History of the Greenside Hebrew Congregation

Extract from the Brochure of the Official opening of the Parkview Greenside and Districts Hebrew Congregation Communal Hall, 4th August 1947

To recount the history of the Greenside Hebrew congregation (as it is known today) is to tell the story of South African Jewry from the late 1930’s. We must pay tribute to those many pioneers seeking identity in the dark days of World War II’s atrocity and cherish their memories with admiration and vision, who have through their endeavors laid the foundation of what is today a strong and dynamic congregation under the leadership and inspiration of dedicated leaders who have chosen this calling as meaningful for all. The formula has been reinforced by the Governing Body and the Religious leadership has remained constant. “For the benefit of the Congregation”. It is our fervent prayer that the Almighty may spare us in good health, granting peace and giving us focus to ensure the continued strength and vision to provide a spiritual home for another 50 years and to continue to uphold the proud heritage.

It was in 1938 that the first organized Minyan was held at the Parkview Scout hall, Dorset Road, the sponsors of which were Messrs. Max Goodman, Jack Brook and Oscar Sack, who were assisted by their respective wives in connection with the organization. The Rev. A. Walker officiated. Subsequent minyanim were organized and were held at the “Kirribili”, Dundalk Ave, Parkview.

The formation fo the properly consitituted Congregatoin was first mooted in June 1941, and in the same month a Constitution was drafted and accepted. Mr Max Goodman was elected as the first chairman, a position he has continued to occupy ever since. The Congregation was formed for the purpose of serving the Jewish residents of Parkview, Greenside, greenside east, Emmarentia, Parktown West, Westcliff, Parkwood, Rosebank, Parktown North, Parkhurst and the surrounding districts. At the very first meeting there were 19 people present. The first annual general meeting was held at what was then the Redhill School on Sunday, 28th September 1941. By this time the membership had grown to 35.

Shortly after the Annual General Meeting in 1941, the first social event in the congregations lifetime was held, and this took the form of a concert and social function which was very well attended.
It was during 1942 that the two Chedarim were established in the area, one at the Greenside primary school and the other at the Redhill School.

At an Extraordinary General Meeting held on the 28th February 1943, it was resolved to purchase Stands 621//2/3/4 Cor. Roscommon Road and Kildare Ave, Parkview. An application was made to the Administrator for amendment of Conditions of Title enabling the Congregation to erect a communal hall and place of learning. The application met with considerable opposition from the gentile residents of Parkview who organized a petition signed by 1100 objectors. The opposition based on the fear that the peace of the neighborhood would be disturbed, and that it would be better if the Congregation confined itself to a request for a place of Worship. The congregation then withdrew the application, and made a fresh application for a place of worship. Unfortunately, however, it was found that the same people who had objected in the first place objected again, their objection this time being based upon the fact that whilst they did not object to a place of worship, they objected in principle to the amendment of Conditions of Title which might become a precedent for further application for amendment of Title by others for different purposes. A second petition was signed over by 1000 people, and further matter came up in the Annual General Meeting of Parkview and Districts rate payers Association, which was attended by over 300 people. At this meeting, Mr. Max Goodman, as Chairman of the Congregation put forward the Congregations claim to have a right to a place of worship for the Jewish community.

Mr. Goodman was throughout this time very active on behalf of the congregation in trying to obtain consent for Title to be amended, and finally succeeded in getting the Town planning Committee of the City Council to recommend to the Administrator that our application be granted. However, the works committee of the City Council decided against the recommendation of the Town Planning Committee, which Body, in turn, re – affirmed its previous resolution.

It is very interesting to place on record that His LLOrdship the Bishop of Johannesburg sent to the Chairman a strong letter supporting our application. The Rev. J. B. Webb, Head of Methodist Church, also supported us in our endevour to establish a place of worship.

Whilst this application was pending, the Committee investigated the possibility of an alternative site, finally, the present site in Chester Road was discovered. What was very important was the fact that there was no restrictive conditions of title such as applied to Parkview or Greenside, as the ground does not fall into any of the surrounding established townships. The approval the City Council and the Townships board to the ground being used for the erection of a Social Hall, place of worship, and seat of religious instruction, was readily obtained. The ground is 3 ¼ acres in extent, contiguous to Parkview Golf Course with a large frontage to Chester road and to the golf course. It is on this piece of ground that the communal hall, opened today has been erected.

At the annual general meeting held in September , 1942, the building was inaugurated.

At the beginning of the year 1944, the first social function in the form of a Dance in aid of the Building fund was held at the Redhill School Hall. This was followed by various social functions including a Dance at Northcliff in the following year, and by a further huge social and financial success in the form of a Ball at the City Hall during 1943 in aid of the Building Fund.

At the Annual general meeting in 1944, the system of “Foundation Membership” was adopted, and at that meeting twenty six members signified their intent of taking up suich Foundation Membership. This entails the contribution of £100 towards the Building Fund payable over a period of up to five years.

At about December 1943, regular Friday Night services were now inaugurated and are held in a classroom at the Redhill School. Having no Minister, various members of the Congregation have taken turns in officiating at those services.

The congregation are fortunate in obtaining the services of Cantor S. Inspektor as Baal Musaph for the High Festival Season in 1945. On this occasion, Rev. A.H. Karpelowsky acted as Baal Shacharith. 423 persons attended these services which was a huge success.

The High Festival Services in 1944 were held on the Congregations own site, the 500 worshippers being housed in a huge marquee; all thjose who had the privilege to attend were unanimous in their appreciation of the atmosphere. AS one member expressed “ it was davening in the manner of the Bible”.

In 1943 the congregation became affiliated to the Jewish Board of Deputies. Towards the end of 1943 it was found necessary to appoint a paid bookkeeper.

In July 1945, it was found necessary to appoint an official secretary to the Congregation, and Me Henry Joseph was appointed.
During 1943, the committee raised £7000 for the South African Jewish War Appeal. In 1946 the Congregation again managed to raise £10 000 for the Jewish War Appeal. A building permit was obtained in 1946 and the building operations commenced on the 10th July 1946. The Foundation Stone was laid by Mr. Max Goodman on 24th November 1946. During the early part of 1947 Rev. M.A. Lew was appointed as Minister Rev. Simcha Kusevitsky was appointed as Cantor. A ladies committee was also formed.

This congregation has a great future ahead of it; it has in many directions broken new ground, and had been quoted on many occasions as an example for others to follow.