Home Lifestyle and Leisure Rosh Hashanah The Jewish New Year 5778

Rosh Hashanah The Jewish New Year 5778


The New Year Festival is far more than the mere opening of another year in the flight of time

The Kimberley Synagogue. Picture: Danie van der Lith


Adrian Horwitz
Chairman Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation

SUNDOWN last night marked the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5778, and, like millions of Jews around the world, our little Jewish Community in Kimberley will congregate today and tomorrow for the start of the High Holy Days which will culminate in the Day of Atonement in ten days. The day is a holiday of hope for a sweet New Year. 

It is a special day when we look back and take stock of the year that has passed, consider where we have erred, resolve to improve and pray for God’s blessings for the year to come.

In the last year, we in Kimberley have lost two greats – Arnold Rauff, past chairman and Trustee of the Community, and Dr Michael Sandler, also a past chairman and well known pathologist who practiced in the city in the eighties and nineties. Our heartfelt condolences to their families. With their passing a golden era in our community fades into history and we are all poorer.

When I look back at the year 5777 in South Africa, I despair. The great Albert Einstein once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 

Our nation is one that was badly fractured and damaged by racism and ethnic division in the last century. It has therefore been deeply disturbing to see the rise of a new tendency in certain quarters to attribute all the blame for the country’s ills on its minorities.

At his inauguration as president in 1994, the great Nelson Mandela outlined his vision for the future of South Africa when he said: “We enter into a covenant, that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity: a rainbow nation, at peace with itself and the world.”

What a vision. Whatever our faith, whatever our ethnic background, whatever our political persuasion, let us make 5778 the year in which we return to the vision and strive consciously to make our communities at peace with one another and united in their efforts to lift the whole nation out of economic distress to the point where we can honestly say we are the United Nations of Africa. 

Here’s wishing all who live in our city, province, country and the world, a wonderful year filled with happiness, prosperity, harmony and security. L’shana tova tikvah tevu – may you all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.

 Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft “The Travelling Rabbi”

Country Communities Rabbi – SA Jewish Board of Deputies 

Spiritual Leader & CEO – African Jewish Congress

African Regional Director Commonwealth Jewish Council

Dear Friends,

As we welcome the Jewish New Year of 5778, we look forward to more unity between peoples, better lives for all the world’s citizens, and to nurture their connections with each other and to celebrate, rather than emphasize their differences.

In our multicultural society we encounter the beliefs, traditions and practices of many diverse faiths and cultures. Each of us strives to carve out a destiny true to our own particular tradition. At the same time, each one of us is an integral part of our shared society and we must nurture our connections with others and discover unity in diversity. As extremism sweeps through our fragile world, we need to emphasise the values and aspirations which bind us together rather than those put us apart.

Empathy is a key component of a moral society and cultural differences bring a collective strength that benefits all of humanity. Martin Luther King Jr said: “We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” Close to three thousand years ago, the Book of Psalms put it this way . . . “behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity”.

Rosh Hashanah, our New Year, celebrates the birth of the universe. Communities will come together in festive spirit with song and devotion and, at the heart of our prayers, we will cry out to the Almighty: Remember all nations for life and for good, thus emphasising our concern for all mankind. May the coming twelve months produce a better life for all of us. Shana Tova!


ALTHOUGH Rosh Hashanah literally means “the beginning of the year” and according to tradition marks the day upon which Adam and Eve were created, it actually falls on the first and second days of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Jewish Calendar. As the anniversary of creation of man, the festival in Jewish Tradition is a powerful acknowledgment that G-d is the King of the Universe, the creator of man and Ruler of the lives of all.

The New Year Festival is thus far more than the mere opening day of another year in the flight of time. Just as the seventh day of the week (ie the sabbath) is a holy day, so is the seventh month in the year a holy month. Its opening day is the herald of the Day of Atonement which follows on the 10th of the month after the New Year Festival has been followed by the Seven Days of Awe or Repentance. 

The day is also known as Yom Teruah or the day of the sounding of the Ram’s Horn. The sounding of the Ram’s Horn, the Shofar in Synagogues symbolises the whole spirit of the festival which is to stir those who have strayed from their spiritual purity and to remind them of the laws of their faith and their duties and to return to a spiritually better life. 

According to Rabbinical tradition, G-d opens three books on the first day of Rosh Hashanah: In the first is written the names of all the Righteous as well as the rewards and blessings they will receive material and spiritual. The third book contains the names of the G-dless and the second contains the names of all those who do not fall into either of these two categories. They are not completely Righteous, but they aren’t completely G-dless either. They are granted a limited period in which they can repent and restore their broken relationship with G-d. If they do this, they will also be included in the ranks of the righteous and be inscribed in the first book – the Book of Life. 

It is for this reason that Jews observe what are known as the Seven Days of Awe in the period between Rosh Hashanah (on 1 and 2 Tishrei) and the Day of Atonement on 10 Tishrei. This is a time in which prayers of repentance are offered in the Synagogues, charitable deeds are encouraged and peace is made between enemies. It is also a time when prayers are offered for peace and blessedness for all mankind.

The spirit of the High Holy Days has been well captured in the following passages by the Jewish novelist, Herman Wouk, in his book “This is my G-d”.

“A horn blast reverberates through the dark reaches of the universe. The angelic hosts, drawn up in array before the throne of G-d, shudder at the sound. It is Rosh Hashanah, the day of judgment. The scrolls of fate roll open before the Lord. In these scrolls every man’s hand has written his deeds of the year past. G-d reads the entries and pronounces judgment, fixing the destinies of every human being for the year to come: who shall die, who shall live, who shall be rich, who shall be poor, who shall rise in the world, who shall fall, who shall live in peace, and who shall stumble in misery.

“This decree on the day of horn-blowing is not final. Men have ten days in which to search their acts, repent of misdeeds, perform good works to alter the balance as it stands, pledge themselves to better conduct, and throw themselves on the Judge’s mercy in prayer. Yom Kippur, the last of these days of grace, is a crisis of confession and repentance. As the sun sinks to the horizon, the scrolls of fate roll shut. The destines of all men for the coming year are sealed. The annual judgment ends at sundown with a last blast of the horn.

“Atonement on this day is a process between a man and his Creator. The atonement for any ill one man has done another, the Talmud says, begins with repairing the injury in full; then one seeks G-d’s absolution. A prayer on Atonement Day does nothing, before G-d or man, to absolve a hit-and-run driver, or an adulterer who holds to his mistress. Our fathers in the Ten Days of Repentance used to seek out every person they could possibly have injured and beg forgiveness; they used to go to great lengths to pay all outstanding debts. Devout Jews do so still.”

Arnold Rauff and Rabbi Silberhaft in 2012

(28 April 1938 – 2 August 2017)
ARNOLD Rauff was everyone’s refuge and strength – a pillar to lean on in good times and bad both within the Jewish community and in the general community at large. 
Arnold was born the only child of Marcus and Sylvia Rauff on April 28 1938. Initially the family lived at Taung but in 1947 they moved to Kimberley where Arnold spent the rest of his life. At that time Kimberley was home to 500 Jewish families, today we number only 25 souls.
He attended Christian Brothers College where he matriculated in 1955. At school he was selected for the Central Command Shooting Team, participated in boxing and played rugby for the under-18 B League winning team in 1955. 
In his testimonial the principal, Bro Mcmanus said of him: “Pleasant disposition, friendly and certainly loyal. Good entertainer. His impersonations are first class fun.” Words which remained true all his life.
Few members of the Kimberley Jewish Community have stayed in Kimberley and became legends in the general community. Arnold Rauff was one of the few.
Time can be cruel and few remember today that at one time he was a director of Standard Bank and ran a milling business which spanned three countries. From 1964 to 1973 he was the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Kimberley Regiment and captained the Griqualand West water polo side. He was a very accomplished squash player, body builder, weight lifter and karate and judo practitioner. 
Rauff was quintessentially a community man. He was a Member of the Hebrew Order of David, Louis Isaacson Lodge, a Freemason, a past chairman of the Kimberley Regiment Association, a past chairman and Trustee of the Kimberley Jewish Community and the serving chairman of the Jewish Burial and Benevolent Societies.
He touched many lives. There was not a bereavement in the community where he was not on hand to take ownership of the family’s pain and arrange a dignified and flawless funeral and their re-integration into community life through the period of mourning. 
Over the last twenty years he stood out as an outstanding mentor to the youth of our community in their formative years, not least his daughter, Jade, who described him as a “superdad” at his funeral. He had the respect of the men who served us as spiritual leaders, including our Country Communities Rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, who came especially to conduct his burial service. 
– Adrian Horwitz

A replica of the Kimberley Synagogue

ONE HUNDRED and seventeen years ago the De Beers Company wished to erect a statue to the memory of Cecil John Rhodes on the site then occupied by the galvanised iron Kimberley Synagogue. In exchange they offered the congregation the ground in Memorial Road where the present Synagogue stands.
De Beers built their statue and the laying of the foundation stone of the present Synagogue was performed by GH Bonas JP, president of the congregation, on July 31 1901. Consecration of the Synagogue was performed by the Rev Isaacs, in September 1902.
While by no means one of the largest synagogues in South Africa, it is certainly one of the most beautiful. A high graceful dome surmounts the building and the Ark of the Law is a glorious, marbled architectural fantasy of pillars and domes, presenting an Eastern atmosphere. 
In October 1902, Gustave H Bonas was presented with a solid silver replica of the Synagogue in appreciation for his services to the congregation. Many, many years later this meticulously made replica was discovered by chance in a London pawnshop. It was promptly purchased and returned to its rightful home in Kimberley.
In 1929, it was presented to William Sagar, Esq, JP, in recognition of his forty years of service to the Kimberley Jewish Community. The drama of the silver Synagogue was, however, not over. On the death of William Sagar, the Synagogue was given back to the community to hold in perpetuity. Some years ago, when the silver replica stood in the foyer of the Communal Hall, an attempt was made to steal it. But it was left on the front lawn, where it was later found.