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East London, South Africa

EAST LONDON, port in Eastern Cape province, South Africa. East London was founded in 1836 as a landing stage and proclaimed a town in 1847. W. Barnett acquired a grant of land in 1849, but the first known permanent Jewish resident was Gustave Wetzlar, who arrived in Cape Town in 1861 from Germany and settled as a merchant in East London in 1873. A town councilor in 1881, he became mayor in 1889. John Lewis Norton, a descendant of the British settlers of 1820, became chief constable and messenger of the court. The growth of the Jewish population resulting from immigration and an influx during the Boer War of 1899–1902 led to the establishment of a Hebrew congregation in 1901. Julius Myers and G.G. Deal, both immigrants from England, took the initiative and continued to be active in communal life. Emmanuel Lipkin, later of Oudtshoorn, arrived from England in 1903 as minister and a small synagogue was opened. A larger synagogue was built 20 years later. A small Reform congregation was established in 1958. In the heyday of the community, which at its height in the mid-1960s numbered some 1,200 people, there was an active Jewish communal life, with Hebrew schools, Zionist and other organizations, regional branches of national bodies, and a country club. By 2004, however, it had dwindled to fewer than 150, mainly elderly individuals, though the main communal organizations continued to function. Jews have been prominent in civic affairs, the mayors including (besides Wetzlar) David Lazarus, 1947–48 and 1966–68, Abraham Addleson, 1957–59, and Leo Laden, 1962–64.

Sources:G. Saron and L. Hotz, Jews in South Africa (1955), 311–13.

[Abraham Addleson / David Saks (2nd ed.)]

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.