DURBAN, port in KwaZulu-Natal, third largest city in the Republic of South Africa. The relatively small Jewish population has always played a prominent part in the life of the city. One of the founders of Port Natal (Durban's original name) was Nathaniel *Isaacs, who came as a youth in 1825. Important contributions to the port's early development were made by Jonas *Bergtheil and by Daniel de *Pass. The first berit milah in Natal, for the son of a former Durban resident D.M. Kisch, was performed in 1876 by the Rev. S. Rapaport, who came from Port Elizabeth for the ceremony. In 1880 a Jewish burial ground was laid out. Three years later a congregation was formed and in 1884 a building which had been a Methodist chapel was converted into a synagogue, with Bernard Lipinski (d. 1907) as the first president. Outstanding services were rendered by Felix C. Hollander (1876–1955), who was mayor of Durban (1910–13), a member of the Natal provincial executive committee (1914–23 and 1926–39), a senator (1939–48), and the head of the Jewish community. Charles Phineas Robinson (d. 1938) was a member of the Natal legislature and later of the Union parliament. His son Albert also sat in parliament and later became London high commissioner for the Central African Federation. Other leading communal personalities were Philip Wartski (1853–1948) and Solomon Moshal (1894–1986).
Less affected by Eastern European immigration than other communities of the Republic, Durban Jewry has at the same time an active communal life. There are four synagogues (one Reform) and the usual fraternal and welfare organizations. Diminishing numbers, however, led to the closure of the city's Jewish day school, Carmel College, in 1997. The Durban Jewish Club, the only institution of its kind in the Republic, has played a major role in the community's development. The Council for KwaZulu-Natal Jewry is a coordinating body and also functions as the provincial office of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. Zionist activity is directed by the KwaZulu-Natal Zionist Council. The Jewish population of Durban in 2004 was 2,750.
G. Saron and L. Hotz, Jews in South Africa (1955), index; South African Jewish Year Book (1929), 107–10; M. Gitlin, The Vision Amazing (1950), index.
[Louis Hotz /
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.