White River (Mpumalanga)


White River, a main town in Mpumalanga (eastern Transvaal pre-1994), was named after a stream that runs through the area. It was only after the Anglo Boer War, when the White River Settlement was launched and British and Boer veterans were settled in the district that the town came into being. The resettlement scheme was a failure and in 1914 the land was sold to a syndicate of local farmers and businessmen.

With more than 2 500 farmers settled in an 8-10 km radius of the town, White River is one of the most densely populated agricultural areas in Southern Africa. The main crops are citrus, subtropical fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. White River also has a large share of the tourist traffic to the Kruger National Park.

There are records of Jews living there by 1943 but it is possible that Jews may have settled here earlier.

There was no formal Jewish congregation in White River nor were any Jewish institutions ever established. From as early as 1966, the Jews from White River and its surrounds participated in Family Days, hosted by Jewish families in the neighbouring towns and villages in the eastern Transvaal. When the Lowveld Jewish Country Community, based in Nelspruit, was formed in 1981, more regular Family Days were held. These gatherings served as a valuable link for Jews scattered throughout the district. By 1986, however, the activities of the Lowveld Jewish Country Community appear to have ceased.

Among the small number of Jews living in White River and the surrounding area were hoteliers, farmers, estate agents, an outfitter, a factory owner and several doctors. In the 1980s Jewish doctors doing their army service were posted to hospitals in the district, e.g. at Temba Hospital at Kabokweni.

Community records indicate that in 1943 there were 2 Jews in White River and in 1960 61 there were 7. By 1964 there were 12 and in 1977 there were 10 Jews living in the town. Some community records for 1980 show that there were only 4 Jews in the town, whilst others indicate that there were 9. This is very different from the official census data for 1980, which indicates that there were 47 Jews. The official census data for 1991 also indicate that there were 47 Jews but no evidence can be found that there were any Jews in White River by 1991.