Robertson (Western Cape)

 

Robertson is a picturesque town in the south-western Cape, east of Worcester.  It is principally a farming and wine producing region and forms the hub of a cluster of small towns in the area.

The first Jewish settlers are thought to have come to the town before the end of the 19th century.

The first Jewish wedding in Robertson was solemnised by Rev. Rabinowitz of Cape Town in 1895.

The synagogue was built and consecrated in 1896. The Talmud Torah and the cemetery also served the needs of neighbouring communities (such as Montagu).

In 1915 it was reported that Jewish children from Robertson were admitted to the new Jewish Orphanage in Cape Town.The Jewish community of Robertson grew with the ostrich feather boom. There were several feather buyers among the early settlers until the feather industry collapsed around 1916.

The community was a close-knit one and apparently enjoyed good relations with the non-Jewish population.

Jewish cultural and Zionist societies also flourished. Many Robertson Jews made a significant contribution to both Jewish and secular life in the town and beyond.

Apart from farming, many Jews were active in business and the professions. They appear to have been generally prosperous. In the late 1940’s most of the Jews were engaged in commerce, with some farmers, several hoteliers, a tailor, a doctor, a bookkeeper, a cinema owner and a clerk.

The Jewish population peaked in 1904 with 140 Jewish people and then declined steadily. There is one Jewish couple left in Robertson at present.