Debating South African Jewish History (10 week course)
Debating South African Jewish History will be taught by Richard Mendelsohn, the co-author of The Jews in South Africa: an illustrated history.
Introduction: brief survey of South African Jewish history; course roadmap.
Session 1: The immigrant experience
- Why did the Jews leave Russia? Pogroms or poverty?
- Why choose South Africa? Donald Currie or chain migration?
- How and why did women’s experience of immigration differ from men’s?
Session 2: Succeeding in South Africa
- Why did the Jews succeed in South Africa? South African circumstances and/or Jewish skills?
Session 3: South African Antisemitism
- What were its origins?
- When and why did it become virulent?
- When did it subside and why has it revived?
- How did the Jewish community respond to antisemitism?
Session 4: Jews and Apartheid
- Why and how did the Jewish community make peace with Apartheid?
- Why and when did this change?
Session 5: Resisting Apartheid
- Why were Jews over-represented on the South African left?
- What were the roads to radicalism?
Session 6: South African Judaism
- Why non-observant Orthodoxy for much of the twentieth century?
- Why the religious turn in the late twentieth century and the present?
- Why did Reform make only limited inroads in South Africa?
Session 7: South African Zionism and its critics
- Why was Zionism South African Jewry’s civil religion?
- When and why did Israel become a bone of contention within South African Jewry?
Session 8: Gender and South African Jewry
- Separate spheres and/or domestic feminism? (Bertha Marks)
- Respecting difference? (Roza Van Gelderen and Hilda Purwitzky)
- Leading the way? (Ray Alexander, Bertha Solomon, Helen Susman, Ruth First)
- Silencing women? The Kol Isha controversy.
Session 9: Building a community
- What were the origins of the Jewish community’s organisational structures and how did these evolve over time?
- How did women’s experience of communal organisation/life/governance differ from men’s?
Session 10: South African Jewry, Past, Present and Future
- Comparing past and present Jewish communal surveys
- Predicting the future