PASSING OF TWO STALWARTS OF SOUTH AFRICAN COUNTRY JEWRY
A large crowd drawn from as far afield as Durban and Polokwane gathered at the Kimberley Jewish cemetery last week to pay their last respects to Jules Katz, a much loved and respected citizen of the town who passed away on 10 April at the age of 88. Amongst those in attendance were many members of the Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation (GWHC), of which he was a committed life-long member and past president. Country Communities Spiritual Leader Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft officiated at the funeral, which he described as one of the largest Jewish funerals that had ever taken place in Kimberley.
Katz arrived in South Africa from Lithuania in 1929. He was educated at Grey College in Bloemfontein and went on to serve with distinction in the South African Artillery Corps in Italy during World War II. After qualifying as an electrician, he settled in Kimberley in 1948, remaining there for the rest of his life and achieving considerable prominence as a businessman and dedicated community worker. He was also a fine sportsman, who narrowly missed out on representing his country at boxing at the Olympics. Together with his wife Shirley, whom he married in 1949, he established a hardware and building supplies business, Jules Katz and Co. This grew into a household name in Kimberley and the Northern Cape.
Barney Horwitz, current President of the GWHC, described Katz as having been a pillar both of the local Jewish community and of Kimberley society as a whole, one whose qualities of kindness, generosity and respect for others had been shaped by his personal and humble beginnings.
“He lived by the Jewish Scriptural Law that you should be kind to a stranger since you were once a stranger in Egypt and he was once a stranger in South Africa” Horwitz said.
Katz is survived by his sons Jeffrey and Barry, daughters Moeksie and Rosie and grandchildren Jason, David, Jessica and Taryn.
In March this year, country Jewry suffered another sad loss in the death of Dr. Joseph Ivan Koopowitz, who like Jules Katz combined an outstanding professional career with that of extensive involvement in Jewish communal, civic and general welfare affairs. Better known as ‘Koopie’ or by his second name, Ivan, he died in Queenstown, Eastern Cape, at the age of 77. In its obituary, the Daily Dispatch described him as having been “one of Queenstown’s most philanthropic sons”. In addition to being prominently involved in philanthropic associations and as president of the Queenstown Hebrew Congregation, Koopowitz served for a number of years on the town council, including a term as mayor from 1980-1982.
Koopowitz was born in East London but raised in Queenstown, and returned there with his wife, Gitty, after completing his medical degree at Wits University. Later, he added a Diploma in Forensic Medicine to his qualifications. The couple had four sons, three of who themselves became medical doctors while the fourth, Neville, is today CEO of Discovery Health.
Koopowitz, while remaining in private practice, also became part-time district surgeon in 1969, and subsequently served on the committee of the District Surgeons’ Association of South Africa. After the district surgeon post fell away, he dedicated much effort to ensuring that the pensioners he had looked after for thirty years would be cared for. For seven years, he was the sole medical practitioner at Sterkstroom hospital and was instrumental in raising the necessary funds to establish an HIV centre there. This will be named the Ivan Koopowitz Discovery HIV Clinic in his memory. Until his death, he continued to work as the Police Forensic Medical Officer, and ensured that the next generation of officers would be trained in that field.