Charlotte Wiener today lives in Israel, but remains fondly committed to the memory of the Jewish community in South Africa of which she was an active member. She has just been awarded a Masters degree by UNISA for her thesis on the history of the Pietersburg (Polokwane) Jewish community. The Pietersburg community was one of the most active Jewish communities outside the main urban centres and continued to function until only a few years ago when the congregation was finally wound up.

Wiener was born in Johannesburg, the daughter of Dr Leslie and Ethel Chazen, and grew up in East London, where her father was the medical officer of health. After qualifying as a pharmacist at Rhodes University, she married Dennis Wiener in 1973 and moved to Pietersburg. The couple had three children (the youngest of whom, Mandy, has since been making a name for herself as an award-winning radio journalist).

In their more than three decades in Pietersburg before making aliyah, both Charlotte and Dennis were prominently involved in local Jewish affairs. Charlotte was active in the Pietersburg Women’s Zionist League and Jewish Women’s Guild and on the shul committee and was the community’s cheder teacher after the departure of the last reverend. Dennis was treasurer of the Pieterburg Hebrew Congregation, and was involved in winding it up shortly before leaving for Israel.

Wiener based her thesis on her research in the national and SAJBD archives, the minutes of the Pietersburg Hebrew Congregation and numerous personal interviews. She says that she had chosen the topic for her Masters thesis as she felt it was “vital to record the history of the once vibrant and active country communities”. She is proud to have been able to contribute in this way to Jewish history and to provide a gift for this generation to hand on to their descendants.

A limited number of copies of Wiener’s thesis were printed for distribution to former and current Jewish residents of Pietersburg. A copy can also be viewed or loaned from the Beyachad Library in Johannesburg or from the Gitlin Library in Cape Town.