Between the end of the 19th century and 1930, large numbers of Jews began to arrive from Lithuania and Latvia. Their culture and contribution changed the character of
Many of the later immigrants arrived with no resources other than their wits and experience. Most could not speak English when they arrived. Often they would learn Afrikaans before English. Their households were often multi-lingual, with parents speaking Yiddish and Afrikaans, and the children learning English at school.
Scores of Jews did not live in the large towns, but settled in smaller country towns and dorps throughout SA. Although a Jewish presence is known to have once existed in 1281 dorps and towns across the country, Jewish communities have been traced in 381 of them. Wherever they lived, the Jews adapted and adopted, but never lost their cultural identity.
Jewish tradition revolves around family, food and faith. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, observance created the spiritual atmosphere and common bond which united them. One of the first activities of the newly settled immigrants was to establish synagogues, cemeteries and institutes of learning wherever they put down roots. And where the community was too small in number to build a synagogue, Jews from the outlying districts would travel to larger centres to celebrate the Sabbath and High Holy Days. Rabbis performed multiple duties - they were rabbis, cheder teachers, mohels who performed circumcisions and ritual slaughterers. Their lives were interwoven with the lives of all the communities they served, because very often their duties took them from one small town to another.