Introduction / History
The immigration of Jews into South Africa (RSA) began in the early 1800s when they were given freedom of religious expression. Jews established the first Hebrew congregation in Cape Town in 1841.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Jewish people played an important part in the development of South African trade and industry. They were among the pioneers in the Transvaal region when people discovered diamonds and gold. In 1886 there was a gold rush which attracted more Jewish people from the United Kingdom. Most of today's Jewish population in South Africa are the descendants of immigrants from Lithuania and Latvia who arrived in the early 1900s. The largest Jewish population in the RSA is centered in Johannesburg.
The English-speaking Jews of South Africa are affluent and well educated. The welfare of its aging population is a chief concern, so major efforts have been made in establishing welfare organizations and building retirement homes. Education is the key to building the Jewish identity into the younger generation. Most of the Jewish youth are in comprehensive Jewish day schools. Most of the schools are Orthodox, but several are ultra-Orthodox. Jewish museums, libraries, and periodicals are also important tools that reinforce the community's identity.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Jewish people in the RSA are often involved with business. The Jewish and Muslim communities in the RSA get along well, and they have frequent business dealings. However, that can easily change if there is a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
English-speaking Jewish people in the RSA often emigrate either for Israel or for another English-speaking country. Half of the Jewish population in the RSA left during the turbulent days of ethnic conflict in the 1950s through the 1970s. This process continues.
Most of the Jewish population in the RSA is marginally Orthodox. For religious Jews, God is the Supreme Being, the Creator of the universe, and the ultimate judge of human affairs. Beyond this, the religious beliefs of the Jewish communities vary greatly. Orthodox Jews generally follow the traditional religious beliefs and practices found in the Jewish literature that interprets Scripture regarding ethical, religious, civil, and criminal matters.
What Are Their Needs?
Reform Jews do not believe that the Jewish Law is divinely revealed. They are not restricted to kosher foods. They neither wear the skullcap (yarmulke) when praying nor use Hebrew in prayer. All religious Jews believe in the coming of a Messianic Age, but only the Orthodox Jews look for a personal Messiah.
Often Jewish people hold to their cultural practices and participate in festivities, but they do not adhere to Jewish spirituality. Such people can be secular or dabble in New Age practices.
Jewish people have a wonderful understanding of their connection with the Abrahamic Covenant. However, they also have a history of rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah, the one who fulfilled that covenant. They tend to view Christianity as the religion of their oppressors rather than the fulfillment of what God promised all of humanity through Abraham centuries ago.
Pray for the Lord to give the Jewish people in the RSA hearts that will want to please him. May they look to the Lord for guidance and truth, and not be satisfied with cultural traditions.
Pray for Jewish people in the RSA to begin a movement to Jesus Christ, finding ways to exalt him while honoring their culture.
Pray for the Lord to move among Jewish leaders in the RSA to open the doors to Christ's ambassadors.
Scripture Prayers for the Jewish, English-speaking in South Africa.