Van Rhynsdorp (Western Cape)


Van Rhynsdorp is located in the Western Cape, along the N7.

The 1904-5 Naturalization register names 8 Jews who came to Van Rhynsdorp.

The cornerstone for the synagogue was laid in 1928. The Jews in the neighbouring towns of Calvinia, Klawer, Niewoudtville and Williston, came to Van Rhynsdorp for services and for the High Holy days. The synagogue, which stood on the corner of Olive Rd, next to the Masonic Temple, has since been demolished. Lionel Frank was involved with the shul. The town also had a Jewish cemetery.

Some of the Jewish families living in van Rhynsdorp were the Mindes, who owned a shop that still bears their name, and the Rosenthals, who also owned the same store at one time. The shop was known as the ‘Joodse winkel’. The two families were among the last Jews to live in Van Rhynsdorp. ‘Tannie Lottie’ Rosenthal, as she was known, ultimately moved to Cape Town. The Gordons were another Jewish family living here. Families in Cape Town who had relatives in Van Rhynsdorp would often send their children to spend the winters here, as the dry climate of the Northern Cape region was believed to healthier than the damp Cape Town winters.

Jews in Van Rhynsdorp were mostly shopkeepers and hoteliers; there was also an attorney, known as Oom Kappie (Kapelus). Mr. Hoffman became a lord and judge in the England High Court, appellate division. The Namaqualand Country Lodge was a Jewish owned hotel (thought to be owned by the Gelb family). What is now the Hostel for Girls was also a Jewish owned hotel – called the Northwestern. The cornerstone of the city hall was laid by Mr. Frank, who was mayor at the time, and the cornerstone of the municipality was laid by Mr. Lazarus.

Records show that there were 23 Jews living in Van Rhynsdorp in 1904. By 1936 the number had increased to 135. Only 31 Jews were recorded in 1951. The number dropped to six in 1980 and two in 1991. In 1997 only one Jewish family remained in Van Rhynsdorp. It would appear that there are no Jews living there any longer.