Belfast (Mpumalanga)

The town of Belfast is situated in Mpumalanga (eastern Transvaal –pre 1994), between Middleburg and Nelspruit, 210 km east of Pretoria. It was established on 30 June, 1890.

Agricultural activities in the area are varied and include cattle, dairy and sheep farming and trout fishing. The tulip nursery attracts many visitors in spring. It is also a mining area with coal, black granite, fire clay, kaolin, chrome and iron being mined. Sammy Marks, although never resident in Belfast, owned a coal mine to the west of the village.

One of the early Jews to settle in Belfast was Joseph Rubin, who came to South Africa in 1894. He worked as a blacksmith and later opened a shop. He also speculated on a small scale in maize, horses and poultry and in later years farmed in the nearby district of Wonderfontein.

The Jewish population of Belfast was small and there was no formal Jewish congregation.Jews attended High Holy Day services in Middleburg. Jews of the district were active Zionists, contributing to various funds. There was talk of forming a Zionist society to be called the North-Eastern Transvaal Zionist Society, but it is not until 1924 that record can be found of a Zionist society, known as the Belfast Zionist Society, which was affiliated to the SA Zionist Federation. Reference has also been found to a charitable institution, known as the Belfast Jewish Benevolent Fund, in 1915.

Jews were mainly farmers, mill owners, produce dealers, and general dealers.

The Jewish population in Belfast reached its peak in 1936 when there were 47 Jews resident there. In 1943, 23 Jews lived in the town and in 1951 there were 25. The community dwindled to ten in 1964 and five in 1981.