Graskop (Mpumalanga)


Graskop is situated 28 km north of Sabie in Mpumalanga – formerly the eastern Transvaal. The town was established in the 1880s on a farm occupied in the 1850s by Abel Erasmus, a legendary character of the Lowveld, and lies at the terminus of the railway line from Nelspruit. The name Graskop means “grassy hill “.

Like Sabie and other towns in this region, Graskop was originally a mining camp. The gold-mining days are long gone and the town now serves as a centre for a substantial timber industry as there are a number of large sawmills here.
There is no information on any Jewish residents until 1919, when a Mr. A Shain lived here. Others Jews living in Graskop in the 1920s included Abraham and Nathan Druian, who had a general dealers store, Mr & Mrs A Joffe, who moved to Graskop from Pilgrim’s Rest, and Mrs Olga Hill, who came from Latvia in 1925 to join her daughter, Mrs Gordon.”

“No Jewish communal institutions were ever established in Graskop. The 3 Jewish families living here in the early 1930s joined the Pilgrim’s Rest community for services when the Pilgrim’s Rest synagogue was built in 1932. When the synagogue was sold in 1944, the Graskop Jews went to Sabie for services.

With the establishment of the Eastern Lowveld Congregation in Sabie in 1962, residents of Graskop attended services and functions here together with members of the surrounding areas.

The members of the Jewish community were generally involved in business and running general dealers stores; there was also a pharmacist, a sawmill manager and an owner of a mineral works.

There were 3 Jewish families in Graskop in the early 1930s. A community survey conducted by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies in 1953 reflects 21 Jews in Graskop, but although not stated as such, it is possible that this relatively high number included the Jews of Pilgrim’s Rest. In 1955/56 there were 6 Jews and from 1957 until 1960 there were only 3 Jews. In 1977 the only Jewish family left in Graskop relocated to Hoedspruit.