Henneman (Free State)


Henneman lies in the Goldfields area in the Orange Free State. This contributed to the fact that the Jewish community here expanded at a time when other Jewish country communities were shrinking.

The earliest reference to Jews in the area is to the Smiedt family in 1906, when their son was born. There is no further record of a Jewish presence until the 1920s when the names Dorfan, Chaimowitz, Hirschfield and Ketz appear.
There is some dispute over when the congregation was established. In 1934 the community was granted membership to the SAJBD. Before 1951 the surrounding communities of Whites, Ventersburg, Glen Harmony, Odendaalsrus and Virginia combined informally and Rev Segal acted as ba’al tefillah and shochet (reverend and ritual slaughterer).

In 1951 the Jews of Odendaalsrus formed their own congregation and the remaining communities decided to form the Henneman and Districts Hebrew Congregation. For a number of years there was growth and at one time it was thought that Henneman would rival other major Jewish communal centres. There was talk of building a synagogue and employing a minister, but as children grew up and went away to school, the community began to shrink. ” “The main economic activity amongst the Jews was trade, with shopkeepers, grain merchants and two pharmacists. Wives tended to help their husbands in business and took an active part in the affairs of the Women’s Zionist Society. The men also played an active role in Jewish communal and Zionist matters. Although the community was small, they contributed generously to Jewish fundraising. Social activities included communal Rosh Hashanah lunches and breaking of the fast, catered for by the ladies in Mrs Horwitz’s home.

Annual fundraising dances were held at the Whites Sports Club and card evenings
were popular. Two batmitzvahs and one bris were celebrated in the town. Although very few Jewish residents kept kosher, it was
considered tradition on the High Holydays for everyone to walk to services, no matter how far or how bad the condition of the roads.

The community appeared to be self-sufficient although they did appeal for assistance at the time when they wanted to build a synagogue. When the community began to dwindle the SAJBD eventually gained control of the assets.

A Jewish presence was noted in Henneman from around 1906 to 1980 but the overall picture is of a community that flourished and died in the space of approximately 30 years.

According to community records the Jewish population data is as follows: 29 Jews in 1940; 11 in 1943; 45 in 1953. Between 1956 and 1962 there were 76 Jews, 51 in 1965; 34 in 1967-68; 3 in 1976-77, and the last family left in 1980.