A few Jews were among the earliest settlers at the Cape, which was under the control of the Dutch East India Company. In order to secure work in the Company, they were forced to convert to Christianity.
By 1880, there were an estimated 4000 Jews in South Africa, mainly from England and Germany. Between the 1880s and 1930s, waves of Jewish immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe, particularly Lithuania and surrounding areas Latvia, Poland, Russia and Belarus. These new arrivals changed the nature of local Jewry, and formed the basis of the contemporary (Ashkenazi) Jewish community of today. Later arrivals included Sephardi Jews from Egypt and Rhodes Island.The Jews who came to South Africa were gripped with the idea of a future free from tyranny and persecution, and one which promised much for their children. Through energy, ingenuity and plenty of hard work, they found their way. Giving expression to the urge for distinction, and the need to make a useful living. And experiencing the invigorating sense of possibility and adventure.