Aliwal North (Eastern Cape)

Aliwal North, the last outpost in the Cape colony in the second half of the 19th Century, is situated on the banks of the Orange River on the border of the (Orange) Free State. Jewish settlement in Aliwal North seems to have taken place in two phases. In the first phase, between 1850 and 1880, immigrants were mainly of German and English descent, while the second phase, from 1901 to 1905, consisted largely of Eastern European Jews.

Numerous Jews played very active roles in Jewish as well as secular affairs. Many of the Jewish members of the community were prominent in the local town council. Five Jews served as mayors of Aliwal North, the first mayor being Benjamin Levy. The founder of the congregation, Mr Samial Becker, while on the town council, initiated many progressive development schemes for the town. There have been a number of Jewish town councillors and several have also served on the committees of different public and sporting bodies. Most of the Jewish residents of Aliwal North were traders. Jews were occupied as hoteliers, general dealers, wholesalers, manufacturers, millers, and professionals.

The Aliwal North Hebrew congregation, established at the turn of the century, attended to all Jewish, Zionist and charitable activities. The community was generally orthodox, had kosher meat, and the ‘cheder’ was conducted by the minister. The wide-ranging activities and liberal view of Rev E. S. Walt contributed greatly to the good relations between Jews and Gentiles in the town during and after his ministry.