Port Alfred Hamlet (Western Cape)

 

Situated in the Western Cape, Prince Alfred Hamlet lies 136km north east of Cape Town and 9km north of Ceres. The town was established in 1861 in the district of Ceres and is the centre for the surrounding farms where fruit and potatoes are the main produce.

The first Jews in the area were Nehemia Dov Hoffman and his brother Shalom Hoffmann, who came to Hottentotskloof, north west of Prince Alfred, in 1893. David (Oom Dawie) Cohen started as a smous (peddler) and ostrich feather buyer in the Cape in 1890 and from 1904 1918 had a shop and hired a small farm at Hottentotskloof.

As early as 1920 there was mention of contributions from Hottentotskloof and Prince Alfred Hamlet to Zionist funds. Zionist activity here fell under the auspices of the Ceres Zionist Society. In 1982 the Jews of Prince Alfred Hamlet were represented at a UCF campaign for the country communities of the Western Cape.

The Jews in the town were farmers, general dealers and hoteliers. The Hamlet Hotel has been in Jewish hands for many years – the Katzenellenbogen family owned the hotel around 1908 to 1913; the Wolperts in 1922; the Baums in 1927; the Kantors in 1934; Benny Cohen sold it to Isaac Kahn in 1940. Currently, the hotel is owned by Isaac Kahn’s sons, Jos and Michael. David (Oom Dawie) Cohen had some of the best developed farms in the Ceres Prince Alfred Hamlet district. He became known as the seed potato king of the Western Province.

Nehemia Dov Hoffmann was a Hebrew and Yiddish journalist and the founder of the Jewish press in South Africa. While living in Johannesburg from 1889 90 he began publishing a Yiddish weekly, Der Afrikaner Israelit. He was the first Jew to import a printer’s type in Yiddish characters. When living in Cape Town after 1895 he published the Yiddish weekly, Haor which was replaced by Der Judisher Herald. Hoffmann also published the periodical Der Afrikaner Telegraph from 1898 1902. From 1907 1909 he was associated with the Hebrew literary magazine, Kineret. He wrote 15 books, about half of which were published in South Africa.

Jos Kahn, owner of the Hamlet Hotel was awarded the Louis Volks Humanitarian Award by the Lions Club in 1990. This award is for exceptional service to the community.

There is no census data for the Jewish population for the sample of years chosen for this research. There were nine Jews living in the town as at 2000.