What Happened to Mr. Teperson?


Mr. Teperson (left) and other Jewish Leaders in Southern Rhodesia sometime between 1959-64

What Happened to Mr. Teperson?

You couldn’t miss the aroma wafting out of  Mr. Teperson’s Midlands Bakery on Que Que’s Main Street as loaves of bread cooled on racks. Chocolate éclairs, sugar buns, Neapolitans and much, much more were displayed behind glass cases. Mr. Teperson catered for everybody. He personally tasted every batch of everything he made. Mrs. Teperson on the other hand was slim and minded the till.  She knew what every customer wanted and had it bagged and rung up by the time the customer reached the counter.

What Happened to Mr. Teperson?

Mr. Teperson had come early to Que Que.  This was his promised land. He had done much to bring about the building of the Jewish Community Hall, where the community could meet for the High Holy Days, when a minyan of ten men could be assembled.

As Passover approached, Mrs. Teperson did the annual spring clean, ridding the house of all leavening and leavened food.  Every nook and cranny was cleaned, from the kitchen pantry to the closets. The silverware was boiled, the everyday dishes locked away and the Passover dishes brought out.

On the evening before the week-long Passover observance began, Mr. Teperson and his children searched by candlelight for scraps of leaven for burning.

The appearance of dry Matzos in place of delectable bread at the table symbolized the Jews passage from slavery and soft leavened bread.  Matzos is a hard bread, a reminder that the Jews left the sluggish, lush Nile for the empty desert and independence.

On the first night of Passover, all the families assembled before sundown at the Hall for the service.  The men in suits and ties, topped with a fedora or yarmulke, their sons in school uniform with blazers, school ties and school hats sat on the left of the hall. The woman in smart suits with gloves and matching bags, along with their daughters took their seats on the right.  The men were catching up on business, the women catching up on gossip.

Mr. Teperson was slated to conduct the service.  But time ticked on without a sign of him.  Without a minyan, the service could not be held.   “Vots heppened to him?” Mrs. Teperson fumed.

“We’d better call, voddo you tink?” said a restless member.

“Perhaps an accident?”

There was no reply from the house.

Mrs. Teperson’s anger turned to concern. “Vot about the bakery?”

Mr. Teperson hastily picked up the phone., “Ya?”

“Vot are you doing?  Hav you forgotten te service?”

“Ah!  The time she goes so fast.  Easter.  Big special order hot cross buns.”

As the bread rises so my soul.

Photo source: see Zimbabwe’s Jewish History http://www.zjc.org.il/showpage.php  Yetta Ehrman Harnik reports Rev Ehrman served the Jewish community 1959-64 before returning to Israel.  Que Que’s Jewish Community Hall opened in 195 2  which I wrote about in my blog Chanukah in Africa.  If you have any photos or information to share please do.




  • Betty Goolsby

    Reply Reply April 22, 2011

    Delightful! Wonderful memories of Passover with my best friend Marian…..I love the old stories and the old rituals which seem to be dying out….there used to be a mystique around the whole celebration, foreign and magical…..not so much now in the synagogues! Great reading!!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply April 23, 2011

      Yes, it was interesting being straddled between the two religions and their very different approaches to place of worship and prayer, foods and so on. Everything seems to be so commercialized these days the original meaning seems to have been lost. Often, we are not sure why or what we are celebrating!

  • chayne

    Reply Reply April 23, 2011

    Hi there…Could you please tell me what has happened to the Tepperson family. My grandmother Isobel Campbell and my mother Jeannette used to work for them and the Slomans in Kwekwe in the day. It would be so nice to to know. Shalom…

    • Diana

      Reply Reply April 23, 2011


      I met Mr. Teperson on a crowded bus in Hillbrow Johannesburg in the early 80’s. He looked just the same as ever. My GP in Houston, TX for many years attended Mr.and Mrs. Teperson as a houseman at Wits. Small world!
      Liz Cleminson’s (nee Gillham) mother used to work for Midlands Bakery in the early 50’s. She tells me Meyer Teperson married Dr. Ness the dentist’s daughter and they immigrated to Canada. Simon Teperson moved to South Africa and apparently did well in the video business.

  • sue knight

    Reply Reply April 23, 2011

    I have a memory of attending a funeral in the Jewish part of the cemetery in Que Que and I am sure it was for Salome Teperson. I must have been about 13 or 14, Salome’s age and she was in my class at school. Maybe somebody will remember more details.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply April 23, 2011


      Que Que was a young town which attracted young enterprising families to it so that it seemed growing up that there were not many deaths in Que Que. Salome’s death was a shock to everyone. Youth has the luxury of the delusion that we are immortal. It was my first encounter with loss.

  • Ed Goldberg

    Reply Reply April 23, 2011

    Diana – what a wonderful article as always.

    Here is what my late Dad wrote about the Teperson’s:

    “The Tepersons owned the only bakery in town, and the quality of their bread and cakes etc. was superb. Morris was a heavily-built jovial man. Sunday afternoons were special bread afternoons, and everyone descended on the bakery (in the main street) to get freshly-baked bread. I am unsure why it was only on Sundays, but that was the day, usually at about 4 in the afternoon, when the bakery was buzzing with people, and the air was sweet with the beautiful aroma of fresh bread and confection” “The family eventually moved to Jo’burg and I met Morris on several

    Enid Farmer and Liz Phillipson sent me this information many years ago:

    “Teperson, Morris and Freda. He ran the Midlands Bakery together with Harry Malkow. But this was some time after their business somewhere between Que Que and Gatooma. Can’t remember the name. The Tepersons had three children, Myer and Salome (who died in early childhood – about 11 years old – of a rare disease connected with too much copper? in the blood – can’t be sure now) and Simon. Strict diet kept him alive. He, as far as I know, lives in Jhb, is quite orthodox and very prosperous in the video business.”

    • Diana

      Reply Reply April 23, 2011


      Yes the bakery was a special place, remembered by many. You have wonderful memoirs of your fathers, so full of detail. So many special memories revolve around food and the rituals that surround them.

      Salome’s illness was undiagnosed and her parents took her to London for help. She suffered from Wilson’s Disease, a rare disease, which was only diagnosed after her death. Simon also inherited the disease, (autosomal recessive genetic disorder, one in four chance) which was quickly recognized once symptoms occurred and dietary adjustments saved the day.

      When my father wrote the foreign licenser examination to practice in the United States (well in his 60’s) the long question was to describe Wilson’s Disease. He passed.

  • Alex Rousseau

    Reply Reply December 28, 2011

    I arrived in Que Que in 1964 at the age of 10 from the Copper Belt in Northern Rhodesia and lived there until 1979 when I emigrated with my then new bride of two weeks to Ireland.My mother was Susan Rousseau who worked with Isobel Campbell at Midlands Bakery on the Industrial Rd. and Slomans offices.I have so many wonderful memories of all the stories my mother would tell us after her day at work especially about Mrs.Teperson boiling all the pots etc.for passover.So many memories come flooding back when I read about all your accounts of these bygone days.Thanks to you all and I’ll carry on reading.Maybe some of you will remember me and my family,my sister Obie who worked as a barber on the main street with her uncle Phillip Moller and my dad Danny who worked at Union Carbide.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply December 28, 2011

      Alex, I am so glad you are enjoying the blog. I left myself in 1963 but I am sure many will remember your family’s sojourn there of fifteen years. Those memories are so rich. I am waiting on Simon Teperson to send me a picture of Mr. Teperson’s first Trading Store with Mr. Malko out at Battlefields, before they moved into town to satisfy the wives. (This was the familiar pattern of the times). Once I have it I’ll do another story about them. They were a great family, and Mr. Teperson made a huge effort to keep The Faith.
      Stay tuned. Diana

  • Madelene Teperson

    Reply Reply May 16, 2023

    I married the grandson of one of the American Tepersons. One of our children found it and sent to famiiy. Dick and I went to South Africa and met family that was still there. We also became quite close to the David Teperson family in Israel. Loved reading your article
    Madelene Teperson

    • Diana Polisensky

      Reply Reply May 17, 2023

      Connections around the world. Such fond memories of Salome and Simon Teperson as children in Que Que. Freda and Mr. Teperson were the main stays of the Jewish community and what a bakery they had.

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