EdenburgĀ (Free State)

 

Edenburg is one of a group of very small towns, close to Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State. Bloemfontein has always had a large Jewish community and was the centre of Jewish affairs in the province. The first Jewish settler to arrive in Edenburg was Martin Rosendorff in 1884.

There was never a congregation nor any formal Jewish organisations of any kind, not even a minyan (prayer group). People used to go to Bloemfontein or surrounding small towns for religious services, or rely on an itinerant official.

Hebrew education and kosher supplies were available in Bloemfontein – which became even more accessible after the highway was built (1970s & 80s).

The business activities were mostly centered in general stores, one pharmacist being a cafe owner, farmer and betting agent simultaneously. Various Jewish families (mostly related to each other) owned the hotel from 1924 to 1986. The hotel was always the centre of social activities for the community. Jewish people were fully integrated into village farm life and secular affairs, especially in the earlier part of the century.

In 1904 there were 57 Jews living in Edenburg, but by 1938 this had dropped to 15. By 1959 only three Jewish families remained, and in 1980 there was only one Jewish family living in Edenburg. The last remaining Jews – Mr and Mrs Michael Bellon – left Edenburg in 1986.