Beit Emanuel, Johannesburg

Beit Emanuel is a progressive synagogue located in Parktown, Johannesburg. The synagogue was established in 1954 and is one of the largest progressive Jewish congregations in South Africa.[1] Israeli-born, Rabbi Sa'ar Shaked has been Beit Emanuel's congregational rabbi since 2013.[2] It is an affiliate of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ), which is part of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ).[3] Congregational rabbi, Shaked is currently involved in efforts to establish a Rabbinic Academy and Higher Education Institution in Gauteng.[4]

Beit Emanuel
AffiliationProgressive Judaism
LeadershipRabbi Sa'ar Shaked
Year consecrated1954
Location38 Oxford Rd, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2193, South Africa
Geographic coordinates26°10′08″S 28°02′42″E / 26.16891911255478°S 28.045129180472834°E / -26.16891911255478; 28.045129180472834

History edit

There had been advanced plans for a progressive synagogue in Parktown since the early 1930s.[5] After the arrival of Rabbi Moses Cyrus Weiler in South Africa in 1933, a plot was purchased on Empire Road, Parktown and Weiler hired Herman Kallenbach to build a grand synagogue with lush gardens and where Weiler would serve as rabbi.[5] However, just as building work was set to commence, a neighbourhood petition circulated against plans for a synagogue in a residential area.[5] Eventually a decision was made to sell the plot and buy a smaller 3/4 of an acre plot on Paul Nel Street in Hillbrow, where there were already synagogues such as the Great Synagogue and Poswohl Synagogue.[5] Kallenbach used the same Art Deco design that he and his partners A.M. Kennedy and A.S. Furner had prepared for the Parktown site, but scaled it down according to the smaller plot size.[5] Twenty years later, Beit Emanuel, was established in Parktown in 1954.

In 1993 there were divisions in Johannesburg's Progressive community when Beit Emanuel's congregational rabbi, Ady Asabi declared that it and the Imanu-Shalom congregations would become independent and Masorti synagogues, breaking with the SAUPJ and Progressive Judaism.[6] A court case ensued to retain both of the congregations under the SAUPJ. Beit Emanuel returned to the SAUPJ following an agreement and Shalom became independent and Masorti (Dubb and Shain 1995). Today the synagogue has moved away from the formality of conventional Reform Judaism and instead concentrates on prayers (ancient and modern) that encourage greater congregant participation.[1]

In 1995, president Nelson Mandela addressed 2,000 people at the synagogue and made appeals against white emigration; "Don't leave, don't let us down. You have nothing to fear... My duty is to unite the people of South Africa. I have no time to indulge in party politics"[7]

Religious tradition edit

Jocelyn Hellig, professor of religious studies and one of the best-known interpreters of South African Judaism, described the Progressive community as conservative in religious practice. This was also given as an explanation for the relatively modest presence of Masorti Judaism in the country (Hellig 1987; Shain 2011). In 1986, the synagogue's US-born rabbi, Norman Mendel told an audience Progressive Jewry in the country were leading the Jewish struggle against the "indefensible, immoral and evil." policies of apartheid. He said that Progressive Jews are opposing apartheid "against a backdrop of Jewish discrimination" from the Orthodox community. "There is day to day diminishment in the Reform movement in South Africa. Reform are considered a second class Jewish community," he added.[8]

Notable members edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Beit Emanuel South African Union for Progressive Judaism. Accessed on 5 December 2019
  2. ^ Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked Beit Emanuel. Accessed on 5 December 2019
  3. ^ Congregations South African Union for Progressive Judaism. Accessed on 6 December 2019
  4. ^ November 2019 SAUPJ. Accessed on 5 December 2019
  5. ^ a b c d e Rabbi Weiler and the founding of the Reform movement in SA Progressive Jews (South Africa). August 2019
  6. ^ Rabbi Ady Assabi The Independent. 26 June 2003
  7. ^ Around the Jewish World: Elections Have S. African Jews Thinking About Crime, Emigration Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 25 October 1995
  8. ^ South Africa’s Reform Jews Leading Jewish Struggle Against Apartheid Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 6 January 1986
  9. ^ Paying tribute to fierce, prophetic Helen Suzman Business Live. 7 November 2017
  10. ^ South African Jewish journalist Jeremy Gordin murdered in home burglary at 70 Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 1 May 2023

Bibliography edit

  • Dubb, Allie A. & Shain, Milton (1995). "South Africa". In Adler, Cyrus (ed.). American Jewish Year Book, Volume 95. The American Jewish Committee. pp. 360–369. ISBN 0-87495-108-9.
  • Hellig, Jocelyn (July 1987). "The Religious Expression of South African Jewry". Religion in Southern Africa. 8 (2): 3–17.
  • Shain, Milton (February 2011). "Jewish cultures, identities and contingencies: reflections from the South African experience". European Review of History. 18 (1): 89–100. doi:10.1080/13507486.2011.543584.

External links edit