Kimberley Jewry Shaken by Cemetery Murder and Desecration - June 2006

RABBI MOSHE SILBERHAFT AND MR ARNOLD RAUFF - President of the Jewish Burial Society
inspecting the restoration.

The Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation, the country's third-oldest active Jewish community, has launched an appeal for funds from former Kimberley residents and other concerned Jews following the shock desecration of the city's first Jewish cemetery in April this year. Over two-thirds of the tombstones in the historic cemetery were toppled or smashed in the desecration. The small community was further shaken by the news that a 16 year-old girl had been raped and murdered in the old building on the grounds of the cemetery. 


Following the desecration, the Kimberley congregation has embarked on a major restoration and clean-up initiative, aimed at repairing the damage and preventing future vandalisation. This has included laying the broken tombstones flat in a bed of concrete, bricking up the doors and windows of the building and replaced parts of the surrounding wall with devil's fork fencing to act as viewing points into the yard. The high costs of this fencing have made it impossible to replace the entire wall.


The restoration project has extended the resources of the small Jewish community to the limit, with the bulk of the cost having to be made up from the congregation's carefully husbanded savings. Arnold Rauff, President of the Jewish Burial Society, emphasised that the community did not have funds available to spare as every income cent was needed to keep the congregation going.   


Barney Horwitz, chairman of the Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation, said that Judaism taught how respect for loved ones who have died had to continue throughout  a person’s life.


“That is why we say Kaddish when we have a Yahrzeit and recite Yizkor on Yom Kippur, the last day of Pesach, the second day of Shavouth and on Shemini Atzereth. And that is why we ought to restore the Old Jewish Cemetery in Kimberley. It matters not whether we live in Kimberley or not” he said.


Horwitz added that the founders of Jewish families who spread throughout South Africa and the Jewish world were buried in Kimberley’s Old Jewish Cemetery, and he  appealed to their descendants, and other well-wishers, to contribute to restoring their last resting place to a place of dignity.


Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, Spiritual Leader to the Country Communities, strongly endorsed the Kimberley community's call for assistance. "I urge all Jewish South Africans, especially former Jewish residents of Kimberley and those who may have family members buried in the cemetery, to assist the Jews of Kimberley in safeguarding their heritage and ensuring the upkeep of the last resting place of so many of this community's pioneers" he said.  


The relevant banking details are: Jewish Burial Society, Standard Bank, Chapel St, Branch 0702, Account no. 040101177.