Piketburg (Western Cape)


Piketberg lies northeast of Cape Town, on N7 between Mooreesburg and Citrusdal.

Mendel Sachs was one of the first settlers in Piketberg, arriving around 1880. About 60 Jewish families came to Piketberg from Eastern Europe. By 1891 there were already several well-off Jews here, among them ostrich feather traders and “smouse” (peddlers).

Before the synagogue was built, religious services were held at the Wiid Hall. Ground was purchased in 1923 for £250 for the building of the shul.

Original documentation of congregation members dated 17 October 1923 suggests these were founding members: Benjamin Klein (daughter Sara Harris, grandson Ivan); Hermann Myers (father of Max (also Jack, Belle, Bollas, Connie); Julius Dorfman; Nathan Shapiro; Moses Joseph Lipsitz (granddaughter Joyce Radomsky); Israel Jawitz (father of Sydney, Steven, Chucky); Lazar Lipsitz (father of Phillip, Koppel, Riva); Samuel Seef (father of Ethel Lenhoff, Eileen Schiller, Ann Kaplan, Milly); Max Maurice Myers – Hon sec & treasurer (d. June/July 1996, age 90); David Lipsitz; Barnett Louis Fine; Israel Philip Sher; Michael Isacowitz; Louis Lurie; Benjamin Ment; Abraham Ginsberg; Harry Saacks; Solomon Shapiro; Isaac Abrams; Jacob Jawitz; Max Jawitz (J’son); Max Jawitz; Philip Silbert; David Silbert; Moses Silbert; Lasar Levin; Philip Kupowitz.The synagogue was built in 1925 by Ludwig Andras Simon (a Hungarian Jew). The rabbi was Moses Baraitzer. Rabbi Baraitzer lost his sight in later years, but this did not detract from his teaching of Talmud, which he knew by heart.

There were about 30 Jewish families in Piketberg. In earlier times, the community had kosher meat brought in from neighbouring Moorreesburg. The Jews were engaged in the traditional occupations of hoteliers and shopkeepers. Mr. Weinreich owned the Commercial Hotel (built 1899). The Cohen family bought the hotel in 1956, and renamed it the Boland Hotel. Barry Cohen also owns the Nederburg Hotel – previously called the Railway Hotel and also the Pink Hotel. Most of the Jewish shops were in Voortrekker Str (which was formerly Main Str). A bioscope was owned by Mr. Baraitzer, and over road was a cold drink factory, owned by Mr. Murinik.

According to sources (W A Burger / Reeve Sanders), the town had 6 Jewish doctors, including Kramer, Kaplan and Isidore Kaplan,(who owned the house that is now part of the museum); attorneys Pincus & Fine; hoteliers Braude, Appelbaum, Weinreich, Carosini & Cohen; watch-makers Shapiro, Kolesch & Maller; Jack Shaer was a bookkeeper; Louis Stollar – a barber; there were farmers Jacob Katzeff (1924)and Herbert Henry; general dealers; Herman Myers (1880) and Ben Klein (1902) both of whom died in 1969 and were members of the local council. Jacob Jawitz and Jacob Katzeff were known as great benefactors to the local farmers. Jankel Baraitzer came in 1906/1914 with his father, Reverend Baraitzer (d. 1961/11/01, age 96). Jankel built the bioscope and the Bio Café in 1929 and the mineral water factory in 1932. In 1935 he built the first electrical power station and supplied the village with electrical power from 1935 to 1955. At the age of 90 he was still active. The London Jewish Yearbook (of 1964/5) states that the Jews of Piketberg were incorporated into the Malmesbury Hebrew Congregation. The shul was deconsecrated in 1969, and eventually bought by the municipality for R7000. The bima was sent to Weizmann Hall (Green & Sea Point congregation) and the sifrei torah went to Rondebosch congregation.

The synagogue became museum and information centre in 1998. The former home of Dr. Isidore Kaplan (built 1922) forms part of the museum.

In 1902 there were 100 Jews in Piketberg and only 102 in 1936. By 1951 the number had dropped to 51 and in 1980 there were only 11 Jews still in the town.