Jews of South Africa

Location: overwhelmingly in urban areas
Population: about 110,000
% of population: 0.3%
Religion: Judaism
Language: English

Jews have lived in South Africa from the earliest days of white settlement. Their community numbered several hundred in the 1860s and consisted mainly of British and German Jews. Between 1882 and 1912, 40,000 Jews went to South Africa from Russia; to be joined in the next few decades by 30,000 who fled there from Lithuania, Germany and Latvia. Today the South African Jewish community numbers about 110,000 and is per capita among the richest in the world.

Anti-Semitism was negligible until the introduction of Nazi ideology in the 1930s. This appeared to peter out with the defeat of Germany but in 1969 the ultra-right-wing anti-reformist Herstigte Nasionale Party was founded to oppose any deviation from strict apartheid; it was also highly anti-semitic, identifying Jews as the founders and supporters of communism. In 1981 Eugene Terre Blanche, the leader of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (Resistance Movement) (AWB), threatened to deprive Jews of political rights and called for them to be expelled from South Africa. The official opposition party, the Conservative Party, has maintained that if they should form a government, Jews would be eligible for office only if they were prepared to promote Christianity publicly.

Most anti-Apartheid groups demand that Jewish groups formally denounce Zionism as a prerequisite for co-operation. There is an anti-Apartheid group, Jews for Social Justice, which is affiliated to the United Democratic Front.

Small Jewish communities were established in the twentieth century in a number of European African colonies, notably Kenya and Rhodesia, but these have tended to disintegrate with the coming of independence.

(See also Indian South Africans)