The Reb and the rebel: Jewish narratives in South Africa 1892-1913


Carmel Schrire (ed)
Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences
Gwynne Schrire (ed)


The personal histories of an immigrant father and his Cape-born son burst from some tattered Hebrew notebooks and a translucent typescript, giving the Jewish diasporic settlement in South Africa an immediacy seldom encountered before. The manuscripts of two Schrires – Reb Yehuda Leib (1851-1912) and his youngest son Harry (1895-1980) – include a diary, a memoir and an epic poem. They reveal tiny details of shipboard life below deck; major issues of religious belief and practice in Lithuanian shtetls, Johannesburg goldfields and District Six homes; and global issues of mass migration, pandemics and war. They show how community formation in Cape Town replicates the orthodoxy of di alte heym even as the new generation is integrated into a life undreamed of in the Old Country. Analyses of the contexts and authors, together with Appendices which include a genealogy, glossary and catalogued artworks, combine here to make the South African Jewish past come alive.


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12 July 2022


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