Durban (KwaZulu-Natal)

Durban is a port city in Kwazulu-Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. The Jewish population of Durban is about 5,000.

The relatively small Jewish population has always played a prominent part in the life of the city. One of the founders of Port Natal (Durban’s original name) was Nathaniel Isaacs, who arrived in the city as a youth in 1825.

The first brit milah (circumcision) in Natal was performed in 1876 on the son of Daniel M. Kisch by Rev. S. Rapaport, who came from Port Elizabeth for the ceremony.

In 1880 a Jewish burial ground was laid out. Three years later a congregation was formed and in 1884 a building that had been a Methodist chapel was converted into a synagogue.Durban is said to been less affected by eastern European immigration than other communities in South Africa. The city has an active communal life. There are two Orthodox synagogues and one reform, a Hebrew day school, and the usual fraternal and welfare organizations.

The Durban Jewish club, the only institution of its kind in the country, has played a major role in the development of the Durban Jewish community.

A Jewish community chest supplements the budgets of the educational and welfare institutions. The council of Natal Jewry is a coordinating body and also functions as the provincial office of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. The University of Natal both in Pietermaritzburg and Durban has lectureships in classical and modern Hebrew.