Rabbi Ehrman was a Real Mensch

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Communal Seder 1960. Rabbi Ehrman flanked on L by Freda and Morris Teperson, on R by Hanna and Ruben Sloman. Far R Zuky Fine. Nearest camera: Albert and David Hatchuel, Barry Rest, Brian Hirsch, Gillian Schattil, Lucille Keril.

Rabbi Ehrman was a Real Mensch

 

Que Que’s Jewish community had a history going back to Rhodesia’s inception when Rhodes’ British South Africa Company was granted a charter by the British Government. The first service was conducted in 1905 by a local trader, Mr. H. Liptz with books and scrolls on loan from the Bulawayo congregation.

Rabbi Ehrman was a Real Mensch

Frank Johnson wrote in his memoirs that Rhodes was bitterly disappointed when he first set eyes on Salisbury.  But when Johnson pointed out the foundation of a synagogue he kept exclaiming “My country’s alright, if the Jews come, my country’s alright.” (Rhodes financial ally and confidant, who uniquely left his fortune to build an undeveloped colony, was Alfred Beit.)

Although it was obvious by 1938 that Jews were suffering murderous oppression in Nazi Germany, alien immigration was restricted to those with offers of employment at a wage not less than 15 pounds a month with an extra five pounds for each dependent.

After WWII, Sir Godfrey Huggins still imposed an immigration policy stipulating 90% of immigrants be British citizens. Of the 10% foreign immigrants, citizens of one country could comprise no more than 10% of the foreign quotas or 1% of all entries.

Despite these limitations the tiny Jewish community grew. In 1952 Que Que acquired a permanent Community Hall followed by neighboring Gatooma in 1954. Gwelo’s Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities were divided but some never-the- less joined forces on High Holy Days.

It was not until 1959 that the three communities were blessed with the arrival of Rabbi Ehrman, his wife, Ibi, and and their two children, Yetta and Isaac, from Israel.

Life was good.  Business opportunities were booming.  But quiet, unassuming Rabbi Ehrman and  Ibi reminded everyone that Israel was their insurance policy.  He encouraged the youth to identify with Israel with visits, and study there with Aliya the ultimate goal.

Rabbi Ehrman, was Czech, orphaned at seven and brought up by his elder brother in Switzerland.  He joined the French Resistance in France smuggling Jews across the Pyrenees into Spain.  Captured by Franco’s army he was imprisoned.  After British rescue he joined the Czech Brigade of the British Army under General Montgomery and crossed the Channel on D-Day with the artillery unit.

After the war newly married to Ibi, an Auschwitz survivor, they made Aliya together illegally to Palestine.  They collaborated in the sinking of the ship in Haifa rather than be shipped to Cyprus.

By 1962 political troubles clearly loomed in Rhodesia.  The Federation was being  dismantled, caught in Britain’s Winds of Change sweeping down Africa.  Once again Jews were feeling insecure with White and Black nationalism on the rise. The next phase of the Diaspora was already underway.

Although the Ehrmans were in Que Que for only 3 years before returning to Israel, the bond was great.  Over the decades many of the  Que Que youngsters he knew camped out at their house in Israel, like my brother Brian in 1967 following the call on the outbreak of the Six Day War, and later Morris Sloman.  Many stayed in touch and brought their families in later years.   My parents visited as they considered making Aliya themselves, in the late seventies.

Que Que’s Jewish Community Hall became a Hindu Temple.

Many thanks to Yetta Harnik (nee Ehrman) in Israel for the wonderful photographs and correspondence, and to Gillian Midgen (nee Schattil) in Seattle for all the contacts.  She has a rollerdex to die for!

 

 

13 Comments

  • gill midgen

    Reply Reply June 3, 2011

    That evening was one that I do remember…. I think I was the start of Rabbi’s grey hair that night !! We all had a part to say in the seder and I have never been one to stand in the spotlight let alone say anything in front of a crowd. Rabbi did not know whether I would do my part until the last second, when I conquered my fear and did it !! He had a look of relief on his face, and I had a grin on mine !

    • Diana

      Reply Reply June 3, 2011

      Gillian, I hear you! I also couldn’t remember a single line in my mothers pantomimes! but I have turned out to be quite a reasonable speaker in my old age.
      Some people are just late bloomers.

  • Ed Goldberg

    Reply Reply June 5, 2011

    Hi Gillian – I am just looking at my late father’s memories of the Schattil family. . He remembered the Schattils very well and he had a memory of old man Schattil dying in the early 1950s and Mr Haimowitz was asked to prepare the body before burial. Haimowitz was so overcome with grief to see the passing of his best friend that he also died on the same day!.He describes Ralph Schattil as a quiet, well respected man who took over the concession store at Redcliff, where the steelworks was situated, some 15 km SW of Que Que. Ralph married Gertie. According to my father they had no children, and she died of cancer quite early on. I’d be interested to find out how you fit into that family.

    • gill midgen

      Reply Reply June 6, 2011

      I was Ralph and Gerties daughter. Born in Que Que in 1951.I never knew my grandfather. My mom died of cancer in the early sixties and my da passed away in 1998 at Savyon lodge in Bulawayo , 3 days after his 90th birthday. I don’t have a lot of info on my grandparents or my dad
      so any light you can shed would be appreciated.

  • Ed Goldberg

    Reply Reply June 6, 2011

    Hi Gill – I was born in Que Que in 1950 and so I’m sure we probably played together! We left in 1955/56. One of my projects is to one day write the history of the Jews of Que Que and I’ve been accumulating as much information as I can. I managed to interview my parents before they died as well as Diana’s parents. I don’t have much more information on your parents or grandparents but would really appreciate any photos and information you can share with me. My email is rhodesia@gmail.com

    • David Hatchuel

      Reply Reply October 10, 2011

      Hello Ed. Delighted to have found this blog, and the picture of Albert and David, my second cousins. (Their father was my father’s first cousin.) I’ll pass on your email address to David, who is a prominent surgeon in Johannesburg. Sadly Albert passed away some years ago. He was a dentist/maxillo-facial surgeon. I wonder if you can tell me anything about their parents, Solly and Alegria. All I have are a couple of photographs…

      • Diana

        Reply Reply October 11, 2011

        Ed, thanks for passing the blog on. Yes, its amazing that a number of QQ kids excelled in their respective fields. The Hatchuels were are very good examples. Que Que is very proud of them. Their remote beginnings at Sherwood Starr did not slow them down any. Albert was in my class and never stopped asking questions….to the class exasperation, when we would all be wanting to get out as the bell rang for break….that is my most lasting memory of him! Both boys were asthmatics as children but grew out of it and were great squash players against my father in Johannesburg when they had long out grown the illness. Diana

  • Ed Goldberg

    Reply Reply November 10, 2011

    I managed to find some information about the Hatchuel family in Rhodesia. I’m not sure if David is reading these comments but maybe, Diana, you could pass this on to him:

    http://fr.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1212659716508&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

    Here is part of the article:

    “Each family has its own story. Marvyn Hatchuel’s father came from Morocco. Hatchuel, who is organizing the July reunion, is a former president of CAZO – Central African Zionist Organization. “In 1904 my 20-year-old father was in Alexandria [Egypt] on business when he met a fellow Sephardic Jew, Behor Benatar, from Rhodesia, who had originally come from the Mediterranean island of Rhodes. He told my dad, ‘You want to make money, come to Rhodesia. My brother and I run a concession store at Penhalonga, a gold mining town in eastern Rhodesia.'”

    Wandering off, Hatchuel continued, his father found himself pounding the port area of Alexandria. A ship bound for east Africa grabbed his attention and on the spur of the moment he bought a ticket to Mozambique. Disembarking at Beira, Hatchuel had insufficient money to pay for any further passage. So the young Moroccan followed the railway track and walked the breadth of Mozambique until he crossed over into Rhodesia and completed the last stretch to Penhalonga. “I believe when Behor Benatar saw my father enter his store, he nearly collapsed. Anyway, he gave him a job. At night and under candlelight Dad would sit with a dictionary and a newspaper and in that way taught himself English,” Hatchuel related.

    When Hatchuel the elder had arrived in Penhalonga, he spoke to his employers in Ladino. When he left, he was fluent in English and six years later, in 1910, he opened – together with the Daniel brothers – one of the first general wholesale stores in Salisbury.”

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 10, 2011

      Ed, this is a great addition to the blog. Thanks for sharing it. Diana

  • Ed Goldberg

    Reply Reply November 10, 2011

    I also have the book South African Jewry 1976-1977. It has detailed biographical information on Albert and on Marvyn Hatchuel. I will scan it and email it to Diana and she can pass it on.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 10, 2011

      Thanks for the materials. You are a persistent and masterful researcher. I do remember that Albert and David Hatchuel’s father came from Morocco and the story about the walk across Mozambique. These Jewish stories are amazing. He ran a concession out at Sherwood Star, a very profitable mine in the early days. Diana

    • David Hatchuel

      Reply Reply November 10, 2011

      Hi Ed,

      Fantastic! I am Albert’s (z”l) son, and Marvyn’s nephew. I’d really appreciate seeing a copy of the scan, and would be grateful if Diana would email it to me.

      • Diana

        Reply Reply November 11, 2011

        David, nice to hear from you. Hope all well. I will email Ed’s scan. He is a great researcher. Diana

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