Muizenberg, South Africa


Not Forgotten: Last Bat Mitzvah in Muizenberg


By Richard Emdin


 With thanks to Richard Emdin

In 2007, Sasha Sioux Magua was the first of our four granddaughters to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah in Muizenberg shul and the first Bat Mitzvah to deliver her Dvar Torah in the shul itself.

Six years later, first cousins Lucy Dorothy Pilkington and Cara Lia Biederman also celebrated their B’not  Mitzvah together in Muizenberg, a beautiful double act which brought the house down, and not only because their friends began throwing enormous handfuls of sweets at one and all from the upstairs balcony section, rudely awakening several  of the older congregants.

Lastly, on 11 November 2017, our youngest granddaughter Scarlet Elizabeth Pilkington eventually took to the podium at 1140a.m. (Parshat Chayei Sarah is a very lengthy portion!), and opened her Dvar Torah with the following words:

“Muizenberg shul holds great history for the Emdin and Levitt families. Within the shul burns an eternal lamp in memory of my maternal great great great grandmother, Celine Slesing.  My great great great grandfather, Samuel Nathan Guinsberg, was a founder of the Muizenberg Hebrew congregation, and his son-in-law, my great great grandfather Nathan  Emdin, was  its first president. And so here I stand today in Muizenberg shul, the sixth generation of the Emdin family and the last granddaughter to deliver her Dvar Torah. I have chosen to dedicate this parashat to my cousin Rivka Shapira, who was killed in Auschwitz on the 5th of November 1943. She was 6 years old.”

Scarlet described both the enduring 172 year link between herself and her great great great grandparents and the connection which they, and the generations in between, have to Muizenberg shul. She also reminded us of the missing generations on the Segall (Stellenbosch) side of her family tree who were annihilated.

Rivka Shapira was seized from her family, thrown onto a train and murdered. She was unknown to those in shul on that Saturday until the parashat dedication, but hopefully she will be a precious reminder that the essence of the Holocaust is not solely about six million innocent people who were slaughtered because they were Jewish, but also about a little girl named Rivka who deserved better; and a young woman called Scarlet who honoured her memory.

After the service ended, everyone congratulated Scarlet and rushed off with hearty appetites (it was almost lunch time after all), to enjoy the brocha, where the delicious offerings of the ladies of the ‘catering corps’ were demolished in quick time. There was a complaint that the quiche ran out too quickly but as the complainant was seeking a third helping he didn’t get much sympathy and was curtly advised to attack the smoked salmon instead.

With the ‘benching’ finished, and the last pieces of cheesecake eaten or wrapped in a napkin (for later), by eccentric looking women with large handbags, we left feeling sad that for us it was the end of ten years of wonderful B’not Mitzvah celebrations in the magnificent old Muizenberg shul, but also hinting optimistically to our granddaughters that a wedding in the near future would be nice! As usual they laughed at us (they laugh at everything we say), and rushed off to prepare for the party later that evening.

We went home to take a nap after a very good morning.

Richard & Hazel Emdin  (the adoring grandparents)