SWAZILAND



Geoff Ramokgadi
 

Chaim and Sima Torgeman (community leaders)

The Swaziland Jewish community led by Mr and Mrs Chaim Torgeman and Mr Geoff Ramokgadi has consistently worked hard to bring of approximately 30 souls together for Yom Tovim and other Jewish communal activities.

 

As in the past before the withdrawal of the Israeli Ambassador in Swaziland, he hosted and convened all major holidays like Pesach, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Purim at his official residence with ease.  Since the closure of the Embassy, the African Jewish Congress has ensured that communal activities continue.  Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft and his wife have played a tremendous part in bringing the awareness of yiddishkeit and kashrut to our Kingdom of Swaziland.  With his frequent visits to Swaziland, he had tried to assist in bringing kosher meals for Kabalat Shabbat and arranging communal gatherings.  The community has always applauded him for the service.

 

With the community dwindling due to relocations and deaths, it has become increasingly more difficult to hold religious services as intermarriage has overtaken the community and to convene a minyan is very difficult.

 

Though with the Israel Government closing down the Embassy, the Swazi nation has and will always be pro-Jewish mostly through spirituality where recently a politician and cabinet minister has openly said Swaziland should get rid of Muslims and Asians as their aim is to corrupt Swazis through their religion and terrorist activities. Otherwise Jewish, Christians, Bahai, Muslims and Greek Orthodox have open embraced each other. These communities are fully aware of my role as the leader of the Jewish community in Swaziland.

 

Just recently three Egyptian doctors were deported and given 48 hours to leave.  One doctor was brought to my house by Iranian Bahai doctor for help and I managed to convince the Home Affairs Minister , and as of now he calls himself a Jew, to his fellow brethren.  The other two had already given up hope so I organised 2 vans to transport their belonging to Johannesburg,  These doctors are now working in Cairo they keep in touch with me.

 

The saddest part of my activities as leader of the Jewish community is when an elderly white lady got sick who everyone thought was Jewish.  I visited her almost every day at the hospital and she would say, Geoff, if I die, organise a rabbi to bury me, and wilfully I obliged.  To our surprise when she passed on, I contacted Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, the Chevra Kadisha and the Beth Din.  She wasnít in their books but I managed to contact her sister whom she hadnít seen for 40 years and she confirmed that she wasnít Jewish but she was ostracised most of her life because she was a political activist and befriended Jewish activists who were sympathetic to the Black South African cause. Thatís why she claimed to be Jewish.  As usual the community helped me finance the burial and I sought advice from Rabbi Silberhaft and eventually got a Christian priest to read from the Old Testament and she had a similar Jewish burial as she wished.

 

The community is now a mixture of South African and Israeli families with business interests and Geoff Ramokgadi being a Black South African residing in Swaziland for the past 26 years also businessman.  The Torgemans have been in Swaziland for more years formerly from Israel.  They are playing an important role in Jewish activities.

 

We once again would like to thank our spiritual leader Rabbi Silberhaft , the African Jewish Congress and  the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.  We appeal to anyone to finance a van to help transport HIV/AIDS patients to and from hospitals.  Other religious communities are active in this regard.  I recently requested the Minister of Health to appeal to the Israeli Government and Jewish people to provide two ophthalmologists as the country has none and the funding for ophthalmic equipment.