END OF AN ERA AS REB LEIZER
PASSES ON MAY 2007
Leizer Abrahamson, who lived to see three centuries, passed away in Bulawayo on 10 May 2007, just over a month after celebrating his 108th birthday. A legend in his own lifetime, his passing leaves the tiny Bulawayo community bereft not only of its oldest resident but of a man who to the end epitomized the resilience and deep Jewish commitment of the city’s Jewish community, and of Zimbabwean Jewry as a whole.
Abrahamson was buried next to his wife Baila, who passed away in 1978. The couple, who were married for forty years, had no children. Virtually the entire Bulawayo Jewish community, comprising some 150 people, attended the funeral, which took place on Sunday.
The eulogy was delivered by Rabbi Nathan Asmoucha, spiritual leader of the Bulawayo Hebrew Congregation. Rabbi Asmoucha said that according to Jewish law, Abrahamson left no official mourners, but on this day of his burial, all present were mourners since he had been like a grandfather to the entire community.
“When we remember him, it will be in awe and admiration and happiness when we think of the entirety of his life and the personality and figure that he was. But today we are in mourning. We are mourning the end of an era and the memory that everyone in the Bulawayo Hebrew Congregation has of the larger than life figure who was always there during the different milestones of our lives” he said.
Leizer Abrahamson was born in 1899 near Bialistok, Poland, the youngest of five brothers. He arrived in Bulawayo in 1926 to join his brother, Morris, who had a general dealers’ store there, eventually taking over the running of the business when Morris established his Matabeleland Clothing company.
The last third of Abrahamson’s life was spent at Savyon Lodge, Zimbabwe’s Jewish aged home. He continued to be active, driving a car until he was 93 and was a dedicated member of the Bulawayo synagogue. When the latter was tragically destroyed in a fire at the end of 2003, one of the most poignant sights was of Abrahamson standing and staring at the ruined shell of the building in which he had officiated at so many sacred services, holding his walking stick in one hand while wiping away tears with the other. He continued to read the Haftorah and conduct Shabbat services in Savyon Lodge’s Sinai Shul, to which the dwindling community has relocated.
Hylton Solomon, President of the Bulawayo Hebrew Congregation, said that Abrahamson had inspired amazement and the deepest respect. While the passing of someone so advanced in years could not be said to have been unexpected, it still came as a shock and he would be sadly missed.
Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, Spiritual Leader to the African Jewish Congress,
“All of us mourn
the passing of a very special man, whose unswerving devotion
to his Jewish heritage was a source of inspiration to
everyone who knew him” he said.
On celebrating his 107th birthday Abrahamson, speaking with former Zimbabwe resident Ivor Davis, attributed his longevity to not eating between meals, avoiding fizzy drinks, giving up smoking and alcohol and taking daily walks. On the same occasion, he quipped, “I'm like one of those old cars, the engine is still working but the bodywork could do with some repairs”.
Abrahamson was the uncle of one of Rhodesian Jewry’s most distinguished citizens, the Hon. Abe Abrahamson (son of Morris). The latter served as a cabinet minister in the former Rhodesian government, where he fought a gallant, if ultimately futile, rearguard action against the rising tide of white supremacism that led to the disastrous UDI experiment