Kimberley, South Africa


Cohen, Bessie

Cohen, Bessie, b 1926

Death announcement and words at her funeral

Barney Horwitz wrote in July 2019:

Dear Congregants in Kimberley and around the world, I am saddened to advise you all that Bessie Cohen (known as Betty), widow of late Leon Cohen (brother of Nathan Cohen of the Savoy Hotel) passed away in Kimberley this afternoon (July 2019) aged 93, after a brave struggle. Betty broke her hip in May, had a hip replacement that was a failure and septicaemia set in. Betty was a very outgoing person and will long be remembered as one of the Kimberley Community's most interesting characters. She was a Bobba to many young people who passed through our community and a friend and confidant of many in the general community and those who shared their retirement with her at Acacia Retirement Home. Provisionally her funeral will be held on Wednesday. I will post details later.

CHANNAH BESSIE COHEN 1926 - 10/07/2019

Words from Barney Horwitz at her funeral.

Channah Bessie Cohen was the daughter of Reb Benjamin Beinesh Witten, a very learned Rabbi born in Lithuania who studied at renowned Yeshivas in Posvol and Vilna. He came to South Africa in 1896 and held the post of Shochet and Mohel at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town. Bessie was born in 1926.

I do not know much about Betty’s early life other than that she was born in Cape Town, grew up in Muizenberg, married Myer Jacobs as a young woman, had a son Brian and later a grandson Myron who is here today and was a successful Jewellery salesperson.

Biblically it is accepted that 70 years is a normal lifespan. Bessie had two since she came to Kimberley at the age of 71 to start a new life when she married late Leon in 1997 and lived amongst us for another 22 years. In the years between 2000 and 2007 when we had young Jewish Community service Doctors and other medical practitioners posted to Kimberley, Bessie took it upon herself to be their honorary Bobba and opened her home to them and many of these young people now in middle age will remember her as the person who gave them a home from home in their year or two in Kimberley.

Many of the young people who grew up in our Community in the same period including Roy and Ida Horwitz and Gabbi and Mike Datnow will remember the same hospitality and kindness. In her last years, Bessie lived in the Acacia Old Aged Home and made many friends. She suffered greatly in her last illness in the last few months and by her passing her suffering has ended.

It is said that your Hebrew name is the channel by which life reaches you from above. In fact, the Kabbalists say that when parents name a child, they experience a minor prophecy —because, somehow, that child’s destiny is wrapped up in the combination of Hebrew letters that make up his or her name. Reb and Rebbetzen Witten certainly got it right. Channah means gracious or full of grace and Bessie certainly cut a gracious figure. Combine this with the meaning of Bessie which is “abundance” and we certainly appreciate that her parents certainly foresaw that she would one day be the great entertainer we learnt to know her as in our Community when she came to Kimberley and married late Leon Cohen.

A special thanks to Hubre Datnow, Maud Horwitz, Annelie Joubert and Beryl Booysen who regularly visited her at Acacia and supported her in her last illness. My thanks too to Shirley Allen, Lauren Bloch, Hubre, Maud and Annelie for performing the Tahara this morning and Reb Silberhaft for officiating at the burial.  A Jewish funeral is called a Levayah which means “accompaniment”. It is called this way because our traditions call for the accompanying of the body to its place of rest. May Bessie’s soul rest in peace.

Barney Horwitz Chairman GW Hebrew Congregation