmaids were Hellen’s cousin Rosalind Gaitelband, now in Israel. Joan Gersh her friend now in Australia and my cousin Melanie Ginsberg now in London.

We left Kimberley in 1981 and went to Cape Town. I now live so happily in Toronto with my beautiful wife of 56 years, Hellen alias Pat, 3 children plus children-in-law and 6 grandchildren BH. Our son Darryl Benjamin lives in Philadelphia with his wife Julie and two children. Neil Benjamin, our second son lives in Toronto with his wife Michelle and two children and our daughter, Leanne is also in Toronto with her husband Gary and their two children.

We applaud your good work Geraldine and Leon and Eli in keeping memories of Kimberley alive and also Barney's untiring efforts in the community. I never forget where we come from and feel very contented when I am still referred to by my friends as the Kimberley Kid.

May the Three remaining members of the Awesome Foursome, Barney, David and Trevor, (sadly missing Arnold Rauff) continue with their Great Work and may Hashem Bless them with Kayach and Gesund for many years to come in their Labour of Love and may they receive much "Assistance" from the Kimberley Jewish Community who don't live  there anymore.  We all owe them so much.

I always have been, and always will be interested in Kimberley Jewish Communal Affairs. We have very fond memories of Kimberley both in business and socially.

Contributed by Bernard Benjamin, Toronto

Posted by Eli Rabinowitz November 2019

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